If We Look at Existing Heritage in Darfur We Find Women Play Leading Role in this Field, Interview
Noted for her energy and involvement in all aspects of life, the Darfuri Woman contributes side by side with to 100% of earning the living in addition to bringing up children. The Darfuri woman's involvement in farming, earning the living, education, herding animals, doing the chores, and even in civil and military services renders her merits the quality of being more productive than men.
Almost there is no such a place in Darfur where women are invisible. They are found vending handcrafts in local markets, food and whatever they can earn to help their families survive. Some of they are involved in the business of peculiar Darfuri handcrafts, which are part of Darfur indigenous cultural heritage. Women played a major role in maintaining Darfur heritage.
In an interview with Sudan Vision, Fatma Mohamed Al-Hassan Fadl-Al-Mawla, the Deputy Speaker of Regional Darfur Authority, who hails from Geneina, West Darfur, sheds light on Darfur culture, heritage in addition to her political career and civil service below.
Q: Would you please introduce yourself to our esteemed readers?
A: I am Fatma Mohamed Al-Hassan Fadl-Almawla. I was born in Geneina and now living in Nyala, where I grew up. I have worked in different part of Darfur in teaching and in other civil service positions such as working as a director of social affairs, culture and tourism in South Darfur for 13 years. I was appointed to this position because of my interest and undying passion for Darfur heritage, popular folklore and history, the passion clearly manifested in turning my own house into a heritage museum.
Q: By the way, where did this idea come from?
A: I have always been interested in Darfur heritage since my childhood because my mother had the same interest and was very keen on collecting and keeping antiquities. She graduated in the Coptic college where she majored in cloth design and sewing in addition to household economy. To satisfy my interest, I established a website dubbed Mandola, mainly to reflect Darfur heritage, arts and culture.
Q: Where is the Darfuri woman now?
A: When we talk of the Darfuri woman we talk of beauty, peace, environment around us, everything beautiful that crosses our minds. We find the Darfur woman in the form agriculture, herding, a civil servant as the case now according to development that has taken place in Darfur, so to speak. Different from her peers in other states of Sudan, the Darfuri women have become strong and can stand up manage their lives on their own because they have learned a lot in religion and become empowered in every field.
Q: As I can understand, that the Darfuri woman has played a major role in establishing this heritage. Is that true?
A: Of course, if we look at the existing heritage in Darfur we find that the woman has a leading role in the field of heritage. Woman is a herder, and mother in nomadic communities, caring about nomadic heritage, where she constitutes the axis of nomadic life among nomads. What nomadic women have in common with their peer farming women is that they are responsible for daily affairs; apart from their special care for ornamentation visible on their bodies as well as o their animals. Such ornamentation constitutes an exhibition of heritage whenever these nomadic communities are found. Nomads are peculiarly noted for their indigenous beautification, ornaments, perfumes and scents. Darfur woman is famous for sweet vocal in singing as is known to all Darfur is noted for its war singers "hakamas". Female singers not only sing for war but also romantic and farewell songs. They are princesses among people. The work hakama is derived from hikma "the reign of a horse". They hakamas are seen as duty bound to support men so that they do give in when the land and dignity are attacked. The phenomenon dates as back to the time of Darfur Sultanate. As for other settled down women, they are the backbone of agricultural process and production. In addition Darfur women are famous for skillful and beautiful handcraft works such as food covers known as bartal, mandola, dabaka, and back yard farm known as juburaka where vegetable and other crops are grown for domestic consumption.
Q: Women have suffered a lot from the 10-year old conflict in the region but faced the mounting challenges of displacement. What is your reading of that?
A: Women in Darfur have been resilient and patient in the face of challenges and problems despite the loss of dear ones and children to the war. Some women in Darfur are not supporting extended families under dire conditions doing what they can to earn their living. The Darfur woman is noted for having a heart of gold and mercy. The plight that befell Darfur has turned women stronger, prepared to face challenges and fight for peace. Here women have formed their own societies to participate and contribute to wedding ceremonies, which is an integral part of the Darfur communities. Today women are found in the civil service, ministries, in the fields of medicine, engineering, the police and the military with numbers exceeding men at some places. Women are clearly fighting for protecting the family, children and the society. Some women have received training on midwifery and medical aid and now they can take blood pressure and sugar. They were trained to handle some problems related to pregnancy. The credit of promoting midwifery service goes to organizations concerned with developing the skills of midwives; most of them of are graduates of high education.
Q: What is your contribution to the Darfuri community as a leading figure in Darfur?
A: I have joined politics because my father was also a politician. He was a prominent member of the Umma party. I would always go with him to the meetings of the party during the time of the late president Gaafar Nimeiri. I joined the Democratic Communist party when I was high school students. Later, I joined the Sudanese Women Union where I held the post of secretary general for South Darfur, member of the Central Committee at the Communist Union. I played part in the establishment of Sudanese Women Union, which bring together all women of Darfur. Internationally, I took part in African Women conference, which was held in Tripoli, where I met prominent women leaders in the fields of humanitarian operation, social welfare, planning and census. I was also present at International women conference in Romania, which debated the involvement of women in political affairs, in addition to my participation in Abuja talks in 2005, and the Doha dialogue on drafting the present Doha document for peace in Darfur.
Q: What does the ancient Darfur Sultanate mean to you now?
A: Although it is history now, it means to me the basis of the people of Darfur, the land, the fields and civilization heritage of thousands years back. This heritage is reflected in traditions and customs, good manners, Islam which is passed down to us from our forefathers, the only things that have been left from the old Sultanate.
Q: How are you currently addressed as niece of the Sultan?
A: The niece of the Sultan is called Meiram – meaning the daughter or the sister of the Sultan. The title Meiran was part of structural pyramid of the monarchy given to the female members of the royal family, who were close to the King including his wives and daughters, while women from other tribes were called sheikhs.
Q: How women are involved in politics here?
A: I would like to state that I and some of my colleagues have been fight for women participation in decision making over the past three decades, which were crowned in securing women participation in politics by 10 percent according to gender equality. The percentage was raised to 25% and 35% during the Doha talks. Such percentage will encourage women to stand up for their political rights to assume high posts in the service of their communities because they are qualified to serve wherever they are put. Like all peace loving humans, Darfur women advocate peace, equality, justice, good governance in the face of domination by the center, a problem faced by most of their peers elsewhere in Africa. We hope that all laws are reviewed and loopholes are dealt with to ensure justice for all so that security and peace prevails in our beloved land, Darfur. The Regional Darfur Authority and its commissions are called upon to discharge their duties to meet people's expectations because these commissions embraces needed qualifications from all fields --- doctors, engineers, native administration leaders, etc, which will help that handle problems facing our people and bring about desperately needed peace, security and tranquility for the residents
By Najat Ahmed, 03/03/2014