#030: Will Women Free Sudan?

  • Will Women Free Sudan?   

Undoubtedly, all of Sudan is tired of President Omar Al-Bashir's tyrannical and corrupt administration - but as is said, women are almost always the most tired of all. And today, Sudanese women are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

The current wave of anti-government protests in Sudan sparked in mid-December 2018 and have been marked as the largest and most united effort to oust Al-Bashir from office. Unsurprisingly, the protests have been met with stiff resistance from government forces, with several people killed and many others arrested during the uprisings. Still ongoing, the protests have been remarkable for the major role that women play in online organizing and physically marching against Al-Bashir's government - even in parts of the highly conservative country where women would be discouraged from engaging in such activities. 

According to No To Women Oppression Initiative (a rights organization), "women are now at the forefront of the campaign, often taking to the street in larger numbers than men." Although Sudanese women have had a documented history of activism, the "morality laws" introduced in the 1990s severely curtailed women's rights and often relegated them to the socio-political background of society. Although women have been heavily punished in government crackdowns against protestors (arrested women have reported having their hair cut off, their arms broken, and getting whipped), they refuse to back down. Perhaps, this kind of resilience will earn Sudan its freedom. 

Watch for:"The resistance has manifested itself in different ways. On one Sudanese Facebook group, originally set up to identify cheating husbands, its 340,000 female members try to identify undercover intelligence agents from photographs taken at demonstrations"


  • Grab Her By the Neck

A television presenter on the Vision4 channel in Cameroon has come under fire for providing married men with instructions on how best to physically beat their wives during a fight - suggesting to "grab her by the neck and press on it...the more she talks, the more you press."
Yes, you read that right.

The presenter, Ernest Obama (thankfully, no relation to the Obama you know and love) claims that he was not advocating violence, rather educating viewers on how to 'calm' their wives during a heated argument. According to OECD, 51% of women in Cameroon have been victims of sexual or physical violence from an intimate partner, thus, it is harmful and reckless to be so cavalier (if not supportive) about gender-based violence. At this point in time, neither the Cameroonian National Communications Council nor Vision4 officials have publicly commented on the incident.

Read for:  "'My colleague talked about what one should do in case a woman grabs you by the balls, he suggested giving her a violent punch. I said ... you should maybe rather hit her somewhere where it hurts less and which will not leave traces.'"


  • Egypt Does It Again

Here's another one from Egypt: the country banned famous singer, Sherine Abdel-Wahab, from performing in the country because she allegedly commented that Egypt lacks respect for freedom of speech.

Again, to clarify: in order to punish her for "misrepresenting" the country's respect for freedom of speech, she is banned from publicly performing... there's no need to write a joke here, because it writes itself. Reportedly, a pro-government lawyer filed the complaint against her and accused her of "insulting Egypt and and inviting suspicious groups to interfere in Egypt's affairs". 

Surely, someone can find more challenging work for Egypt's "pro-government" lawyers...

Read for:"'I am very tired. I made a mistake. I am sorry. I appeal the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, who is our father. I feel that I was persecuted. I did nothing. I love Egypt.'"


  • Changing Laws

In 2016, Tanzanian lawyer Rebeca Gyumi was finally equipped to tackle a subject she had been passionate about since childhood - child marriage laws. The Tanzanian 1971 Law of Marriage Act held the legal age of marriage for boys at 18, but for girls at 14. Tanzania has a child marriage rate of 37% (one of the highest in the world), which has negative domino effects on the education and long-term employment of women in the country.   

Gyumi and her team challenged the Law of Marriage Act and won. In 2016, the Tanzanian High Court declared the female legal age of marriage unconstitutional and raised the age to 18. Although the government appealed the decision in 2018 (the case is back in court with a verdict soon due), the landmark ruling was welcomed across the country and further signals that women's rights and protections will henceforth be fiercely sought after and protected. 

Read for:"'It will look really bad on the government if they win [the appeal]. There is no victory in winning a case that allows girls to get married younger. It's not a victory a country can be proud of.'"


CAPE TO CAPEThe Malagasy Mums saving each other from a taboo conditionThe three Burundian schools girls who were arrested after allegedly doodling on the President's picture in a textbook have now been freed after local and international outcry; Local activists in Namibia are organizing the country's very first Slut Shame Walk in Windhoek to protest rape culture and victim blaming.

You Should Know

  • Cambridge Core: Spatial Politics and Gendered Strategies: Women Traders and Institutions in Oke Arin Market, Lagos

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Nneoma Nwankwo