Just Empowerment: Holistic Justice as a Mechanism for Women’s Empowerment
Join us Throughout the 16 Days of Activism Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence
November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the beginning of our annual international campaign — The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence — which will run till December 10, Human Rights Day. During these days, Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) will join forces with like-minded individuals and organizations to draw attention to violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Sudan, as well as build a concrete path forward to eliminating VAWG in Sudan and the rest of the world.
Sudanese women have suffered for far too long, particularly in Darfur and other crisis-affected regions of Sudan. The military junta and its predecessor under the al-Bashir regime have wielded systematic rape as a weapon of war against women and girls in Darfur for over 20 years, even using the same tactics to quell recent protests in Khartoum against the 2021 coup. While DWAG hoped that the 2019 revolution and the short-lived interim government following it would enable Sudanese women to finally join governance and decision-making arenas as equal and full participants, the interim government failed to include women or prioritize women’s agendas. The 2021 coup only further exacerbated women’s exclusion; even though negotiations on developing a new constitution and bringing civilian leadership are currently underway, women have not received any opportunities to join the negotiation table and make their voices heard.
To make matters worse, COVID-19 has exacerbated the impact of gender-based violence (GBV) in recent years the world over, including in Sudan. Sexual violence and GBV – perpetrated by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other militias – worsened even further in Darfur after the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) withdrew, leaving girls and women more vulnerable to GBV due to the absence of protection and accountability. The prevalence of GBV in Darfur shows that accountability mechanisms and gender-responsive policies are necessary.
Despite facing intentional exclusion at the hands of the government, unpunished sexual violence and GBV, and internal displacement, Sudanese women all the way from Darfur to Khartoum have demonstrated indomitable resilience, courage, and devotion to the fight for justice. Sudanese women work tirelessly to ensure their voices are heard and consistently display excellent leadership. However, international and regional stakeholders working on Sudan have limited their engagement to a handful of political and military leaders and have consistently failed to engage or prioritize engaging women as actors; even as post-coup negotiations continue, women do not have a seat at the table. While Sudanese women possess great potential to transform their country for the better, global actors will need to provide them with tools, resources, capacity, and a safe space so they can bring their voices to the centers of decision-making and reach their full potential as a force for positive change. Therefore, DWAG is determined to empower women and enable them to bypass all barriers, as well as enable them to take ownership of these decision-making arenas.
We believe that VAWG affects all women, regardless of their professional roles, socio-economic status, or geographical location. That is why during these 16 Days we must speak in one loud voice. We must make sure that the women of Sudan have a voice, help amplify their voices, and bring their issues to the forefront of policymaking forums. If we can come together as a global community, we can make a difference not just in Sudan but across the globe. The best way to do so is to make it clear that stakeholders at regional and global levels need to prioritize the inclusion and participation of women in all parts of Sudanese institutions, so women can have the opportunity to decide their future and become partners in transforming Sudan.
During this year’s 16 Days Campaign, DWAG will follow through on its commitment to the women of Sudan by launching an integrated approach. To be specific, we will advocate for holistic justice. Holistic justice is unique in its scope and context; it encompasses every form of accountability or justice that will restore the dignity of the survivors and affected communities, including criminal accountability, as well as restorative, physical, psychological, and moral forms of justice. We will emphasize the vital roles that women play in society and how their inclusion in the governmental and judicial processes of Sudan will be critical to empowering women and disrupting the systems that oppress them. Systemic oppression and state-sponsored violence, as a pair, have led to multiple layers of gender-based inequalities or injustices. These include economic inequality, sexual and reproductive injustice, healthcare inequality, and educational inequality. DWAG recognizes that an effective and impactful approach to empowering Sudanese women will require helping them combat each and every specific injustice they face.
This year, we at DWAG will also be launching our signature policy framework entitled Just Empowerment, a holistic justice approach to women empowerment revolving around five pillars:
1) Criminal Justice: Achieving accountability for crimes committed against women.
2) Social Justice: Providing education and equal opportunities to women.
3) Economic Justice: Providing economic resources and empowerment opportunities to women.
4) Restorative Psychological Justice: Providing mental and psychological health resources to women.
5) Moral Justice: Recognizing both the suffering and resilience of women as leaders (as opposed to victims), as well as standing in solidarity with women and investing in their resilience.
We invite you to join us for these 16 Days in adopting this framework to bring the rhetoric of women’s empowerment into reality. We believe it is imperative that we come up with and then implement practical solutions to violence against women that will make a difference.
DWAG has organized this campaign so you may join us in amplifying the voices of survivors and helping Sudanese women transcend the oppressive regimes and cultural barriers that they continue to endure. In the days to come, DWAG will share powerful messages from women activists, Darfuri survivors, and women leaders in Sudan and the diaspora through social media and blog posts from our team. In addition, we will provide opportunities for you, the reader, to join us in educating the public and rallying support for women in Sudan and elsewhere to end VAWG in all its forms. We will be sharing our campaign timeline and even more shortly.
We hope you will join us throughout these 16 Days to advocate for a holistic justice system that empowers women in Sudan and elsewhere and encourages their meaningful and active participation at all levels of decision-making. With our collective effort, we can make a difference!
Founder and President, Darfur Women Action Group