“We, the women of Darfur, have united to heal the wounds. We have built our power. It is time for the Darfurian movements to unite."
This is the collective message that a group of 70 female civil society leaders from Sudan and Chad urgently want leaders of Darfur’s rebel groups to hear. “We want you to remember that every day a young woman is raped, and another leaves school. We have already lost a generation and do not want to lose other generations,” they wrote in a letter addressed to rebel leaders during a peace-building workshop in July. Two months later, the women have returned to their homes – or at least to their temporary homes, for many of the women have been displaced by violence – and are gathering signatures from other women in their communities. So far, more than a thousand women have signed the letter – and many men have wanted to, according to the participants.
Brought together by My Sister’s Keeper, the U.S. Institute for Peace, and the Institute for Inclusive Security, women traveled from Chad, Abyei, Red Sea State, Khartoum, and Southern Kordofan to meet in Juba for a week-long peacebuilding workshop. “We intentionally brought women in clusters from some areas such as Wau and Kuacjok to facilitate their working together after the conference,” said Gloria White-Hammond, executive director of My Sister’s Keeper.
“My personal hope from this letter-writing campaign is that it will succeed in putting pressure in all rebel leaders to pay attention to what is happening on the ground in their communities as they go to war,” said Amna, one of the conference attendees. Right now the peace process has stalled in large part because the rebel groups are not united in their grievances against the Sudanese government, said Amina, another participant. “There is no trust between the negotiating parties, and most of them have a hidden agenda, even the government. So when they sit together around a table for negotiation, each only has in mind his own tribe and how much he can win,” she said.
This post originally appeared on Change.org's Human Rights blog.