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In Sudan, International Women’s Day Met with Protests, Calls for Equality

People attend a demonstration against the military coup, on International Women's Day in Khartoum, Sudan, March 8, 2022.
People attend a demonstration against the military coup, on International Women's Day in Khartoum, Sudan, March 8, 2022.

Thousands of Sudanese citizens staged another wave of anti-military protests in Khartoum and other parts of Sudan Tuesday.

Protesters dedicated the marches to International Women’s Day while denouncing the October 25 military takeover.

Reel Moaz, a civil society activist and human rights defender who participated in the Khartoum protest, spoke to VOA.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

VOA: Today’s protest coincides with International Women’s Day. Tell me about the significance of this?

Reel Moaz: The significance of the protest today is to highlight women's demands and to assure that women's demands are [part of] the essence of the Sudanese people’s demands for freedom, peace, and justice. And that's why a lot of women are joining this campaign — to advocate for other women to join the resistance committees and be at the heart of the political decision-making that's currently happening in Sudan. A lot of women are not in the male-dominated resistance committees, but [women] ... need to be inside the resistance committees, not just as a crowd for the protests.

VOA: You spoke of demands, what are those?

Reel Moaz: Sudanese women are demanding freedom, peace, and justice, of course, like every person here in Sudan. But as well as that, we are also demanding the mainstreaming of women's rights to be at the heart of every decision made by the resistance committees, the political actors here in Sudan, and any other political party. We feel neglected as women and that we are just being told what to do and men are just dominating everything related to the political scene.

VOA: The December 2018 revolution and subsequent civilian-led government brought a lot of hope for Sudanese women. How did the October 25 military takeover affect women in Sudan? Are we back to square one?

Reel Moaz: ​When the Forces for Freedom and Change [coalition, which deposed former President Omar al-Bashir], made their declaration that they will be abiding by the 40% [women representation] in the Legislative Council, that council was never formed. The Juba Peace Agreement affirmed the mainstreaming of the 40% across all levels of authority and power, but they never really had the will to enforce what they stated in the constitutional document. In my opinion, that was just [the coalition] using women to show how advanced they are to the West and to the rest of the world. And that’s why women really feel nothing has changed in the transitional period. That advancement that happened during the transitional period was hindered by October 25 military coup. We are still neglected by the parties, by the resistance committees, and we are trying to get inside these bodies to enforce our agenda from within.

VOA: Are you hopeful for the future for Sudanese women?

Reel Moaz: ​I can see the change in the tone from resistance committees when talking about women’s agenda. And now I think that other political parties — although we can never trust what they’re actually saying, because what they’re doing constantly contradicts what they’re saying — I can see the sense of the change of tone when talking about the women’s agenda. There’s more consensus around increasing women’s participation inside the transitional government. The demands of the revolution are the demands of all Sudanese people and that includes women, and we have a major role in this revolution. But when it comes to decision-making, we are not part of it. I think they now know that it was one of the major parts of why we are in a political stagnation when different parties and people in the streets are talking about women’s representation and participation to solve the current political crisis that’s happening in Sudan. So yes, I think the future will be brighter.