The most striking reality is that most of the intervention made by various actors to address the crisis in Darfur does not use the resources at hand and employ them in the interest of lasting solutions. Chief among these resources is human capital. Women represent a core component of such resources, with skills such as indigenous knowledge, experience, leadership in different fields and traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, which allows them to act as wise elders in their community.
It’s worth noting that women are the most untapped resource in our society. They comprise half of the population in general, and in some instances like the case in Darfur, women and children make up about 85% of those living in internal displacement camps. Quite often, when men engage in war, women undertake constructive activities that can sustain our community, if they are given the opportunity. I have witnessed in Darfur, despite the brutality and the horror of the violence that women face, they have demonstrated outstanding resilience, strength and wisdom. Until today, no one has thought of these invaluable existing assets. It is imperative that if we can use those assets effectively, we will make everlasting change in human lives and the world’s security. Furthermore, it will help bring about the change and the dream of our communities that can make the promise of “never again” a reality.
As a female survivor of the 21st century genocide in Darfur, I have suffered a lot. In spite of this, I have been able to not only turn my bitterness into productive efforts but have sought possibilities to give others the confidence to help them discover themselves, move beyond the suffering they have been through and seek practical solutions. Even if it is simple, nothing is more powerful than letting people know their own strength and showing them how to utilize it effectively. Sometimes I am stricken by the inaction of those who have the capacity to act but do nothing. We all need to move beyond rhetoric.
The strength of the Darfuri women during hardship is another turning point in my life that I feel deserves the attention of all those who care about women’s issues. Being a woman from Darfur has been both overwhelming and inspiring to me in many different ways.
The story behind the name of the organization goes back to the time in which the genocide began in Darfur.
When the government attacked people from the villages around my hometown, people started to flee to Kabkabiya – my hometown – seeking a safe refuge. A group of men were collecting money to help the needy, most of whom were women and children. They provided them with food, clothing, medicine and found places for them to stay. The government arrested 50 of these men, including my eldest brother, and restricted any movement or gathering of male adults. Eventually, we women took on the role of helping our people, even though it was not safe for us. We were able to mobilize women from many different parts of Darfur to do the same and connected them in an organized manner to report the human rights abuses that were occurring on a daily basis.
Between 2003-2004, when the conflict escalated, we were harassed and threatened to the point where most of us had to escape and leave Sudan. When I thought about this organization, I realized that I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it alone. I in turn called upon my sisters in the disapora to join me in our collective efforts. I then decided to name it after my fellows, to honor the women of Darfur who have been involved in such a prolonged struggle.
My past and present experiences, knowledge of the suffering and the power of women in my community have motivated me to start the Darfur Women’s Action Group (DWAG). As someone lucky enough to have escaped the unimaginable hardship and suffering, I feel like I owe it to my sisters and mothers to stand up and encourage other survivors to accept their responsibilities and undertake efforts that can contribute to the restoration of dignity and livelihood to our society.
Founder of DWAG