Women Must Take Their Place in the Peace Process - An Interview with a Sudanese Peace Woman

Friday, January 31, 2003


Update on the Women to Women Peace Letter Project
(WILPF US News) The Women to Women Peace Letter Project is going strong, we've been receiving hundreds of letters - from the female chief of police in a small town...from women in federal prison in Indiana...from WILPF members around the country...from women in Canada, Argentina, Tanzania, Ecuador, and Australia...from mothers and daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts....from women of all ages and walks of life. Individual letters have already been taken to Iraq and given to women there...we want to collect thousands to deliver after our International Women's Day events on March 8th. Join WILPF in extending the hand of peace to the women of Iraq.
Please go to http://www.wilpf.org to print and sign the letter, or to e-sign the letter.

Sexual Abuse in Zambia Fuels Girls' AIDS Epidemic
January 28, 2003 – (Human Rights Watch) Sexual abuse of girls in Zambia fuels the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the strikingly higher HIV prevalence among girls than boys, Human Rights Watch said today. Concerted national and international efforts to protect the rights of girls and young women are key to curbing the AIDS epidemic's destructive course.

To read the HRW report Suffering in Silence: The Links between Human Rights Abuses and HIV Transmission to Girls in Zambia, visit: http://hrw.org/reports/2003/zambia/

Engaging Men to Help Fight Violence Against Refugee Women
January 27, 2003 – (UNHCR) Since she fled her war-torn homeland more than 10 years ago, Somali refugee Zahara Mohamed Ali has learned a brutal lesson: "When you are a refugee, you become subject to all kinds of violence. You can always be mistreated."

A Mother's Bitter Choice: Telling Kidnappers No
January 25, 2003 – (New York Times) Angelina Atyam has faced an awful trauma, and an awful choice. Her fourth child, Charlotte, was one of 139 girls snatched in the early morning of Oct. 10, 1996, from St. Mary's College, a Catholic boarding school in the northern Ugandan town of Aboke.

Kashmiris Look to a Woman for Resolution of Strife
January 24, 2003 – (WEnews) In the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir, politician Mehbooba Mufti is seen as a healing force for a traumatized populace. Women survivors, she says, can only rebuild their lives if their rights are re-established.

Peacekeeper Jailed for Porn Films
January 23, 2003 - (The Scotsman) An Irish soldier serving as a United Nations peacekeeper in Eritrea has been caught making pornographic videos of local women and is now serving a jail sentence in Ireland, it was revealed last night.

Falling Back to Taliban Ways with Women: Commentary
January 21, 2003 – (Human Rights Watch) In the city of Herat in western Afghanistan, the government of the warlord Ismail Khan recently applied new rules rolling back educational opportunities for women and girls. Men may no longer teach women or girls in private classes. Girls and boys are no longer allowed to be in school buildings at the same time. The effect of the ban will be to block many women and girls from attending private courses. There is a shortage of women teachers; almost all the teachers in private courses are men.

For More News please see: http://www.peacewomen.org/news/newsindex.html

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2. FEATURE ANALYSIS: Women Must Take Their Place in the Peace Process

The January 20th issue of The East African, a Nairobi newspaper, published a full interview with Awut Deng, a southern Sudanese woman peace activist who has spent the past 20 years actively involved with the Sudanese peace effort and the promotion of women's rights in Sudan.

Below is the full interview as it appeared in The East African:

Awut Deng, peace mobiliser for the Nairobi-based New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC), has made it her lifework to promote the rights of people in southern Sudan in general and women in particular. In the 20 years or so of her work, Deng has been instrumental in facilitating peace deals and conferences nationally and internationally, starting up women's organisations, and representing the interests of women and south Sudanese in such high-level negotiations as the Machakos Protocol, signed in July by the Sudan government and the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army. For her efforts, she last year received the InterAction Humanitarian Award, presented to her by US First Lady Laura Bush. CATHY MAJTENYI spoke to Deng about her work, Sudanese politics, and what it's like to be a woman in southern Sudan.

How has your past shaped who you are today and the work that you're doing?

My husband was minister for legal affairs and vice president for the Southern Region. He opposed the introduction of Sharia law for two reasons: Sudan is not an Arab state and it cannot be ruled by Sharia laws. He also opposed the proposal to split the south into three regions.

In January 1983, he was detained. Then I started having problems. Security [agents] would come to search my house. Sometimes, I would be asked to report to the security office twice a day, where I would be questioned. [They would ask]: What is your husband doing? What papers do you have? After a year, he was released, and he joined the SPLA. In December 1984, we came to Nairobi to open the SRRA [Sudan Relief Rehabilitation Association] office here.

There were other Sudanese women in Nairobi who were facing similar problems. There was a need for us to see how we could develop ourselves. Our main objective was to work for unity among southern Sudanese women in this country [Kenya]. We founded the Sudanese Women's Association in Nairobi (SWAN) in 1993. When we were strong enough and our membership numbers increased, we founded the Sudanese Women's Voice for Peace in 1994 to deal specifically with peace issues.

We were very disturbed when the south was fighting itself when the SPLA split in 1991. It was painful for us as mothers: why should our children kill one another? We tried to work closely with the SPLA factions, split along Nuer-Dinka ethnic lines, to see how this could end, how they could address it peacefully.

In 1997, the New Sudan Council of Churches intervened. They recommended that there be a bigger conference [called the Wunlit conference, which eventually led to the Wunlit Peace Agreement] to address these issues. I went in to mobilise the women and the community for that conference. I was also the liaison between NSCC and the community in Sudan. That conference was held from February 27 to March 8, 1999 and brought together 800 delegates from the two communities. Women, youth, elders, traditional leaders, chiefs, spiritual leaders, and the church were all represented. The agreement was signed on March 8.

Can you give me examples of situations where you used your skills to bring the community together?

When we had this split in SPLA, tension was high among the male Sudanese. When the Pope was to visit Kenya, we invited There was a time when there were functions when the pope was coming to this country [Kenya]. The tension was still high among our men; I was the one organising [these functions] with one of my colleagues. We invited everybody from all the factions and brought them to Uhuru Park. We all sat in the same place because Sudan was given one space. That was the first time many of them were greeting each other in a long time.

I went to a particular community where [men] said they cannot sit with women. My argument was, OK, you cannot sit with a woman; I am a woman. How are you going to sit with me? I said, the problem is not facing men alone, but all of us are affected. We are your mothers and wives. We need to sit together to sort out this problem together as citizens, not as male or female. So, it was accepted and the women came. They sat together in one place, and they participated. I think from that time, They have never again asked the women not to come to a meeting.

Sometimes, I do a lot of lobbying before conferences and meetings. I want to know, who are the women participating? Who are the women who are going to speak? Would it be a good idea to suggest names? If a woman lived far away, I would just request, please, can you find a way of bringing that woman to participate? I also participated in the law review workshop for New Sudan [south Sudan]. Women had never been invited to participate, either to review the law or to make the law. We tried our level best to make a meaningful contribution.

What are some of the special qualities that you and other women possess that enable you to do peace work?

This is a male-dominated society. You have to be very tactful when approaching such a society. If you push your idea hard, it will meet with resistance because you are a woman. We have to be patient and listen a lot.

I'm not saying that women can't create wars, but they lean more towards peaceful solutions and co-existence. They have a heart of forgiveness. My main approach is to facilitate a person to talk, to ask questions, to know what we have, and tell me what the solution is.

What is it like to be a woman in southern Sudan?

The war is bad, but there is one advantage: it has opened women's eyes because they have found themselves in situations they were not in before. The women used to remain at home, were not career-oriented and were not struggling for anything. But the war has changed all that. Three-quarters of our women are widows. They have to find ways of coping with their new situation. They have to look after the children, the extended family. They have become the sole providers for their families.

They work hard to keep their families together. They endure difficult situations, such as mothers losing their kids to slavery, mothers who have lost their only son but refuse to take revenge. Still, they work for peace and reconciliation within the community. You see that strength, and anger sometimes. They speak angrily when they see things are not being done well. They participate a lot despite sometimes not being called to do so. They have that tune of peaceful co-existence. Some women are soldiers. They fight, and their mothers take care of the children.

How do you relate to women from northern Sudan?

To be honest, it's not easy. When we meet, we scream and shout at each other for the first two days. Then on the third day, we say, this is enough. We make them understand that the government and the successive governments of the north have been very oppressive towards the people of the south. They have been killing our children and taking our children to war.

We've actually been working together on many issues. We respect our political differences. There's a need to work together for peace in Sudan because we need a peaceful country... We have had several conferences with them, and there were several points that we have agreed upon. There is cooperation now and there's an ongoing process in which we meet every year. We have been bringing the Sudan embassy and the SPLA together in our meetings. We went to Boston together to make presentations on Sudan.

What are some of the points that you have agreed upon?

They understand that the south has the right to exercise self-determination because of the historical oppression. The other thing is that the government of Sudan has no right to bomb children, civilians, and civil institutions. We also agreed that women really don't have a place in Sudan. There must be a policy that accommodates the role of women in the public arena.

What are some of the things that need to take place for a just and lasting peace in Sudan?

I think any peace process should be inclusive. Women should not be sidelined; they should be a part of the process. Sudanese need to be educated on their rights. We also feel that people should not be deprived of education and health facilities. There needs to be respect for the culture and languages of the people.

Mostly, I look at the right of self-determination for the people of the south and other areas. African leaders need to play a more active role in resolving the conflict in Sudan. We also need international guarantees that the right of self-determination will be given high priority.

To read the story online, visit: http://allafrica.com/stories/200301220187.html

For a comprehensive annotated bibliography of books, articles and analyses on women's peace theory and activities, as well as NGO position papers, reports, speeches, statements and tools for organizational building, please go to: http://www.peacewomen.org/resources/resindex.html

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3. FEATURE STATEMENT: European Women's Lobby (EWL) Declaration Against War

Between January 18-19, 2003, the European Women's Lobby (EWL adopted unanimously a Declaration Against War. The EWL is currently sending the anti-war call to all EU policy-makers (Members of European Parliament, The European Commission, Permanent Representation of the Member States to the EU etc.), as well as disseminating it widely to various NGO networks, and on mailing lists. This declaration can be found on the EWL website at: http://www.womenlobby.org/home-en.asp?LangName=english
For a list of the signatories tothis declaration, visit: http://www.womenlobby.org/Document.asp?DocID=529&tod=172626

Brussels, 21 January 2003

Women all over Europe say No to war against Iraq and call for a halt to militarisation

The European Women's Lobby, representing over 3000 women's NGOs in Europe
- Committed to achieve the full realization of women's human rights and sustainable development;
- Aware that modern warfare disproportionately affects civilian populations, especially women and children;
- Deeply concerned that violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations is extreme, systematic, and widespread;
- Asserting that a culture of militarisation dis-empowers and silences women‚s voices as they engage in daily actions in support of peace, justice and solidarity in their communities;
- Acknowledging that the current militarisation process holds back investment in human rights, social development and gender equality.

While condemning the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein, we believe that a war is not the solution. A war will be a disaster for the women, men and children of Iraq who are already suffering because of the embargo. The UN Charter must be respected as the basis for coexistence in peace. A war against Iraq could also have a devastating impact on people across the Middle East and neighbouring regions. Pressure from the US to wage war against Iraq not only prevents other solutions from emerging, but also undermines the existing UN mechanisms for upholding human rights and strengthening women's rights.

Women all over Europe call for
- Governments to use their powers to press for and pursue negotiations in favour of a peaceful resolution
-The rejection of unilateral support of USA policy by any country in the European region. .
- EU Member States, countries in accession to the EU, and other European countries to bring their influence to bear and to press Iraq to accept political solutions and to accept fully the mandate of the UN inspectors
- For all European Union Member States, countries in accession to the EU, and other European countries to ensure the implementation of all commitments in UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women's role in conflict resolution and sustainable peace.

For a comprehensive annotated bibliography of books, articles and analyses on women's peace theory and activities, as well as NGO position papers, reports, speeches, statements and tools for organisational building. Please go to: http://www.peacewomen.org/resources/resindex.html

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4. FEATURE CAMPAIGN FOR PEACEWOMEN: NOW is the MOST CRITICAL TIME to act to ensure Gender Parity on the ICC!

The elections for judges to the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be held February 3-7, 2003; there are 10 women and 33 men running for 18 seats on the Court. The Women's Caucus for Gender Justice have written an action letter which they are asking you to send to your Permanent Representative to the United Nations and your Foreign Minister, or to draft your own letter, to demand that they vote for the women candidates to the ICC.

“We now have an opportunity to ensure a MAJORITY of women on the world's first permanent criminal court! Please don't miss this opportunity to help turn the tide for the level of women's participation in these official posts.

We will continue sending updates as the voting progresses next week and may need to call on concerned organizations and individuals around the world for further assistance. However, at this time it is imperative that governments hear from groups in the capitals and in their UN Missions in New York demanding parity on the Court - which is the only truly 'fair representation' possible.”

The Women's Caucus website includes:
-A list of emails for the UN Missions of those countries that have ratified the ICC Statute
-Profiles of the women candidates
-Letters sent by the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice to the President of ICC Assembly of States Parties and many more letters written by the Women's Caucus
-Regular updates about the election process.

For contact information for your foreign ministers, please visit: http://worldworld.com/
The website of the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice can be found at: http://www.iccwomen.org/Elections/ELECTIONSindex.htm.

For more PeaceWomen campaigns please visit: http://www.peacewomen.org/campaigns/outreachindex.html



Suffering in Silence: The Links between Human Rights Abuses and HIV Transmission to Girls in Zambia
Human Rights Watch
January 2003

This report by Human Rights Watch uses the testimonies of Zambian girls to explore the widespread sexual abuse inflicted on girls that has led to the disparity in HIV/AIDS infection and mortality, between girls and boys in Zambia, as well as many countries in eastern and southern Africa. The report includes an examination of the many different kinds of abuses suffered by Zambian girls and the links to HIV transmission, the response by Zambia and the international community, as well as a list of recommendations to the Government of Zambia, the donor community and the UN.

To read the report online (html and PDF), visit: http://hrw.org/reports/2003/zambia/
To read the testimonies from Zambia's girls featured in Suffering in Silence, visit: http://hrw.org/press/2003/01/zambia-test012803.htm

For a comprehensive annotated bibliography of books, articles on and analyses of women's peace theories and activities, as well as NGO position papers, reports, speeches, statements and tools for organisational building, go to: http://www.peacewomen.org/resources/resindex.html

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Experts' Workshop: Implementing UNSC 1325: From Recommendations to Action
February 3, 2003, 9-5:30pm, UNIFEM, New York City
The UN Foundation, Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, UNIFEM, and Women Waging Peace have organized a one-day workshop to identify the concerns and key priorities that emerge from the recommendations of the Secretary-General's report and study, and UNIFEM's independent expert assessment. The organizers hope to identify “specific short, medium and long term operational activities and projects that could be undertaken by key agencies and NGOs, that would be essential for the effective implementation of 1325.” The UN Foundation plans to bring the findings of this workshop together for a meeting on women, peace and security with donors in early spring. Participants will be coming from UN agencies, governments, non-governmental organizations, and the academic community. For more information, contact: victoria_stanski@huntalternatives.org . We will report on this expert's workshop when feedback is available.

5th Annual Women Who Make a Difference awards dinner: Conversation with Mary Robinson
February 27, 2003, 4:30pm, New York City
The National Council for Research on Women (NCRW) presents the 5th annual Women Who Make a Difference awards dinner with a conversation with the Honorable Mary Robinson on “An Ethical and Humanitarian Approach to Globalization.” The respondent will be Geeta Rao Gupta, President, International Center for Research on Women, and
The Honorable Linda Tarr-Whelan, Tarr-Whelan & Associates Inc. who is the Former US Ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and Former President of the Center for Policy Alternatives. By reservation only: (212) 838-2660 ext. 18. For more information visit the NCRW website at: http://www.ncrw.org/events/events.htm

Peacebuilding and Development Summer Institute 2003
American University, Washington, D.C.
The Peacebuilding and Development Summer Institute is a 3-week program that provides “knowledge, practical experience and skills for professionals, teachers and students involved in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, humanitarian assistance and development.” There are a variety of courses to choose from during the 3-week period: conflict resolution and human rights; gender, peacebuilding in development context; and religion and culture in conflict resolution. For more information about the program - tuition, housing and financial aid - and for information about how to apply, visit: http://www.american.edu/sis/peace/summer/

For more calendar events please visit: http://www.peacewomen.org/frame/calendar/calendar.html

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This edition of the 1325 PeaceWomen E-News Features:

1. 1325 News for PeaceWomen
2. Feature Analysis: Women Must Take Their Place in the Peace Process
3. Feature Statement: European Women's Lobby (EWL) Declaration Against War
4. Feature Campaign: NOW is the MOST CRITICAL TIME to act to ensure Gender Parity on the ICC!
5. Resources for PeaceWomen: Suffering in Silence: The Links between Human Rights Abuses and HIV Transmission to Girls in Zambia
6. Calendar Events for PeaceWomen