Sawtaha (Her Voice): Expanding the role of women in Darfuri peace making

November 3, 2020

  • Women are essential to peacebuilding, particularly in Sudan, but participation in formal mechanisms remains low. In Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund (DCPSF)-supported community conflict-resolution groups, only 558 of 2,052 members in 2019 were women – often in supporting roles.
  • Sawtaha (Her Voice) is a US$600,000, 18-month Gender and Peacebuilding Initiative (GaPI) to increase women’s meaningful participation in both local and state level peacebuilding platforms in Darfur.

Nyala, South Darfur: Longstanding cultural practises across Sudan often exclude women from decision making. Unfortunately, this extends to efforts at the community level to reduce conflict – like negotiation and mediation – which are particularly significant in Darfur where intercommunal conflict is rife.

To address this gap the Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund (DCPSF) recently launched a US$600,000, 18-month Gender and Peacebuilding Initiative (GaPI) known as Sawtaha (Her Voice).  

Working with pastoralist and farming communities in East and South Darfur, Sawtaha’s goal is to ensure increased, meaningful participation of women in local peacebuilding and rapid livelihood-creation initiatives.

Focusing on trainings and dialogue, Sawtaha aims to enhance the capacity of women to lead these efforts, demonstrate the value of their participation, and create new opportunities for inclusion. The project will work with women’s organisations, female youth groups, local leaders, academia, and members in DCPSF-supported Community Based Resolution Mechanisms (CBRMs) – village-level groups using traditional techniques like dialogue, mediation and negotiation to address disputes – on issues of leadership and peacebuilding, as well as better addressing Gender Based Violence (GBV).

“Sawtaha is an expression of the Fund’s commitment to inclusive peacebuilding and ensuring no one is left behind – particularly women and girls,” said Sammy Odolot, Head of the DCPSF Technical Secretariat.

Zahra Ibrahim is a peacebuilding championess in North Darfur, leading local conflict resolution efforts. Sawtaha aims to ensure more women play an active, leading role in peacebuilding and job creation efforts across the region. (Photo/UNDP Sudan).

The launch was followed by a trainers’ workshop where participants highlighted different strategies and opportunities to overcome barriers and increase acceptance of women in peacebuilding.

Abdulnasir Adam of DCPSF partner CARE International Switzerland (CIS) shared how they address resistance to gender equality – like drawing on the success of women in other community initiatives.

“In our previous work, we had significant results with women participating in savings groups, becoming so successful they were able to lend to other community members,” said Adam, “we hope to use this to promote inclusion of women in all peacebuilding and livelihood activities.”

Participants at the Sawtaha (GaPI) launch in Nyala, South Darfur. The project aims to increase the participation of women in peacebuilding and other community initiatives in Darfur. (DCPSF/UNDP Sudan/CIS).

Another participant, Khalifa Mohamed Adam Abdallah from Nyala University’s Peace Centre, said because of the training, the Centre would establish a new gender section to provide information and address misconceptions.  

Hamid Kabbashi, general manager of South Darfur’s Ministry of Social Affairs, was delighted Sawtaha will work towards increasing women’s participation in public spaces. “This, he said, “would enable us to contribute to the 40% constitutional requirement for women in the legislature.”

“Initiatives like Sawtaha will provide transformative change on the ground,” said Safia Mohammed, DCPSF Gender and Peacebuilding Specialist, who represented the DCPSF Technical Secretariat at the project’s launch in Nyala. “And, after the Government’s commitment to increasing the role of women in society, politics, and peace efforts with the recent adoption of the National Action Plan (NAP), now is the right time.”

The National Action Plan, adopted in June 2020, fulfils a key commitment in the Constitutional Declaration to apply relevant resolutions regarding participation of women at all levels in the peace process, and ensure they are protected from human rights violations and have access to justice.

Sawtaha’s establishment follows research undertaken by CIS, DDRA and Global Aid Hand, assessing the role of women in DCPSF-supported CBRMs. A key finding from the research was that, with some notable exceptions (like Zahra Ibrahim), women’s participation in CBRMs remained low and is heavily focused on support functions. It recommended increased, strategic efforts to improve the inclusion of women in CBRMs and other initiatives in Darfur.

Sawtaha is being implemented by DCPSF partner CARE International Switzerland (CIS) and its sub-partner, the Darfur Development and Reconstruction Agency (DDRA).

The Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund (DCPSF) is a multi-donor programme established in 2007 to support the people of Darfur in their efforts to rebuild long-established community stability mechanisms, through mediation, reconciliation, and peaceful settlement of conflicts. DCPSF is funded by generous contributions from the Government of Sweden, the Government of United Kingdom, the Government of Norway, and the Government of Switzerland, and is managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sudan.