#036: The Sovereign Council

  • The Sovereign Council

After months of a bloody revolution, which saw the ousting of despot Omar Al-Bashir, Sudan's new dawn might finally be on the horizon. With the signing of the power-sharing deal by both the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces of Freedom and Change (a coalition which represents civilian groups), Sudan is finally back on track to the restoration of a democratically-elected government.

The power-sharing deal ushered in the Sovereign Council, a group of six civilians and five military officers, who are charged with navigating the country's 39-month path to democracy. The Sovereign Council includes two women: Aisha Musa Saeed and Raga Nicole Issa Abdul-Masseh. Ms Abdul-Masseh, a Copt, is the first Christian woman in top levels of Sudanese government since 1956. Although not balanced, female and Christian representation on the Sovereign Council indicates an acknowledgement of the need for a more representative government in the country. Nonetheless, activists continue calls to increase female inclusion in government and to ensure that the voices of women (who were vital to the success of the revolution) are not erased. While political experts acknowledge that the details of power-sharing deal are not perfect; there is consensus that the civilian transitional phase is certainly a critical first step in creating stability in the new Sudan. 

Read for: "If this council does not meet our aspirations and cannot serve our interests, we will never hesitate to have another revolution. We would topple the council just like we did the other regime"


  • Got Milk?

Nairobi's Pumwani Maternity Hospital is officially Kenya's first human milk bank. Donor mothers (lactating women) file into the hospital to donate breastmilk to newborn babies in need, whose mothers may be unable to breastfeed them. Human milk banks contribute to alleviating neonatal mortality rates by storing and pasteurizing human milk for later use; while relieving parents from the strain of otherwise having to buy expensive baby formula.

Although Pumwani has already received over 80 donors and doctors have noted that the milk bank is already impacting neonatal mortality rates, the hospital remains alert regarding teaching donor mothers to care for themselves, ensuring that specialized pasteurizers and freezers used to store milk do not break down in event of power cuts, and instituting stringent measures to safeguard against contamination or infection of donor milk.

Read for:"[Kenya's] Ministry of Health began polling women on their openness to donating breastmilk a few years ago. It then decided to locate its first milk bank in Nairobi, which has the highest neonatal death rate in the country."


  • A Pair of Buttocks & Other Causes of Arrest

Ugandan academic and activist, Stella Nyanzi, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after a series of Facebook posts mocking President Museveni, Uganda's leader who has been in power for over 30 years. Ms. Nyanzi, a former lecturer at Makerere University, has been accused of Facebook posts where she referred to the president as "a pair of buttocks" and where she wrote several profanity-laden poems addressed to President Museveni, most famous of which ends with "You should have died at birth".

She was arrested in November 2018 on charges of cyber harassment and remanded in Luzira maximum security prison. She told the court that she suffered a miscarriage while in prison but remained held until the start of her trial in May 2019. Prosecutors insisted that Nyanzi's poems "disturbed the peace, quiet, or right of privacy of President Museveni". Ms. Nyanzi maintains that she uses crude language and "radical rudeness" in her activism to draw public attention by breaking cultural mores of politeness. Amnesty International has condemned her conviction, noting that "forms of expression considered insulting to a public figure is not sufficient ground to penalize anyone"

Read for: "I intended to annoy Yoweri Museveni. We are tired of his dictatorship"


  • South Sudan's Men4Women

Here's a wonderful story out of South Sudan: an all-male activist group, Men4Women, is making the rounds in secondary schools educating schoolboys and girls about menstruation. In a bid to encourage boys to be more supportive of their female classmates and to break the silence around menstruation, Men4Women specifically educates young boys on menstruation and discusses menstruation openly with young girls.

I particularly love this story because it speaks to a simple yet major part of the education we all need to reinforce around menstruation: men knowing that women are on their periods should not be a source of shame.

Read for:"Boys are the ones that do a lot of period stigma to girls. When they see stains on the girl, they laugh at the girl. Why we are involving them is to teach them: 'Look, this is a natural thing!'"


CAPE TO CAPE: Rwanda beer maker, Skol Brewery, apologizes for sexist beer jokes printed on beer labels; Kampala's market women unite against harassment; South African actress, Nomzamo Mbatha, lands supporting role in Coming 2 America, the 2020 sequel to the Eddie Murphy-led 1988 classic, Coming To America

You Should Know

  • VOA: Experts: Women make peacekeeping missions more effective

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Nneoma Nwankwo