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International Women’s Day: Why We Must Work to Empower the Women of Sudan and South Sudan
Since the early 1900s countries around the world have celebrated International Women’s Day as a time to recognize the role of women in society and mobilize against injustices specifically impacting half of the world’s population. At Enough, rather than confining our commemoration to just one day—March 8—we’re giving a special focus to women all this week, to highlight how the conflicts we’re working to end affect women and girls, and to recognize the work of heroes advocating on their behalf.
For Day 4 of our International Women’s Week coverage, Sarah Danielson, a guest blogger from Enough partner organization My Sister’s Keeper, writes about her group’s work to empower women in Sudan and South Sudan.
March is a critical month for those of us working towards social change in Sudan. This week we celebrate women’s empowerment with International Women’s Day, and next Friday the 16th marks the beginning of the Stop Sudan’s Weapons of Mass Starvation protest in Washington, D.C., where many will gather against the Sudanese government’s efforts to terrorize and eradicate the innocent men, women, and children of South Kordofan and Blue Nile through the use of aerial bombardments, violence, and starvation.
On International Women’s Day, it is more important than ever to recognize how the women in South Kordofan and Blue Nile are affected by the dire situation. Many have lost husbands and other loved ones to the war, very few are educated, and many are now living in refugee camps. They have suffered the most, having become stuck in a seemingly inescapable cycle without hope for a better future. These women must be acknowledged; they need your help.
With a quiet bravery, Lucy Shama of Blue Nile brought the issues and concerns of these women to the forefront of the discussion. My Sister’s Keeper, the women-led, women-focused humanitarian action group, became acquainted with Lucy at our peace-building initiative, Sisterhood for Peace, which convened in February. Originally from Sudan, Lucy and her family fled to Ethiopia when she was five to escape the conflict. After 18 years in Ethiopia, she and her husband Bulus came to the United States, arriving in 2005. She is now the leader of the Blue Nile women’s group.
The gathering in February was the first one Lucy has attended, and though shy, Lucy found her own quiet way to represent the women of Blue Nile by giving one of our leaders a speech to read to the participants. As can be seen in the following excerpt, Lucy had many powerful and touching words:
Blue Nile State has struggled for many years for freedom and peace in Sudan. But women of Blue Nile State have suffered most during the civil wars and the current wars where many women are now marooned in the refugee camps in Ethiopia and South Sudan. Blue Nile State women have not only suffered more than their men, but we are among the states and countries with the lowest education literacy for women in the history of the world. Even in America, Blue Nile State women are not yet educated to represent their community and beyond...Blue Nile State women are not even participating in local organizations and events, not because we don’t want to, but because we are not considered or invited... But on these days in Boston, I am here to make sure that Blue Nile State women for the first time are represented [at] this conference and will be represented in future conferences.
Bulus, Lucy’s husband, emphasized that Lucy wanted to share her concern for these women who so desperately need education and empowerment in order to give them hope for peace in Sudan. Through her own concern, Lucy herself became the empowered.
It is stories like this that drive My Sister’s Keeper to advocate so tirelessly for women in Sudan and South Sudan. So this Women’s Day, let us honor the women who have endured long suffering, and celebrate those whose empowerment, even if quiet, can change the world.
A little empowerment can go a long way.
Sarah Danielson is the marketing strategist for My Sister’s Keeper, the women-led, women-focused humanitarian action group working to educate women in South Sudan. For updates from My Sister’s Keeper, please visit www.facebook.com/mskeepers or www.twitter.com/mskeeperBoston.
Read the other posts in this International Women's Week series.