Sudanese Women Rise Above Oppressive Laws

anab87j9
Posted July 15, 2013 from Sudan

A loving mother, courageous journalist and passionate activist, Amal Habbani embodies the aspirations of Sudanese women. Amal, whose name means ‘hope’ in Arabic, paused for a few moments when I asked her how she would describe herself, reminding me of a challenge: portraying her world.

Amal’s world is filled with resilience, and dedication to achieving the dreams of equality and justice for women in Sudan. After she paused, she laughed shyly. “I am just an ordinary person, like the other millions of women in Sudan,” Amal says. “But the only thing added is that since a very young age, I have had an awareness of the concern for the public and society; an awareness of the rhythm of things around me.”

Amal’s concern for society is illustrated throughout her career. In 2005, after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the second civil war in Sudan, Amal created a small school for refugee children as part of the “Popular Peace Initiative.” In collaboration, neighbors contributed to helping the refugees. Outside of this work, Amal led campaigns to free political prisoners and created a column in a Sudanese newspaper to address various social and political issues.

Because of her writing, Amal faced unjust charges. She was terminated from her job, fined, arrested and detained multiple times. But Amal’s dedication to improving the conditions of women in Sudan did not falter. The attempts to silence Amal stand as testimony to the underlying issues faced by Sudanese women –– the set of problematic elements within the ruling system reflected in laws, practices and ideologies that target women in Sudan.

Though my Skype conversation with Amal assured me of our ability to stand against our oppression, it confirmed my fear: women in Sudan continue to suffer under a regime, which according to Amal, operates under the ideology “where there are women, there is a vice.” Yet where there is Amal, there is a way. Amal recounted the story of her colleague, Lubna Ahmed Hussein, who was detained by the “Public Order Police” –– a special police authority responsible for enforcing the Public Order Law –– for allegedly dressing inappropriately. This incident sparked the creation of the “No to Women’s Oppression Initiative” in 2008 by Amal and her colleagues.

Amal said that the “No to Women’s Oppression Initiative” team believes that such law was put into place to oppress and assault women. The law is problematic because of its extortion of society and inherent diminution of women’s citizenship and their personal freedom. An institution in itself, the law involves power structures and legal systems that legitimize it. Women subjected to these laws believe that if they speak out, they will be stigmatized.

According to a study conducted by Amal and her colleagues, all the women who were subjected to this law have experienced humiliating arrests, blackmailing, verbal abuse, and sexual harassment instigated by the authorities. Amal therefore highlights the dangers of faulty laws falling in the wrong hands. She also believes that the reason for the North-South separation was mostly due to the Public Order Law, under which many Southern Sudanese Christian women were arrested, detained and punished because they were not wearing what is considered decent by Muslim standards, such as a scarf.

”Women in Sudan currently bear all the abuse of this regime along with its tyranny,” Amal says. “Women in Sudan historically have had problems and throughout history, women are the first to be oppressed since the emergence of patriarchal eras.” Amal also points out women in Sudan are at the mercy of a legislative system that targets and oppresses them. This system enforces the framing and molding of women into a specific way of thinking, and makes clothing a determinant of a woman’s virtue –– the basis for her ability to secure the right of work and study.

Amal believes that the regime’s Civilizational Project agenda –– a form of political Islam ––is being substantiated through women, and enforced by the Public Order Law. Amal says, “The Public Order Campaigns are a big example. You can see that in this country there are no manifestations of religiosity, and even theocracy is not evident. But when you try to enter a college campus without a scarf, you will not be able to, even if you have gained admission into the college by great academic achievements and qualifications. This is not decided by the president of the college, but rather by government recruits who are part of the police. Even the college guards have become part of the policing. This is a huge problem for women.” According to Amal, approximately 40,000-50,000 women in Khartoum each year are subjected to the Public Order Laws, detained, tried and punished.

Amal’s passion continues to drive her despite these circumstances. “The thing that encourages me the most is the feeling that what you do pays off, and that there are improvements and changes even if they are little. There was a study conducted about Public Order Laws, and there is more awareness. Even the government admits that there are problems with these laws, and Khartoum’s governor had acknowledged the need for them to be revised.” Still, a dominant radical wing within the government opposes women’s rights, and thus revising these laws.

Amal continues to inspire many Sudanese women, through her stance against Public Order Law. Amal is a symbol for Sudanese women’s resilience, who she says had the strongest feminist movement during the 1950s and ‘60s in all of Africa and the Middle East. Even today, under a regime that seemingly seeks to push them back to the Dark Ages, Sundanese women like Amal continue to hold their ground. Through her writing and activism, Amal is only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of Sudanese women rallying for change. “I dream of comprehensive change,” Amal says. “I also hope that this law is repealed, and that laws that are more sensitive towards women’s issues come into place to allow women to reach high rather than sink low.”

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Voices of Our Future 2013 Assignments: Profiles

Comments 34

Log in or register to post comments
bitani
Jul 16, 2013
Jul 16, 2013

Amal is really a very strong lady. thank you for profiling her. i loved how you contrasted her name (amal) and the dark situation of women. :)

anab87j9
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

Thank you Bitani! She is hope for many Sudanese women, including myself.

No Name
Jul 16, 2013
Jul 16, 2013

Thank you for sharing her story and her efforts to fight against these repressive measures against women.

My interest is piqued regarding the "strongest feminist movement during the fifties and sixties in all of Africa and the Middle East". Was there a name for that movement?

Nechesa

anab87j9
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

Hello Nechesa: This is only one of the many laws that repress women :-( Hopefully I will get the opportunity to highlight other ones. There was no specific name for the movement actually. She was saying that women were very active back then and strong as well, but sadly with this regime they are being pushed down, and back into the dark ages.

Klaudia
Jul 16, 2013
Jul 16, 2013

Amal is one of a kind, How difficult is to live in a world where we need to stand up to fight for our rights? How difficult must be Amal's life? thank you very much for bringing us such wonderful leader.

anab87j9
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

You are very welcome Kaludia! She will be very happy to know that members of the World Pulse community know her story and what she is fighting for.

Aminah
Jul 16, 2013
Jul 16, 2013

What Amal stated is quite true. We need to do away with this ideology that women are the cause of problems. We need to stop it from being preached, to be branded on girls and women.

Her role in creating awareness about gender discrimination, religious discrimination and equality is noteworthy. It definitely is not anybody else's business how we dress. Faith is between the individual and the Creator. I wonder why imams or preachers take-up God like roles. But that's just me and my prejudice against religious preachers.

Amal is definitely amal, she is hope :)

anab87j9
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

Hello Aminah, and Ramadan Mubarak!

I can't agree more!

Much love,

Anab

Mukut
Jul 16, 2013
Jul 16, 2013

Loved the article -Especially the beginning. You painted a beautiful picture of Amal and the struggles she is fighting for.

Well done dear !

Love,

anab87j9
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

Thank you so much Mukut dear.

Love,

Anab

Olanike
Jul 17, 2013
Jul 17, 2013

Amal Habbani is as beautiful as the cause she so strongly believe in. Also true is the statement that she "embodies the aspirations and dreams of Sudanese women". Her resilience is rock-solid and you painted it with every word you pieced together.

You also gave very good insight into the demoralizing circumstances that confront women in Sudan. With Anab and her likes who are carrying on with undefeated doggedness, I am sure that change is not far off.

Well done, Greengirl

anab87j9
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

Hello dear:

And with Greengirl, her passion, and encouragement, women are empowered through a strong bond!

Thank you.

Much love,

Anab

Olanike
Jul 19, 2013
Jul 19, 2013

Thank you so much Anab for having faith in me and my work. I feel really honoured by your enlistment!

Hugs, Greengirl

anab87j9
Jul 19, 2013
Jul 19, 2013

My dear you deserve more! I am personally empowered and inspired by you. Never give up! Keep up the amazing work you are doing!

Love,

Anab

Yosra Akasha
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

Great job dear Anab, highlighting the story of the fighter Amal habani.

Much respect and appreciation to you and Amal

anab87j9
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

Thank you Yosra :-)

Anab

JaniceW
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

You have provided solid background information and context to the story, and chose your subject well.

My only comment is that I personally would have liked to have read a little more about her personal experiences. Perhaps expand on the third paragraph a little to give me sense of what drives her passion. Did she have a personal experience that motivated her to act, or was it the reaction over her colleague's detention (Lubna Ahmed Hussein) that led her to become a vocal activist?

All in all though, a well-researched interview with a compelling subject.

anab87j9
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

Hello Janice: During our interview she explains that there were other factors that were involved in who she became. Amongst those, was how she had the passion to help people since she was little. She also wrote about social issues that impacted people, and as a result she suffered great injustice. All of these combined have fired her up. Lubna's case was the last straw!

Thank you so much for reading and for the thoughtful question. :-)

Anab

Precious Nkeih
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

Amal has had quite some challenges due to her fight for a better world for women. I am happy she stood strong through all of that and remains an inspiration to Sudanese women. I love this statement: "Yet where there is Amal, there is a way." Nice work!

Precious

anab87j9
Jul 18, 2013
Jul 18, 2013

Thank you Precious!

I appreciate this.

Anab

Nakinti
Jul 20, 2013
Jul 20, 2013

What a strong woman Amal is...Oh My God, I pray she lives as long as possible so that she continues to advocate for women's rights. Sudan is blessed to have a woman like Amal. How I wish I could have the opportunity to tell Amal one thing, I will tell her "Amal, you are a rock star" Many salutes to beautiful and courageous Amal. I love her. Thank you Ana for choosing the right figure for a profile, you rock. Love from Cameroon. Nakinti

anab87j9
Jul 21, 2013
Jul 21, 2013

Oh what a sweet comment! Thank you so much for your heartwarming comment. I will make sure to convey that message to her! :-)

Much love,

Anab

Jampa
Jul 20, 2013
Jul 20, 2013

Big Congrats to you for such an amazing piece of yours. Enjoyed reading Thanks for sharing Jampa

anab87j9
Jul 21, 2013
Jul 21, 2013

Hello Jampa!

I am glad you enjoyed reading it!

Much love,

Anab

libudsuroy
Jul 23, 2013
Jul 23, 2013

Dear Anab, You are a very courageous woman to feature Amal, another very courageous woman, indeed. To be able to amplify Amal's voice and let it heard throughout the world despite repressive laws and regimes, require more than just homesickness. I salute you and Amal. And my wish that somehow you may find your way home to your inner Sudan soon...

Iryna
Jul 29, 2013
Jul 29, 2013

The problem is not in the way a woman is dressed. The problem is how men accept her. And with this attitude it's obvious they don't accept a woman as a person, only as a sexual object.

My big respect to Amal for her work, for her fight, and to you, Anab, for being brave to speak about such issues!

Greetings from Ukraine, Iryna

Maura Bogue
Jul 29, 2013
Jul 29, 2013

What a compelling woman! You did a really great job of focusing this profile. You didn't include any unnecessary details, but you still captured all the information the reader needs to know. Great work!

Next time, try interviewing people who know the person you're profiling to make your story more well-rounded.

Best, Maura

Maura Bogue
Jul 29, 2013
Jul 29, 2013

What a compelling woman! You did a really great job of focusing this profile. You didn't include any unnecessary details, but you still captured all the information the reader needs to know. Great work!

Next time, try interviewing people who know the person you're profiling to make your story more well-rounded.

Best, Maura

Carly
Jul 29, 2013
Jul 29, 2013

Anab, you have done a wonderful job capturing the spirit and passion of Amal. What an amazing woman! Her perseverance and commitment to change is an inspiration for all. You have done an excellent job presenting her and the choice of quotes is excellent. I would be interested to know more about her background. She mentions that she had an awareness and concern from a young age. What sparked this?

Again, wonderful work. I look forward to reading more from you!

Best, Carly

Lisa Anderson
Jul 30, 2013
Jul 30, 2013

Beautiful work, Anab! I know you worked extremely hard on this piece!

Love, Lisa

Zoe
Aug 12, 2013
Aug 12, 2013

I loved..."in Sudan continue to suffer under a regime, which according to Amal, operates under the ideology “where there are women, there is a vice.” Yet where there is Amal, there is a way." YES! It is tremendous to think that ONE person can be so determined and can in fact impact CHANGE!

I am super impressed with your piece. The challenges that Sudanese women are faced with are frustrating. Changing the mindset of this male dominated society will be difficult. It requires our constant attention and rallying of voices.

Thank you for the work you put into this piece!

Regards,

Zoe

anab87j9
Aug 16, 2013
Aug 16, 2013

Thank you so much Zoe. If one person can do so much, imagine a group of super energetic women, with great vision and mission! Much love,

Anab

Yvette Warren
Aug 21, 2013
Aug 21, 2013

I was struck by your emphasis on the injustice of what women are forced to wear alongside the photo of Amal in a veil. "Amal’s world is filled with resilience, and dedication to achieving the dreams of equality and justice for women in Sudan." I have found that "flying under the radar" by dressing the way that people expect me to assists in my being able to infiltrate the camps of those in power and learn their ways. In this way, I can better fight against them from the inside knowledge I gather outward. To succeed we must stay focused on the most important goal. Amal seems to know how to do this, even while paying the consequences for speaking out. Blessings on you both. Yvette

HOPE tOWELA
Sep 12, 2013
Sep 12, 2013

Amal, you are a strong woman and I admire your courageous spirit may God continue to give you knowledge and wisdom in what you are doing for women and children.

Stay Blessed.

Towela.