Women's Representation in The National Democratic Alliance: 

 By: Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim

Alfajr Newspaper, Issue 69
London, United Kingdom
September 6, 1998

Dear sisters and brothers,

To start with, I'd like to assure my full support to the NDA as a legitimate command of the forces of opposition in Sudan. Furthermore, let me emphasize the fact that all the opposition forces have NOT represented women in their delegates, except for SAF. Mr. AbdelAziz Khalid, included Ms. Nada Mustafa in his delegates soon after my attendance to the NDA council meetings in Asmara without any invitation, and the criticisms I made because the NDA did not represent Sudanese women in
its leadership organs !

I regret to say that even the SPLM/SPLA which took the arms to eradicate discrimination, exercised persecution against
women and did not have any woman represented in its delegates. All this ascertains the fact that women are persecuted by men.

Equally important, I draw your attention to the important fact that supporting the NDA and reinforcing its activities
does not necessarily mean approving of the NDA negative behavior or mistakes. The only way to remedy this situation is to criticize the NDA in a constructive manner. The concept that the NDA shouldn't be criticized to protect it from NIF opportunists,
or to keep the minimum agreement attained between NDA forces intact, is done at the expense of the fundamental issues of the women's representation in the NDA, and has caused a great harm
to the cause of democracy even bigger than the NIF attacks on the NDA itself !

There is no need to mention that the participation of women in NDA in equity with men is a genuine right. Women are not only half of the population, or that society is made of both men and women. But women have struggled against military regimes and are now leading the struggle against the NIF rule in the Sudan.

I should remind the NDA leaders with the role that the Sudanese Women's Union (SWU) played to resist Abboud's regime. At that time, the Sudanese political parties did not have women's bureau in their political bodies. Therefore, the SWU was the only representative of women in Jabhat Al-Hayat (The Professionals' Front) as it was the organizer and leader of women in the October revolution.

Perhaps all of us remember the judiciary rally with SWU members marching in the front lines, and the voice of The woman's camera which was pulled away by security officers. Perhaps we all remember Bakhita Al-Hafyan, the housewife who was killed in the march, and Mahasin Abdela'al, and Amna Abdel-Ghaffar who were both injured !

With these struggles the SWU won the right to vote, women became candidates in the national elections. The Sudanese woman became
a member of the parliament for the first time. Working women achieved equal pay with the working men. Many Sudanese women entered the
job market including judiciary, diplomatic missions, armed forces and the police, etc.

When Numarie's regime came into existence, it did not fulfill its promise that it gave to the SWU to apply full equality between men and women as already approved by the previous Parliament. At that point, the SWU decided to opposed the Nimeiri regime and continued
to resist it publicly. Perhaps you recall the public denouncements of the regime by women in the lines of bread, gas stations, and the
airport. All this, as you may recall, led to my trial before a military court, and the list goes on and on..

When the NDA was established, I represented the SWU in the NDA. Not a single party provided any representation for women. Regrettably, the women members of political parties did not raise any protest. They did not ask for any representation at all in the NDA. At this point, I want to remind Mr. Mohammed Osman Elmerghani with the meeting held in his palace at Khartoum. He was the head of the meeting and Mr. Seed Ahmed El-Hussain was sitting besides him.
In that meeting an NDA secretariat was established and I was a member of that secretariat !

After the military coup of the National Islamic Front (NIF), the NDA charter was sent to me to sign it. But a wicked conspiracy came into play to prevent me from signing my name for the SWU. The actors in the conspiracy were Mr Abdel-Aziz Dafa'-Allah, Attorney Ali Al-Sayed, and Engineer Awad AL-Kareem Mohammed Ahmed who put immense pressure on me to sign the charter in
the name of all Women's Organizations. When I refused to do so, they said they would leave to consult with other groups and return back to me. They never returned. The argument raised today to deny SWU the representation in the NDA is that SWU didn't sign the NDA Charter !!! 

Dear sisters and brothers,

After the NDA was formed abroad, the NDA was convened in London in 1992. No woman was invited to participate in it. Regrettably, the women members of political parties did not protest such matter. I was not in London at that particular time. I came to London during the last day of the NDA Conference. From the airport, I took my way to the conference and protested in the strongest terms the NDA negligence of women's representation.

In 1994, I borrowed the price of an air ticket to travel to Asmara. There, I addressed myself to the NDA meeting although
I was not invited to the meeting by NDA. I criticized the NDA's denial of women's representation. After consultation, they did offer me full membership as a National Personality. I refused their offer. I was determined to be recognized as representative of the SWU which is a founder member of NDA since it was born. Then, the NDA approved my membership in the Leadership Council.

Regrettably, not a single woman member of the political parties expressed support for the efforts exerted to ensure women's representation in the NDA. They did not ask for representation of women as members of the parties delegates.

On my return from Asmara, we launched a campaign of support by signatures demanding women's representation in all NDA activities. Mrs. Zahra Al-Bahi, formerly chair of the SWU in
Port Sudan, then chair of SWU in Cairo, played the major role in the campaign. All women members of political parties, including those of the Sudanese Communist Party, did not take any part in the campaign. They did not even sign their own names. In truth, however, the Sudanese Women's Forum in Cairo exerted a great effort in this campaign.

After these efforts, Mr Elmerghani, the NDA President, continued, with gratitude, to send me invitations and tickets to attend NDA Leadership meetings. The last of these was in March of this year when I attended and fully participated in the meeting. Before the meeting, I requested with a written letter from NDA President to define my membership obligations in NDA apparatuses. Mr Hashim Mohammed Ahmed conveyed to me information that the President wanted me to withdraw my request. The reason was that my membership has already been fixed, that I was consistently invited to attend NDA meetings with official invitations and tickets, and that I enjoyed full rights to participate in NDA deliberations. In light of this explanation and the confidence
I had in the President's assurances, I withdrew my paper.

I was astounded when no invitation was sent to me to attend the Cairo meeting. I tried many times to meet with Mr Mohammed Osman Elmerghani when he came to London. But I was not offered the opportunity to meet with him until he left to Cairo. This has increased my surprise. After consultation with a group of women representing different parties, who all asked me to travel to Cairo and eventually contributed with a ticket for the purpose, I met in Cairo with a large number of women.

A decision was taken to submit a Memorandum of Protest signed by men and women. This being prepared, we met before the meeting's place at the ministry of agriculture in Cairo. Although I was warned not to go since I might be hurt by security officers, I replied that I had spent my whole life working for the cause of women. With my colleagues, we had faced types of persecution, imprisonment, and deprivation of life enjoyments. At this age,
I have nothing to fear or any personal gain to pursue. I do not care whatever hurt might occur to me. I will be happily working for the just cause of the women and I will give it my best.

After this explanation, let me ask:

(*) Isn't it a right for SWU to be represented in the NDA as the eldest and largest women's organization in the Sudan having accomplished for women all these achievements and being awarded
the United Nations Human Rights Prize in 1993, thus becoming the first women's organization in the whole world to gain such a privilege?

(*) Moreover, the SWU is the organization that called for and established the Sudanese Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Women, Youth, and Students. The SWU launched a massive popular movement in the United Kingdom against the NIF rule. The SWU submitted many memos to the United Nations Secretary General and to the British Government protesting the beating of women, the conscription of youth and students for civil war, the aggression against the women's rally before the United Nations Office in Khartoum, the attack on NDA during the anniversary of the late Artist Mustafa Seed Ahmed, the Ailafoun massacre, the arrest of politicians and the Ansar leaders, etc.

There were activities that all parties failed to pursue through the NDA branch, the human rights organization, the trades unions, etc. in the United Kingdom. This did not take place in the UK alone. It manifested itself in every place where Sudanese people exist abroad.

After all these activities, we, as women, are considered minors and "Hareem"? We are the ones who achieved what the men failed to do, bravely and in open challenge to all military regimes. How terrible it is to witness such persecution and injustices. How shameful it is, especially for those who claim to struggle against injustices and persecution of women !

Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim
Sudanese Women Union
September 6,98