Sudanese women will not accept less than 50% of the transitional government seats as they have carried the popular uprising on their shoulders, said human rights activist, Tahani Abbas, in support of a request Sudanese women have made demanding half the transitional government seats.
The transitional government is expected to be formed within days after an agreement was reached between the Transitional Military Council and the Forces of Freedom and Change leading protests in the country.
Sudanese women have had notable presence in the popular uprisings that overthrew General Omar al-Bashir on April 11th, reviving the "Kandakat" title, bestowed upon women, after it had disappeared for decades. The title can be traced back to ancient times when it was coined to describe strength, strictness and beauty of Sudanese women.
Sudanese activists reacted favourably to the women's demand for half of the transitional government's seats, considering that women deserved more in view of their sacrifices in past eras. The activists asserted women were deprived of political representation and were persecuted and that the time had come to start a new era of justice and equality in all walks of life.
There are male voices who believe that the women's demands are legitimate, but that they lack objectivity. This is because the highest percentage of women's political representation in all domestic and international conventions and agreements do not exceed 40%, the majority of whom are in the legislative councils.
But Sudanese women's human right activist and member of the Sudanese “No to Women’s Oppression” initiative, Tahani Abbas, believes that had there been logic, women in Sudan should claim 70% of representation in the interim government to match the sacrifices they have made over the past decades.
"Women were at the forefront of all the protest movements up until General Omar al-Bashir's rule fell, and they have outnumbered men during demonstrations. It is not a shame to ask to share the fruit of the change with their male brothers. It is their legitimate right," Abbas told 7Dnews.
Abbas added that her organisation has submitted an official memorandum to the Alliance of Forces for Freedom and Change that organised the protests, demanding that half the seats in the Transitional Authority are allocated to women on its three levels: Sovereign, Executive and Legislative.
She added, "The declaration of freedom and change signed by the Sudanese uprising forces set out the allocation of 40% of the seats of the Legislative Council to women, but we sensed the lack of seriousness or interaction with this item and we fear retreat. So, we will continue raising our demand until the political actors listen and interact positively."
"The time has come for women to regain their rights being stolen throughout Sudanese history," said Aida Qassis, member of the Sudanese Journalists' Association, adding, "The popular uprising did not occur to further empower men or overthrow a dictatorial regime only, but to establish a modern civil state based on justice, peace and freedom, and acknowledge rights based on gender equality."
"We, women, must defend our rights to equitable political representation, and must not allow a return to the dark ages in which we suffered the injustice of men and the horrors of a masculine society, which does not view women as either an active actor or life partner. That society used to view women as deficient, without the ability to lead public work.”
"The popular uprising we led against ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir’s regime from December 19th should correct the prevailing misconceptions in society, and must not be concerned about the economic and political reform or governance alone," she said.
According to Sudanese human rights activist Hussein Saad, the Sudanese women’s demand to have equal representation with men in power structures reflects a significant recovery and a qualitative shift in the level of awareness of women being an important social segment of the society.
"I felt proud that our women are free from fear and have claimed their rights with such boldness. This progress in a male-dominated society must be encouraged," Saad added.
"I do not think women's demands for half the seats in the transitional government are realistic despite their legitimacy because of the sacrifices they made. This is because the percentage they demand is very high and difficult to achieve," Saad said in the interview he gave to 7Dnews. He added, "I think women have raised the ceiling of demands so that they can get a reasonable percentage of power in the government to be formed within days," he said.
"We are of the view that Sudanese women should proceed gradually until they get their full rights over the next few years. It is better not to jump and leapfrog stages. In the next government, should women get 35% of the seats in the Legislative Council - as stipulated in the transitional constitution of 2005 - they can build on this and increase the percentage in the future to include executive governance as well," according to Saad.
On Friday, July 6th, the Transitional Military Council and the forces of Freedom and Change Declaration agreed to form a sovereign council led by the military and civilians alternately to rule the country for at least three years. They also agreed to form a government of independent national competencies with a prime minister with the same qualities.
The two sides agreed to postpone discussions of the Legislative Council until the Sovereignty Council and the executive government are formed, and an independent and transparent national investigation is carried out into the violence the country witnessed recently.
Under the agreement, the Sudanese Professionals Association said, a sovereign council of 11 members shall be formed: 5 civilians, 5 military, and one civil member to be agreed by both parties.
The Association pointed out that, according to the agreement, the military shall preside over the Sovereign Council for 21 months, the first six months of which will be devoted to the peace process. Then the presidency shall go to civilians for an additional 18 months of the transitional period, totalling 39 months.