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Women in the Sudan

At 2002's Quadrennial Assembly for Women, about 150 attendees were privileged to hear a workshop presentation by Ms. Joy Zakaria Wani, an international guest of the International Christian Women's Fellowship.The Middle East and Europe office was pleased to help facilitate the workshop. Ms. Wani is a coordinator with the Women Ecumenical Training Center of the Sudan Council of Churches. She is from Jube, in southern Sudan, and is a member of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan.

For two weeks prior to the Quadrennial, Ms. Wani was the guest of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Illinois and Wisconsin, where she spoke to many churches and women's groups throughout the Region.

Below is the text of Ms. Wani's remarks, followed by an outline of strategic goals of the Sudan Council of Churches.

Joy Zakaria Wani
Women Ecumenical Training Centre
Sudan Council of Churches

2002 Quadrennial Assembly for Women
Louisville, KY, June 21, 2002

It is a pleasure and honor for me to be an international guest from Sudan to the Twelfth Quadrennial Assembly 2002.

Introduction to the Sudan

I would like to reflect a little bit on the country Sudan and the current situation which it is experiencing. Sudan is the largest country in Africa with an area of one million square miles. According to the 1993 population census, the population is estimated to be 27 million people. There are around 6,000 ethnic groups with different local languages and dialects. Islam and Christianity are the dominate religions in the country, in addition to other African traditions.

Civil war has been going on for almost a century. Originally it emerged as north-south conflict, but recently spread to the other zones, the Nuba mountains in the West, Blue Nile in the Southeast and Eastern Sudan. This war has resulted in the death of 2-9 million people, and the displacement of 4-5 million. Many refugees live in the neighboring countries. In addition, two million internally displaced persons live in greater Khartoum and 2.5 in bigger towns of the southern states and the Nuba mountains.

The Sudanese are living below the poverty line. This war has taken away the spirit of life, security for people, the smiles from our childrenês faces, and left many striving without future. The number of women- headed households reached 59% of the total households among the displaced. We witness weekly the exodus of hundreds of youth leaving for Egypt to find their way out.

In spite of the above mentioned, there are some international and national NGOs working in the field of humanitarian assistance and development in the Sudan as a response to some of their concerns.

Women in the Sudan

The present civil war in Sudan, which started in 1983, once again has disrupted family life and daily continues. It has destroyed infrastructure and caused poverty, unemployment, delinquency, child abuse and all types of miseries.

Generally women in Sudan are now experiencing several socio-economic, political, and cultural problems and spiritual upheavals in their lives. However, in spite of these problems some have found faith, tolerance and courage, while others have bitter disappointment and failure. Women in particular are the most disadvantaged, the poorest of the poor in terms of welfare, the provision of basic needs, access to resources for development and production, equal participation in policy decision-making, and equal control over the factors of production and distribution of labor. The majority of women in Sudan have rural backgrounds and are illiterate. On one hand, many women are still in poorly paid jobs and their labor is exploited by their employers. On the other hand, women also contribute unpaid labor, for example working free on the agriculture farms. In any case, the little income women earn is consumed at home and some is taken away by their husbands.

At the level of the church, the ordination of women is still a problem. Yet recently the Presbyterian and the Episcopal Churches approved the ordination of women with the condition that women should study theology. In the churches, women have contributed a lot and are continuing to contribute to the growth of churches in Sudan, although they are not at the top in decision making. For example, in the Episcopal Church of Sudan there is a Motherês Union Movement and the Revival Movement, in the Presbyterian Church there is the Christian Women Fellowship, in the Catholic Church there is the Legion of Mary, in the African Inland Church, there is Good News Mothers, etc. As most of these women are displaced, they have transferred most of their activities to the Northern Sudan due to the current civil war in the country.

The Councils of Churches

In reflecting on the experience and the work of women in the church in the Sudan, it is essential that we should look a little bit to the mothers of the churches, which are voluntary bodies whose work is mandated by their member churches. There are two such ecumenical bodies that exist, the first is the Sudan Council of Churches, whose headquarters is based in the capital city of Sudan, Khartoum, with six regional offices country-wide. The Sudan Council of Churches was established in 1967 by four churches. Those member churches have mandated the Council of the Churches to support its member churches, in the proclamation and extension of the Kingdom of God in Sudan. It is also rendering services to the poor and the displaced at Khartoum peripheries in the camps. The council also operates in cooperation with the Sudan government, regional and international Christian councils, UN agencies and local and international NGOs.

The second voluntary body is called the New Sudan Council of Churches. It is based in Nairobi, Kenya and has as its mission to assist and render services to the churches and the displaced in areas which are under control by those who took arms. The two councils cooperate and coordinate particularly in peace advocacy as a priority at regional and international forums. The vision of the Sudan Council is a just, peaceful and Godly Sudan. Its mission statement states that the Sudan Council of Churches exists to engage churches and people of good will in advocacy for peace and justice and to enable member churches acquire relevant skills and material resources for ministering in word and services to the Sudanese people in general, and the poor in particular in multi-faith, multi-ethnic and conflict situations.

The council has gone into a three-year strategic planning period since 2000, and has outlined its strategic vision and goals (See following document). The donor partners are not responding as expected. Therefore, the council is experiencing difficulties to implement its programs as planned.

Some aims of the Strategic Plan are:

 Self-determination
 Call for envoy
 Support to the Council to implement the planned activities
 Exposure visits

The Women Programme

The establishment of the Women Programme occurred in 1976 as part of the programs of the SCC, in order to recognize the significance that women could play.

As the outbreak of civil war caused displacement mainly of people from the Southern Sudan and Nuba mountains, greater emphasis was exerted to these disadvantaged women; therefore the program remained focused on the empowerment of women, and the development of their socio-economic and spiritual status.

Some activities of the Women Programme are:

 Womenês development
 Womenês Ecumenical Training Centre (WETI)
 Loans/Credit
 Child survival
 Christian Women Justice and Peace

Strategic Plan of the Sudan Council of Churches

2.2 Mandate of the SCC

The SCC as a voluntary body of the Churches in the Sudan has been mandated to support its member churches in the proclamation and extension of the Kingdom of God in the Sudan. It is also to assist the Churches in rendering services to the poor and promote socio-economic development in the country. It coordinates and cooperates with the Government of Sudan, regional and international Christian Councils, UN Agencies, local and international NGOs. To a limited extent, it also coordinates and cooperates with the NSCC particularly in peace advocacy for the Sudan at regional and international forums.

Programmatic priorities of the SCC have been humanitarian relief for internally displaced persons and refugees, empowerment of member Churches in reconciliation, justice and peace, promotion of united efforts in evangelism and Christian witness by member Churches, and human resource development with special consideration for the youth and women.

2.2.1 Vision

Just, peaceful and Godly Sudan

2.2.2 Mission Statement

The Sudan Council of Churches exists to engage churches and people of good will in advocacy for peace and justice, and to enable member churches acquire relevant skills and material resources for ministering in word and service to the Sudanese people in general, and the poor in particular in multi-faith, multi ethnic and conflict situations.

2.2.3 Goals

 To engage churches and people of goodwill to advocacy for peace, justice, equality and Human rights in the Sudan.

 To enable member churches and SCC personnel acquire relevant skills.

 To enable member churches mobilize material resources to fulfil their ministries in word and service.

 To implement ecumenical programs in which the Council has strategic advantage and as directed by member churches.

2.3 Core Values

2.3.1 Unity and Solidarity: We are diverse but united in solidarity with each other.

2.3.2 Peace, Justice and Human Rights: We uphold and promote peace, justice, equality, human rights and gender sensitivity.

2.3.3 Compassion and Love: We love and care with compassion of Christ. We accord priority to the most vulnerable members of society, the marginalized, women, the displaced, children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

2.3.4 Christian Faith and Stewardship: We are stewards entrusted with Godês resources committed to active Christian witness, integrity, faithfulness, moral uprightness, transparency and accountability.

2.3.5 Partnership and Sharing: We share and work in partnership with others.

2.4 Strategic Advantages

SCC has the following strategic advantages over other actors in the same fields:

 Clear Vision, Mission, values and mandate.
 An ecumenical organization uniting churches in the Sudan.
 Member Churches with a widespread grassroots organization throughout the Sudan.
 A long history and understanding of social issues in the Sudan.
 A network of international, regional and local partners.
 A record of involvement and credible achievement especially in peace, justice and humanitarian relief.
 Great potential to influence change if churches and communities are empowered.
 Faith in God and potential for support by network of Christians and partners.

2.5 Challenges

SCC faces the following challenges which it has to respond to appropriately as it implements this strategic plan:

 Hard decisions and remain focused.
 Willingness to off load and churches to take over some on-going programmes.
 Commitment to professionalism and hard work.
 Our capacity to achieve the mission and goals of SCC.
 Willingness to accept and shape change.
 History and culture of dependency on external funding.
 Keeping a positive attitude.

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