Tuesday, June 12, 2007

UNIFEM's Efforts in Darfur

The tragedy in Darfur continues with seemingly little hope for the victims of rape and murder, and the fragile peace accord reached some months ago appears dormant. However, on September 20, 2006 at the United Nations, the Government of Sudan agreed to allow the troops from the African Union to remain until the end of this year. Sudan's president had previously ordered them to leave his country by the end of September, and at the same time, refused to permit United Nations peacekeepers into Darfur. Such a situation would have left the refugees at the complete mercy of those who are oppressing them. Now some time has been provided for further negotiations to end this disaster. Although the African Union troops are limited in number and supplies at this time and not truly effective in protecting from violence the men and women driven from their homes, a plan for them to receive material help from other countries is a possibility.

In the meantime, women suffer obscene violations in spite of African Union troops being there to protect them. The world now knows that it is the women and young girls who must leave the camps to get water and are usually raped in the process. If men were to go, they would be murdered; so the women make the decision that it is better to be raped than murdered. If ever there was a reason for women to be at the peacetable, this guarantees it.

UNIFEM’s efforts in Darfur

June 2006- UNIFEM and its partners have been working for women's participation and the inclusion of their rights within the process of the African Union's (AU) mediation of the Darfur conflict. This has resulted in the appointment of a senior gender adviser on Sudan for the AU, and the secondment of gender experts to strengthen the capacity of the AU's mediation process in terms of gender concerns, and to document the process of the peace negotiations in Abuja.

In addition, UNIFEM also supported the participation of a 20 member all-women Gender Experts Support Team (GEST) to the negotiations to provide inputs and recommendations on gender issues as well as on other issues generally. The contents of a document produced by the GEST — "Women's Priority Concerns for Reconstruction in Darfur" — have been successfully negotiated into the Darfur Peace Agreement. Furthermore, a broad policy framework on gender equality within the peace process has been adopted by the AU Mediation Commission, and draft texts on ceasefire and wealth-sharing contain substantive commitments to women and gender equality.

May 2006 - UNIFEM is partnering with the African Union to support Darfurian women's participation at the Abuja Peace Talks, and facilitate implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 and the AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality. Protection of women's rights in Darfur and the traumatic experiences of violence and displacement have been recurring themes demanding immediate action by all parties. UNIFEM is urging all parties to the peace talks to expedite its conclusion and restore security and dignity to the war-affected women and children of Darfur.

December 2005 - A team of 15 women from three regions of Darfur arrived yesterday in Abuja to attend the seventh round of the African Union–led peace talks on the conflict in Sudan. The women, who make up a Gender Experts Support Team that will inform the peace process, come from diverse backgrounds such as economists, teachers, internally displaced persons, sociologists, lawyers, media professionals, researchers and women's rights advocates.

UNIFEM's partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to facilitate women's participation in the negotiations is part of a larger effort to ensure that women are included in all peace-making and peace-building processes in the Sudan. UNIFEM has been working with the African Union (AU) to develop a "gender strategy" to inform its mediation efforts, focusing on strengthening the structures of the peace process with gender expertise, increasing the numbers of women in delegations and other functional committees, and integrating women's concerns into the content of the peace negotiations. Supporting the 15-member team and urging for their inclusion in the peace talks came in direct response to a recent gender needs assessment conducted by the AU and Canada, which recommended the attachment of gender experts to the AU mediation office, and gender advisory capacity to be provided to the talks' parties.

At the close of the sixth round of peace talks, the AU had called for stronger actions and commitments by partners and parties to the talks to include more women directly in the negotiations, and better reflect gender issues in its content. The AU has now appointed a Senior Gender Advisor to the Peace Talks, Dr Mary Maboreke, and the number of women in delegations has increased in the current round to reach a total of eight women (two from government and six from the Movement, a bloc representing the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement).

The inclusion of women in the peace negotiations acknowledges that the women of Darfur are not only victims and survivors of violence, but also fundamental contributors to peace efforts. The "technical" status accorded to the team in the negotiations means that they are officially recognized by all parties, partners and the mediation team as a main resource to draw from on gender issues.

The successful facilitation of the team's participation has led to the Sudanese government requesting for four more women from Sudan to join the team, especially women from government ministries with specific mandates for gender issues.

Besides the Government of Sweden, the Government of Norway has also committed to providing financial support through UNIFEM for women's participation in the peace process.


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