After only two years of deployment, the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) will, at the request of the Government of Chad, start its drawdown and exit by 31 December this year. MINURCAT will hand over its main tasks to Chad and the UN agencies present. These responsibilities include security of refugees, IDPs and humanitarian workers in eastern Chad, and continued support to the 850-strong Chadian police/gendarme force, the Détachment Intégré de Securité (DIS), established to provide physical protection in eastern Chad, so far trained and mentored by MINURCAT. A new report from the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs examines the situation of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in eastern Chad, and responses of the MINURCAT and other UN agencies. It also discusses the implications for the exit of MINURCAT, with termination scheduled for 31 December 2010, and for early recovery initiatives, as well as the prospects of protection measures provided by the government of Chad. As with any other country, it is difficult to gauge the exact extent of SGBV committed against civilians in Chad. However, SGBV is high on the agenda and a cross-cutting issue for various […]
Sudan’s electoral system allocates 25% of seats in the national, southern Sudan and state assemblies for women. That’s a progressive system. It has some unexpected effects – for example the majority of the PCP representation in the national assembly will be women from South Darfur. The majority of the voters were women. But in the new Government of National Unity, of 35 cabinet ministers, there are just two women. Amira al Fadil is Minister of Welfare and Social Security, and Halima Hassaballa al Naim, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs. That’s disappointing to say the least. Of the 42 ministers of state, there are six women, including Grace Datero (Foreign Affairs), Teresa Sirisio (Communications and Information Technology), Amna Dirar (Labour), Fadwa Deng (Environment, Forests and Urban Development), Sana Hamad al Awad (Information) and Su’ad Abdel Raziq (General Education). That’s a slightly better but still well below par. And of no woman has yet made it to the top of the key ‘sovereign’ ministries or into the presidency.
The Sudanese government’s “Othering” of Darfur in its Quest for Hegemony: “Women Without Men, Boys Without a Future”
This ethnography is based on extensive anthropological research for a period of about 16 months all together in the provincial town of Kebkabiya in North-Darfur (1990-1995). The title of the book, ‘One foot in heaven’ conflates two main perspectives on women that were propagated by the Islamist Sudanese government that had come to power in 1989 by a military coup led by Omar al-Bashir. The Islamist discourse on gender as propagated by this government was based on the viewpoints of the NIF of al-Turabi. It basically constructed women as proper Muslims only in their roles as mothers and wives, predominantly within the walls of their compounds. The book centres on the biographic narratives of Hajja and Umm Khalthoum, who belong respectively to the class of market women and of female teachers. Market women were considered to be disrespectful because of their economic activities in the public sphere, while female teachers had a high status because of their education, despite the fact that they also entered the public domain in order to perform their job. The book attempts to show, rather than tell, how, in daily life, women actively constructed identities while negotiating the Islamist discourse on the proper Muslim woman. […]
Karin Willemse’s One Foot in Heaven: Narratives on Gender and Islam in Darfur, West-Sudan is a highly theoretical, complex, 547-page long book by a Dutch feminist anthropologist who did about one year and a half of field work in Kebkabiya (Dar Fur) between 1990 and 1995. Practically all feminist anthropological studies of women and/or gender in Sudan (by scholars such as Abdullahi Ibrahim, Amal Fadlallah, Victoria Bernal, Stephanie Beswick and Jay Spaulding, Janice Boddy, Sondra Hale, and others) have striven to carefully conceptualize their approach and contextualize the women (and/or men) they studied. However, while Willemse’s book belongs to this small but high-quality body of scholarly work, it is at the same time very different, for it is first of all (even if not only) a book about the feminist epistemology and methodology of women’s biographic narratives. Willemse had initially hoped to study female labor migrants in Dar Fur, but a range of political and security factors made this impossible. She decided to study working women in Kebkabiya instead and, in the course of time, came to focus on the ‘narratives of self’ of two particular women, a market woman she calls Hajja and a teacher she calls Umm Kalthoum. […]
A review of Karin Willemse, One Foot in Heaven: Narratives on Gender and Islam in Darfur, West-Sudan (Leiden: Brill, 2007). “Women started making tea seven or eight years ago. The first woman making tea was Hauwa Al-Fadl from the Birgid tribe. Then women from all the tribes started to make tea: Arab, Zaghawa, and Fur. Most of them are now Arab and Zaghawa. They were making tea, because they did not have money and they needed it badly, because of the drought. The first woman who made tea did so after her husband died. … [T]hen other women followed her example. Zamzam, my co-wife’s daughter, and her sister were not making tea at that time: their mother sold onions, dried okra, and tomatoes. Only later did she make tea. After the government stopped the women making tea, they went and complained to the leaders in the government: ‘There is no family, money, people looking after us, what can we do,’ they said. But the men said, ‘No, no, in Islam we have no room for this. You have to stop, so you stop.’” — Hajja Ishak to Karin Willemse, Kebkabiya, Darfur, c. 1991 (page 199). “Tea is the mother of […]
For social science research in Darfur, the 1990s were a black hole. After Darfur’s descent into violence at the end of the 1980s, and the National Salvation coup, few researchers ventured into the field there. Karin Willemse is one of those few. She lived in Kebkabiya at the height of the Islamist revolution, when Turabi’s cadres were intent on transforming Sudan into an Islamic state. That enterprise focused not only on national institutions, but also that necessary precursor of the Islamic state—the Islamic society. Their project demanded a new public morality, and the conduct and appearance of women were in its sights. Willemse’s account is One Foot in Heaven: Narratives on Gender and Islam in Darfur, West-Sudan (Brill 2007). It is a thick ethnographic description of the lives of women in Kebkabiya, and the life and reflections of their ethnographer. Her two principals, a market woman and a teacher, navigate challenges of economic survival and social standing at a time of hardship and upheaval. Among other things, it is a vivid account of life at that moment in time, when the Islamists appeared on the brink of achieving the social hegemony to which they aspired. This was also when the […]
Without doubt, the statistics of Sudan’s elections will be pored over and debated at length, and the interpretation of every figure will be open to dispute. But there seems to be one consistent feature across the country. Women were the majority of the voters. This was most striking in Darfurian IDP camps, where registration levels were often low, and where some reports are that three quarters or even more of the voters were women. But in cities and villages across the nation, according to the people I have spoken with, women voted at least in equal numbers to men, and usually considerably more. I don’t know if this is because women are more civic minded, more committed to democracy and civil politics, or have a longer-term view of political developments and so are less easily swayed by day-to-day events. Perhaps the women’s list, which will deliver 25% of the members in every elected legislature, has encouraged more women to vote. But the consequence is that, whoever stands for election in Sudan in the future, will have to bear in mind that she or he will be elected principally by the votes of women. I wonder what effect this will have […]
What is a ‘low-intensity conflict’? It is still a conflict. Even though lethal violence is low, the other other dimensions to the conflict may continue with a high intensity, including a risk of high-intensity violence. In this posting I will examine the debate around the question of how to define a ‘low-intensity conflict’ and what this means for Darfur. It’s an important policy question because it helps determine what should be the right strategy for UNAMID, especially given the recent request by the UN Security Council that UNAMID define its strategy and benchmarks for success. When Joint Special Representative Rodolphe Adada made his presentation to the UN Security Council on 27 April his use of the term ‘low-intensity conflict’ sparked controversy. He said that the situation had changed from the period of intense hostilities in 2003-04, when tens of thousands of people had been killed, to a low-intensity conflict. According to UNAMID data, from 1 January 2008 until 31 March 2009, there had been some 2,000 fatalities from violence, approximately one third of them civilian. 573 combatants had died. A further 569 people had died in intertribal fighting and UNAMID had lost 14 of its members. The controversy focused on […]
tories of men being forcibly circumcised and even castrated peppered news accounts of the madness that overtook Kenya in the aftermath of the December 2007 elections. According to the Waki commission that investigated the Post Election Violence (PEV), by January 2008 the ethnic militia of the Kikuyu ethnic group, Mungiki, used blunt objects such as broken glass to forcibly circumcise at least eight men, some as young as eleven and five years old. While exact numbers are hard to come by, one can deduce that tens of men endured genital mutilation during the first three months of 2008.
The AU Panel has spent between six and ten hours each day, for the last week, in meetings with large delegations from Darfurian civil society, native administration, IDPs and pastoralists, as well as national political parties. Today, at a hearing with civil society groups in el Geneina, Justice Florence Mumba asked, “Why are there no women in the native administration in Darfur?” She pointed out that female chiefs are not uncommon in other parts of Africa, including her native Zambia, but the Panel had yet to encounter one in Darfur. (In fact, there was a woman sitting with the native administration delegation in al Fashir on Saturday, but she did not speak.) The question caused uproar. Nearly half of the civil society delegates were women and they applauded the question. But a male omda was the first to speak. He explained how village sheikhs are chosen by the men of the village, and every six to eight sheikhs elects and omda, and every six to eight omdas chooses a fursha or amir, who in turn affirms the position of the Sultan. All are men and he clearly could not conceive of an alternative arrangement. “We cherish and protect our women” […]