Sudan women fight gender imbalance in transition

“Women were the dynamo of this revolution, they can’t be taken out of the picture. Otherwise there will be another revolution.” (AFP)
Updated 23 August 2019
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Sudan women fight gender imbalance in transition

  • Sudan’s women have yet to take their rightful place in the new institutions
  • “I was very shocked to see the low representation of women... We want to play a role in the civilian government, just like men”

KHARTOUM: They were on the front lines and in the negotiating rooms that brought down military rule but Sudan’s women have yet to take their rightful place in the new institutions.
The signing last week of the documents outlining the transition to civilian rule was a moment of national jubilation, turning the page on 30 years of dictatorship and eight months of deadly protests.
But as the ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries unfolded, one thing jumped out: the only female speaker at the three-hour event was the host.
“That scene was a slap in our face,” Rabah Sadeq, a woman activist and longtime campaigner for gender equality, said the next day.
“So many women are talking about this now, we have to raise this issue,” she told AFP.
Some women attending the signing heckled the speakers to express their displeasure and the indignation quickly spread to the street and social media.
“The participation of women in the revolution was very high, they even encouraged men to join the demonstrations,” said Sarah Ali Ahmed, a student in Khartoum.
“I was very shocked to see the low representation of women... We want to play a role in the civilian government, just like men,” she said.
On Wednesday, Sudan’s new joint civilian-militaryruling body, which is meant to guide the country through 39 months of transition to full civilian rule, was sworn in.
Out of its six civilian members, two are women, although only one was included in the list of nominees initially put forward by the protest camp.
While the opposition alliance’s chief negotiator in the run-up to Sudan’s landmark political deal was a woman, Ibtisam Al-Sanhouri, women were poorly represented in the various negotiating committees.
The shock caused by the all-male line-up at the signing last week, which will go down as a key date in Sudan’s history, appears to have had some impact in recent days.
Sudan’s new prime minister Abdallah Hamdok, who arrived in the country on Wednesday, raised the issue in his first comments to reporters after being sworn in.
“We have to concentrate on women’s participation. Sudanese women played a very big part in our revolution,” said the 61-year-old former UN economist.
“But during the negotiations... as well as during the signing of the documents, it was only men. We have to correct this,” Hamdok said.
Samahir el-Mubarak, a spokeswoman for the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an independent trade union confederation that played a central role in the protests, argued that women’s under-representation was not too surprising.
“This absence in the institutions is not acceptable but it’s also understandable in a way,” said Mubarak, a 29-year-old pharmacist.
“The organizations and political parties that are active in the transition now have existed all along, and they excluded women.
“But I’m very optimistic this is going to change,” she said.
The legislative body which is due to be formed soon to help steer the country to democratic elections in 2022 will have at least 40 percent of its seats reserved for women.
“In the condition we are in now, we need some kind of positive discrimination... but eventually women are qualified enough to become a majority in parliament and government,” Mubarak said.
Growing awareness over female under-representation in the transition appears already to be bearing fruit, and a woman is now tipped as the next chief justice.
“This is progress but it’s still not the level we want. Women should continue to be empowered,” Rabah Sadeq said.
Sarah Abdul Laleel, a UK-based paediatrician, agreed that women were insufficiently represented.
“When you compare the street and the protests to the institutions, there’s a mismatch,” she said.
Abdul Jaleel, also a member of the SPA, said that political parties did not have people’s trust and that a debate was needed to find news ways to integrate women in the country’s institutions.
Rabah Sadeq argued that parity was in the country’s best interest.
“Asking for more women isn’t just symbolic, they are more committed to peace. It’s not just for equality, it’s for the chances of success of this transition,” she said.
Samahir el-Mubarak said that after decades of oppression under Bashir’s Islamist military regime, women had gained a lot of self-confidence in recent months.
“Women were the dynamo of this revolution, they can’t be taken out of the picture. Otherwise there will be another revolution.”


Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

Updated 19 September 2019

Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

PARIS: Qatar is not fulfilling all its promises to improve the conditions of migrant workers in the country in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, Amnesty International said Thursday.
In a report entitled "All Work, No Pay", the rights group said: "Despite the significant promises of reform which Qatar has made ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it remains a playground for unscrupulous employers."
The report came as French President Emmanuel Macron and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani were due to meet in Paris on Thursday.
Sheikh Tamim also attended Wednesday's high-profile clash between Paris Saint-Germain -- owned by Qatar's state-owned investment fund -- and Real Madrid.
Doha has made efforts since being named World Cup hosts to improve the conditions of the migrant workers who make up a majority of the Gulf emirate's population.
In November 2017, a temporary $200 monthly minimum wage was introduced for most categories of workers with a permanent level expected to be set before the end of the year.
Exit visas granted at the discretion of employers, required by some workers to leave the country, should be entirely scrapped by the end of 2019 according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
But Amnesty reported challenges faced by hundreds of workers at three construction and cleaning companies in Qatar who went unpaid for months.
"Migrant workers often go to Qatar in the hope of giving their families a better life; instead many people return home penniless after spending months chasing their wages, with too little help from the systems that are supposed to protect them," said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty's deputy director of global issues.
After coming under fire over the treatment of migrant workers, Qatar agreed with the ILO in 2017 to undertake labour reforms, including establishing new dispute resolution committees.
"We are urging the Qatari authorities to fully deliver what has been promised and end the shameful reality of labour exploitation," Cockburn said.
Amnesty cited the case of a Kenyan employee of United Cleaning who said he had to rummage for food in garbage bins after receiving no salary for five months.
The man said he had worked for two years and five months for the company without taking any holidays and was owed "a lot of money".
The companies all cited financial difficulties for the non-payment of wages, according to the report.
A Qatar government spokesman said the country had "made substantial progress on labour reforms".
"We continue to work with NGOs, including the ILO, to ensure that these reforms are far-reaching and effective," he said in a statement.
"Any issues or delays with our systems will be addressed comprehensively. We have said, from the outset that this would take time, resources and commitment."