Sudanese women protested outside U.N. offices in Khartoum on Sunday in conjunction with a campaign against gender-based violence (GBV). The protesters called for better protection of women and children in Sudan’s conflict areas and for justice and accountability. Sudan's head of combating violence against women admits GBV has increased in many parts of the country due to a lack of law enforcement.
Scores of Sudanese women, most dressed in black and holding black banners, protested outside U.N. offices calling on Sudan’s military rulers to better protect women and give power to the people.
They condemned violence used against women across Sudan and in recent unrest in the Blue Nile, Kordofan and Darfur regions.
Hala al-Karib heads the Sudan office for the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA). She says thousands of women are being killed, raped, and displaced across Sudan and the military is failing to hold the culprits accountable.
“What is happening is very scary and the losses among women and children, the destruction of the infrastructure, the destruction of schools; particularly in the Lagawa area, what happened in Blue Nile with the ethnic conflicts between the communities, the promotion of hate language, all these are concerns for us as women groups,” she said.
The U.N. in Sudan in October expressed concern at renewed inter-communal fighting in Blue Nile and West Kordofan that left at least 170 people dead and 300 wounded.
The U.N. in a statement said at least 1,200 households were displaced and called for an end to the violence and for protection of women and children.
Innas Muzamil joined the protest to express solidarity with the victims of violence.
“We are here today to tell the world that we cannot keep silent for this level of cruelty, raping women, killing them, attacking houses [and] making the lives of the people very miserable,” said Muzamil.
The Sudanese women were protesting for a campaign called 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
They handed over a petition to the office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Khartoum, urging them to enforce justice.
A U.N. worker accepted the petition but a spokesperson did not immediately comment on it.
Suleima al-Khalifa is head of combatting violence against women at Sudan’s Ministry of Social Development.
Speaking to VOA Monday, she admits her office has seen an increase in violence and injustice against women.
“The lack of governance created this kind of lack of accountability, and we even lost the coordination mechanism we used to have," she said. "We have tried our best to visit places where there are conflicts and we tried to look out how we could find solutions. But actually, with the increase of gender-based violence and some cases of femicide, most of these cases are not well documented.”
Activist al-Karib also reiterated calls in Sudan for a return to civilian rule in the country for great accountability.
“It is really crucial for the international community to understand that the demands of Sudanese for civilian’s government is legitimate and the demand of Sudanese women for peace and security is hundred percent legitimate and their voices should be considered in any process,” she said.
Sudan has seen near weekly protests against military rule since an October coup last year overthrew a transitional government.
Political and military-backed groups have since been negotiating to form a fresh transitional authority until elections can be held.