“I am empowered by their empowerment.”

Today, starting at 9 am at Babiker Badri Association at Ahfad University for Women, our network had its first session. The meeting involved getting to know each other and learning basic handicraft skills.

Recycled paper baskets

Randa, Superwoman # 1: ” I am happy that the project is now alive ! I can see the participants are excited to learn about the recycling handicrafts. We have around 20 participants, but I think we can go up to 30 in this space.”

Randa, superwoman # 1.
Randa, Superwoman # 1.

Jumana, Superwoman # 2: “You can almost feel the excitement here ! I am empowered by their empowerment. The baskets are beautiful, some of the women were saying that even if they don’t sell, they can use them to decorate their homes.”

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Jumana, Superwoman # 2
Jumana, Superwoman # 2

Sara, Superwoman # 4

متزوجه و ام لستة ابناء ثلاثة بنات و ثلاثة اولاد , زوجى يعمل فى الجيش  و لطبيعة عمله يغييب عنا ايام و لفترات طويله  طويله  . قى يوم ما كنت  و اطفالى الصغار عندما حضر الينا احد الاقارب و فى معيته حقيبة ملابس كبيره و اخرى صغيره  , طلب منى الاحتفاظ بالحقيبه الى حين معاودته لنا فى وقت اخر بعدها بيوم حضرت الشرطة لمنزلنا وقامت بتفتيشه المنزل بحجة ان قريبنا مراقب من قبلهم و انه شوهد بدخوله لمنزلنا و معه حقيبه  طلب رجل الشرطة ان اسلمه الحقيبة و بالفعل قاموا بتفتيشها بالحقيبة بغض من الملابس و الاوراق , يبدو ان الشرطة لم تجد ما كانت تبحث عنه .. وعندما همو للمغادرة سالنى احد رجال الشرطة اذ لقريبى اشياء اخرى تخصه قام باحضاره بجبتهم بنعم واشرت الى الحقيبة الصغيره التى كانت فى نفس موضعها .. قام رجل الشرطه بفتحها و تدافقت منها بعض الاشياء التى لم اتعرف اليها , قام احد رجال الشرطة بوضع كمية فى جيب  ( بنطلونه ) و ارجاع ماتساقط على الارض للحقيبة وامرانى بالذهاب معهم لمركز الشرطة لم اكن اعرف السبب الا اننى علمت مؤاخر ماكان بالحقيبة ( بنقو ). اخبرت الشرطة ان هذه الحقيبة ملك لقريبى دعته الشرطة الا انه انكر ملكيته للحقيبة و مابداخلها و عليه تم اتهامى بالحيازة وصدر حكم فى مواجهتى بالسجن لمدة عشرون عامل كنت حينها حامل وفى شهرى الثانى , اودعت باسجن حيث وضعت مولودى . بعد انقضاء خمسة عشر عاما من المده المقرره تم الافراج عنى واجهتنى مشاكل عده اجتماعية و مادية , ديون متراكمه , نظرات اتهام و استحقار  فقدت الامل و كنت ارى حينها الحياة خلف قطبان السجن ارحم و اجمل مما انا عليه و كنت خلسه استرجها و اتذكر معاملت النزيلات و ادارة السجن الكريمة لى عندما تقسو الحياة على خارج القطبان .
من ادارة السجن علمت ان هنالك منظمة تعمل فى رفع القدرات و تمليك المهارات , حلمت عندها بمشروع صغير يعيننى , تعلمت الكتير من الاعمال اليدوية لغرض التسويق و اعمال المعجنات  اتمنى ان انجح فى عملى و اوفر لاعائلتى جوا سعيدا عوضا عما عاشوه .

I am married, and a mother of six. I have three sons and three daughters. My husband works for the army and this keeps him absent from the home for days at a time and also longer periods. One day I was with my children and a relative came with two suitcases, a big one and a small one. He asked me to keep the suitcases until he comes back to take it.
One day after this visit the police came and searched my house. They had been monitoring my relative and saw him enter my house with the suitcase. They asked for the suitcase, searched it and found only papers and clothes. It seems they did not find what they were looking for. As they were leaving they asked if he had left something else. I said yes and pointed to the other suitcase. They opened it and some things fell out. I did not know what they are. One of the policemen took one of these things and put the rest back. They asked me to come to the police station with them. I did not know the reason but later I found out that the things in the bag were in fact drugs.
I told the police that this bag belongs to my relative. The police brought him but he denied being the owner of the bag and the content. That is why they charged me with the possession. For this I was sentenced to 20 years in prison. At that time I was pregnant in my second month. I gave birth in the prison. I have been released after 15 years.
I have faced so many problems, financial and social and I have been humiliated by the community. I have lost hope. I feel that being in prison was actually better than what I am now going through. Sometimes I go back to my memories inside the prison and I remember the treatment of the inmates by the prison administration and the atmosphere between the inmates. The treatment was very kind when I compare with what I have faced on the outside. From the prison authorities they told me there is an organization that works with former prisoners in building their capacity and getting some skills. I dreamed that I could start a small project. I learned a lot about handicrafts, marketing and baking cookies. I hope to succeed in my work and to provide my family with a happy environment. I want to compensate them for what they have been suffering.

“Women’s economic empowerment is not about money.”

Nahid, Superwoman # 3:

“The biggest challenge for women’s empowerment in Sudan has to do with the absence of a positive environment, including both the legal framework and policy as well as the weak understanding of women’s empowerment in society as a whole. People often talk about empowerment as if it is something for intellectuals only. This is not true. For women’s empowerment to be effective it has to be a social movement that involves women everywhere and targets the root causes of discrimination and marginalization of women.

Empowerment also needs democracy. Democracy and a culture of human rights are conditions for women’s empowerment. In turn, women’s empowerment is a condition for prevention of violence and for rehabilitation of victims and survivors.

Women’s empowerment always takes place in a context, not in a vacuum.

Nahid, Superwoman # 3.
Nahid, Superwoman # 3.

I would say the most encouraging development in the last twenty years is that there is now a stronger women’s movement in civil society and political parties in Sudan. There are more women involved and engaged and they have started working seriously on issues related to women’s empowerment. One essential element of this is breaking the silence on violence against women, women’s political participation and women’s rights in general. For this to be fruitful the positive environment is vital. This is where the government also plays a major role. Also internationally and regionally women’s issues are coming forward in a more focused and at the same time comprehensive way.

What we need to do is to build the capacity of women’s groups and networks, for them to get involved at the grassroots level in communities. The Superwoman network is a good example of this. Even within the existing limited resources and mechanisms we can bring actors together and work in a more efficient way.

Among the GBV survivors who reach us at SEEMA, we can see the great demand for service points like hospitals, legal aid and psychosocial services. The demand greatly exceeds the supply.

The economic aspect of empowerment is also linked with protecting women. It is not only important in terms of fulfillment of basic needs. It is a matter of empowering the women themselves to stand for their rights and continue their lives in a positive way. One of the causes of women being vulnerable to violence is economic dependency. Sometimes the circle of violence can not be broken because the victims are dependent on the abuser, such as a supervisor or family member.

Economic empowerment is not a matter of money. It is a matter of building women’s independence and giving them the power of decision-making and control over their future.

In terms of inspiring examples, there are of course a lot of individual success stories. For me personally, the most impressive example of individual empowerment is an illiterate woman who came to us at SEEMA after experiencing serious violence. Now she has sat for and received her primary certificate even though she is in her forties and a grandmother. She also started a small shop with our support and is now an advocate for change and ending violence against women.

What made her story a success is her personal potential. We need women to find out and fulfill their potential, abilities and interests and to think positively about their future.”