The Role of Women in a Transitioning Sudan

By Maura Reilly on October 18, 2019

The Sudanese Women’s Union persists in their hope for a more equal society, stating “long live the Sudanese women’s strife to become partners in the transitional period.”

International Women's Day in Abyei, Sudan: "International Women's Day in Abyei" by NewsHour is licensed under CC BY NC 2.0

In the past month, the Prime Minister of Sudan, Abdalla Hamdok announced and confirmed his Cabinet, the first to be formed since the overthrow of former President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir’s autocratic reign. The recently confirmed cabinet includes four female ministers out of eighteen total ministers. The women ministers include Lina Al Sheikh as Minister for Social Development and Labour, Walaa Al Bushi as Minister of Youth and Sports, and Intisar Saghyroun as Minister for Higher Education, and Sudan’s first ever female foreign minister, a long-time diplomat Asma Mohamed Abdalla. Abdalla was one of the first women to work for the Sudanese foreign ministry and served as a Sudanese diplomat until her removal by then-President Al Bashir in 1991.

Confirmation of the cabinet, comes after rebuke from the Sudanese Women’s Union regarding a leaked list of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) ministerial nominees. In their statement, the Sudanese Women’s Union said “women played a great role in this revolution, equal to their male fellow citizens. We claim an equal share of 50/50 with men at all levels, measured by qualifications and capabilities.” Women played a pivotal role in the unrest which ousted al-Bashir in April (2019), and faced high instances of violence and sexual harassment at the hands of al-Bashir’s security. Despite the important role women played in the protest and overthrow of Al Bashir and Prime Minister Hamdok’s outspoken support for the advancement of women in the new Sudan, the four women ministers only constitute 22.22 percent of Prime Minister Hamdok’s Cabinet.

The 22.22 percent is lower than the percent of parliamentary seats held by women in both the upper and lower houses under former President al-Bashir, which were at 26.67 percent and 27.65 percent respectively, last calculated in March of 2019. As of March, Sudan ranked 58th in the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s global ranking of national parliaments according to the number of women represented. However, since the dissolution of al-Bashir’s government on the 11th of April, 2019, the IPU has suspended rankings on the Sudan until the implementation of their transitional legislature, slated to go into effect by November, 2019. The Constitutional Declaration, a power-sharing agreement and plan for a three year transition period to a democratic government, includes a 40 percent gender quota for women in the new parliament, bringing hope for further gender parity in the transitional Sudan, and the Sudanese Women’s Union persists in their hope for a more equal society, stating “long live the Sudanese women’s strife to become partners in the transitional period.”

***Written September of 2019

Maura is a RepresentWomen Fall 2019 Research Intern from the Washington, D.C. area. She graduated from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland this past spring with an honors degree in Social Anthropology.