News

Making Women’s Voices Heard in Sudan Elections

Date: 7 April 2010

Participants at the workshop for women candidates in Gezira state in January. (Photo: SORD, UNIFEM)
Participants at the workshop for women candidates in Gezira state in January. (Photo: SORD, UNIFEM)

Khartoum — UNIFEM has worked to strengthen the capacities of women as candidates and voters in the presidential, legislative and gubernatorial elections in Sudan on 11-13 April, set to be the first multiparty national poll in 24 years.

UNIFEM has extended direct support to the National Elections Commission (NEC) through a Gender Adviser, who is based with the Commission and also works with its state election committees. In addition to working at the state level to ensure women-friendly voting environments, UNIFEM has provided NEC with technical support in mainstreaming gender into its media procedures, trainings for poll workers and orientations for election observers.

On 23-25 March, UNIFEM in collaboration with the Political Parties Affairs Council held a conference in Khartoum, attended by around 400 participants from the fifteen northern states of Sudan, mainly women candidates contesting seats in the national parliament or state legislative assemblies. The conference aimed to indentify the particular challenges that women candidates face, inform the candidates on electoral and gender issues, share common empowerment strategies, and facilitate networking among the candidates across regional and party lines.

At the end of the conference, the women candidates developed a common declaration, a women’s common election agenda, a declaration against election-related violence and a code of conduct. The conference received considerable media coverage, both in domestic and international media.

Highlighting the support provided by UNIFEM and its partners in the fifteen northern states of Sudan, the UNIFEM Project Office in Khartoum has published a newsletter that examines gender issues in the elections and identifies the challenges women face as candidates and voters.

Women candidates in Sudan, particularly those from small towns and rural areas, often lack access to key information on election laws and procedures, tend to be distant from electoral coordination bodies and frequently face marginalization within their own parties. Among other UNIFEM efforts, the newsletter describes how focused support to women candidates in the state of Gezira has proved catalytic to women’s electoral agendas.

Following a workshop in Gezira for 26 women candidates for state or national legislative seats, facilitated by UNIFEM and the Sudan Organization for Research and Development, the candidates formed an alliance with a unified women’s agenda of policy priorities. Representing 11 political parties, the alliance members pledged to work together beyond the elections to strengthen and broaden women’s participation locally, to lobby political parties and government entities to prioritize gender concerns, and to increase access to funding and training opportunities for Gezira women in politics.

For more information, please contact Hodan Addou, Country Programme Director, UNIFEM Sudan, hodan.addou[at]unifem.org.