Through a Gendered Lens: Insights on my Summer Internship with UNDP Sudan

November 6, 2018

As my six-week summer internship with UNDP in Khartoum comes to an end, I have begun to reflect on what I have learned, what the country office  has accomplished and what there is still left to do.

It has been a privilege to work on issues pertaining to UNAMID’s withdrawal and in doing so, I have familiarized myself with the multifaceted obstacles that arise when having to both delicately and effectively administer a transition period. As a Sudanese national, it has been both educational and thought-provoking to read reports on the structural challenges that have emerged from the violent conflict in Darfur. More specifically, as a Sudanese woman, it has been extremely poignant to read about how this conflict has affected the lives of women.

Whether the focus is governance & stabilization or sustainable livelihoods, it is crucial that we look at issues with a gendered lens. With every task assigned and as my understanding enhanced, I became more convinced that UNAMID withdrawal must take into consideration gender equality to ensure no vulnerable people are left behind. I realized, one way this could be done is by ensuring that the women of Darfur are made part of the peace-building process themselves.

UNAMID Joint Special Representative, Jeremiah Mambolo, has stated that “Women in all situations are concerned about the future of their society and urged for their participation in efforts towards peace and stability.”

Furthermore, in May this year, the Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund (DCPSF) supported Learning Bazaar stressed the role of women in promoting peace and recovery. It noted that women who are active in other structures such as Village Saving and Loans Associations (VSLAs) are influential and can be further trained to promote peaceful co-existence. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Darfuri women are eager to be involved in the improvement of their society. Over the past year, it was very inspiring and encouraging to learn that the UNDP Sudan Office has facilitated many opportunities to allow for their participation.

Another example which I  have found highly motivating and enabling  was that of UNDP encouraging Darfuri women to participate in the decision-making, reconciliation and peace-making process through the facilitation of land management workshops.

The issue of land in Darfur constitutes a significant challenge to the region’s short and long-term stability. It is therefore considered to be one of the most important challenges to peace initiatives in the region. Environmental degradation and climate change have contributed to further tensions among communities in Darfur, by reducing the amount of arable land. Therefore, it is crucial that the women of Darfur realize their role in land administration, especially because they contribute 60-80% of the labor used to produce food for both household consumption and sale.[1]

The workshops, which held in Ed Daein, Nyala, El Geneina, and Zalingie, were aimed at involving women in the land registration process at all stages and familiarizing them with their land rights. Furthermore, UNDP has encouraged Darfuri women to participate in the peace process through the support of  traditional justice systems. The Promoting Reconciliation and Similarly, the Co-Existence for Sustainable Peace (PRCSP) project has created a space for women to engage with the native administration in El Geneina. This project has advocated for women’s participation in all peace committees and in doing so, has encouraged an open dialogue for both women and men to get involved in the peace-building process.  It was observed that when women are part of the peace process, agreements are more likely to be respected.  In my opinion, it is crucial to look at issues in Darfur through a gendered lens. Through designing and  engaging Darfuri women in all consultations and workshops held , the UNDP is taking crucial steps in  ensuring that these women play an important part in the post-UNAMID withdrawal future. The conflict in Darfur has a gendered dimension and therefore efforts towards sustainable development should reflect that.

 More than anything, these examples demonstrate the significant role that Darfuri women can and should play in the future of the region. With UNAMID’s withdrawal on the horizon, it is crucial that these women feel that they have been supported throughout the transition period and beyond. From what I have learned throughout my internship, it is clear that the initiatives launched by the UNDP have been inclusive, effective and sustainable. The call for Darfuri women to participate in the decision-making, reconciliation and peace process is louder than ever.

As my time with UNDP Sudan comes to an end, I have begun to reflect on what I have learned, what I have contributed and my hopes for the future. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to grow within the development sector. I have learned a lot about my country, it’s people and their resilience. I have had the privilege to work alongside people who are not only passionate about their respective projects, but who were also willing to dedicate time to help me grow.

I feel incredibly privileged to have been part of such a work environment and I will take what I have learned from this experience and hopefully continue to contribute to the sustainable development of my country.

[1] Report of the Training Workshop on: Women and Land Management’, UNDP Sudan, May 2018.