As part of its capacity-building activities with the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) in Northern Sudan, the International Republican Institute (IRI) hosted its first SLM women’s political party training in Khartoum from December 3-5, 2007.  The training provided women skills to improve their roles in political institutions while providing them with the essential tools they need in order to be effective contestants in the 2009 elections.

SLM Chairman and Special Advisor to the President of the Republic Minni Minnawi gave the opening remarks, acknowledging the crucial role that women play in politics and commending the women in attendance for their active political engagement and for attempting to bring peace to the people of Darfur.  He encouraged them to continue to seek more political responsibilities as the country’s political structure continues to shift.  He went on to applaud IRI for working with the SLM through this transitional period and encouraged the institute to hold similar trainings throughout the region.  Encouraged by Minnawi’s show of support—this was his first appearance at an IRI training—the women responded with loud rounds of SLM cheers and party slogans, a sign of a growing party affiliation.

Dr. Aisah Al Karib of the Sudan Gender Center for Research and Training presented a comprehensive history of the women’s movement and women’s participation in political parties in Sudan since independence, encouraging the women to carry on their vibrant history of political engagement.  Dr. Awatif Adam, the SLM Women’s Secretary and a member of the faculty at Nyala University, spoke about the role of women in war and peacetime, and their particular contribution to conflict resolution.  

Other sessions covered topics such as gender mainstreaming in political parties, fundraising and financial management of political parties, proposal writing, an introduction to campaign management for women candidates, and a case study of women’s participation in the political system in Peru.

Among the thirty-one women who participated in the training, two were ethnic Darfurian Hakamas women poets who were used to galvanize soldiers for battle during the prolonged Sudanese civil war.  Giving the current conflict in Darfur, their participation in the training was symbolic of the changing face of Sudan and the country’s gradual democratic transition.

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