In December 2018, the Sudanese people took to the streets with one goal and one goal only; the removal of a dictator and his regime.
This unique revolution began as a peaceful protest in the city of Atbara. People were demanding the basic everyday necessity of bread – it’s since been named by many “the revolution of bread”. Economic hardships in Sudan, exacerbated by corruption and political oppression, further propelled the rage of people and led to a nation-wide uprising.
The people of Sudan came together from all walks of life and filled the streets of the country with only the hope of freedom and democracy to drive them.
When we think of gender equality, Sudan surely does not come to mind. Sudanese women have been consistently and brutally discriminated against, belittled, violated and neglected under the long-lived dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir.
It is the women of Sudan, however, who have captured the world’s attention during this revolution, at the frontline of the resistance. The women of Sudan have stood defiant, determined and tenacious in their pursuit of democracy.
This is not new to Sudan. The ancient Nubian Kingdom – in what is now the North of Sudan – is known for its warrior queens. The Kandaka, or strongwomen, are known for their strong pivotal roles in the safeguarding of their kingdoms. It is not strange to see the Kandaka rise again. In fact, it is the harsh oppression that women have been subjected to for years that has reawakened the Kandaka.
Women have consistently made up the majority of the protesters in Sudan. At exactly one p.m. on the day of each planned protest, it was the ‘zagroota’ – the women’s cry – that initiated the protests. The rest followed.
It was because of this defiance that women were targeted throughout the uprising.
Women have been beaten, whipped and shot with brutal force in efforts to suppress and stifle their voices. Throughout the uprising, an all-too familiar weapon has been used by government forces and government-supported militias: sexual violence targeted primarily against the women of the revolution.
This is also not new to Sudan. Darfur has long been witness to the government militia’s use of sexual violence against their people. For years, brutal armed militias violated the women – and in many cases, the men – in their rampant crusades of terror in the region.
The Darfur genocide is only one crime of many that has been committed against the Sudanese people throughout history. Today, all of Sudan is Darfur. Once again, in an effort to repress the loud voices calling for change, women are being used as a tool for coercion into submission and defeat.
Rather than breaking their spirits, these heinous actions have added fuel to their determination. Despite the adversity, women continue to lead and campaign for democracy, freedom and equal rights.