The Progress and Peculiarity of Sudanese Women:Despite tremendous Challenges, Women win many Rights through their restless struggle over the Centuries
Sudanese women have fought and commanded armies and mediated in Conflicts Resolutions.
The study of the progress of Sudanese women is linked to the study and analysis of the progress of the Sudanese society at large at the different historical stages of its development and the degree of their participation in the development of the society and nation. I had the chance lately to read two books on this issue of which I will try to give a very short brief.
The first book: The Progress and Peculiarity of Sudanese Women was written by Tag El Sir Osman Alhaj it is a very small book of only about 70 medium size pages but give a very brief and informative information about the conditions and progress of women’s rights in Sudan since the early ages of the Sudanese nation.
It was interesting to read in this book that Sudan was not a stranger to the other old societies that at some certain stages of their development, the power was based on the Queen Mother. This is an aspect of the ancient history of Sudan that is rarely mentioned by many scholars for ideological reasons.
Also, for example the Chapter on Women in the Funj Kingdom (1504-1821) give a very good picture of the strength of the role of women in that kingdom which lasted for more than three centuries and no one can deny that this still influence in one way or another the traditions and culture of this ethnic group.
The second book: Sudanese Women, the Darkness and Brightness of the Past was written by Dr. Mukhtar Agouba which is almost double the size of first book mentioned above . The book focused on the period before the Independence of Sudan. The sad story in his chronicle was the enslavement of women either as a result of war ,raids or by purchase from the slaves traders which in turn have led to prostitution in one form or another .This practice only ended legally after the British conquest of Sudan in 1898 but in actual fact it remained for many decade and had a very bad impact on the life of many women and their children. Because the British main aim was not the possession of people but land and natural resources. In addition this inhuman practice and the traditions linked to it had a catastrophic results and impacted very adversely the political, economical and social life in the country after Independence in 1956, this in turn led to non-political stability during the nearly more than six decades. So, as said before the development of women .rights is a major factor for human development in all its dimensions including the political one.
This point unfortunately has been addressed by the author in its fullest dimensions and in a comprehensive manner. But this book can be considered as a provider, of course in addition to other studies, for a more comprehensive analysis and studies in the development of women’s rights in Sudan.
But there are many bright and shinning aspects in the Sudanese women long journey to win their rights. For example, as documented by the two books , the evident of Islam had guaranteed for women in principle the rights of inheritance and that a man cannot marry more than four women which was a great progress compared to the previous traditions.
In addition in many Sudanese tribes women participated in the wars not just as soldiers but as commanders and were the main tools of inciting men to fight bravely by songs and poetry. On the bravery of these women many foreigners traveling through Sudan in the ancient have written and expressed their admiration for these courageous women.
Also, Dr. Mukhtar book revealed that in many cases women where a major player in conflict resolution especially inside the same tribe or clan. He said that a standing of a respected elderly women in the middle between the fighters was enough to stop any violent action. This is a very important point that needs not only to be explored but to try and replicate it with some modifications to be used in present day conflict resolution. We must .also, point to that women’s rights and position in the Fur Kingdom and society is far more advanced than in any other Sudanese tribe or ethnic group. And elderly Fur women played many very important roles in the running the affairs of the Kingdom. society and family.
In general, we have to take into consideration in any study of women progress , the high position and respect that the Sudanese society gives to mothers and grandmothers and how we can use this moral attitude to advance and empower women.
In conclusion, this two books and tens of others that I had the chance to read in the history and progress of Sudanese women are very good steps in the analysis and review of the past . But this said there is still a great need for more in-depth analysis of the challenges that face the Sudanese women in attaining their full rights and empower to utilize their potentialities to the maximum.
In this context, Ahfad University for Girls is doing a good job but there is need to engage more academic institution and the United Nations Women Agency should assist in this respect.
In the end many thanks for the two authors for their valuable work.
By Alula Berhe Kidani, 02/04/2012