Enough Advisor and resident Darfur expert Omer Ismail recently returned from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he participated in the Second Sudanese Women’s Forum on Darfur, sponsored by Femmes Africa Solidarité, an impressive women’s rights organization run by and for African women. The conference was attended by women from Darfur, women politicians from Sudan’s ruling party, and women from all over Africa, from Mali to Zimbabwe. Human rights champions such as Mary Robinson of Ireland and Ruth Messinger of the United States were also present to show their support for the conference, which aimed not only to emphasize the solidarity of African women with the women of Darfur, but also to emphasize the imperative that Darfuri women play an integral role in peace negotiations for Darfur.
For his part, Omer was impressed with the passion and dedication that women from very different backgrounds showed in discussing the issues of importance for Darfur’s women. Omer said the conference participants achieved clarity on priorities for Darfuri women’s issues, such as the security concerns of women and children both within and outside of refugee and displaced persons camps. He was also impressed by the diversity of the women present at the conference—from business leaders to students to former refugees—and he highlighted the positive role of Darfur’s young people at the conference. Omer noted that Darfur’s youth are an essential component of Darfuri civil society. Not only must they be considered, they must be included in a new Darfur peace process. “The participation of youth at the conference gave me hope,” Omer said, “for the future of Darfur.”