Oslo Donors’ Conference on Sudan

12 April 2005, Oslo, Norway

Madam Chairperson,

It is an honour to speak today on how we can support the women of Sudan. Let me first thank the Government of Norway for your leadership and for hosting this conference. I also want to congratulate the leaders and people of Sudan for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Women know the cost of war and destruction. Many women and their families are displaced, living in extreme poverty without access to clean water, energy, sanitation, livelihood and education. They have watched their men killed, and they and their daughters are exposed to violence every day. After 40 years of suffering, peace brings new hope. But this peace is fragile. It has to be carefully nurtured and invested in. A new Sudan, a Sudan without war, needs women as leaders and as full citizens. Women are central to the enormous tasks ahead and can accelerate the building of peace, security and prosperity. They are not just victims; they are also part of the solution.

Women are central to weaving back the social fabric of life, to rebuilding shattered families and communities. They are key to nation building. Their leadership and their human rights must, however, be accorded the space, the support and the resources necessary to sustain peace and development.

In recent months, UNIFEM has consulted extensively with women in the Sudan to understand their priorities and needs and to reflect these in the JAM [UN-World Bank Joint Assessment Mission] process. The consultations have also culminated in the Gender Symposium organized with the Government of Norway and the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs, just two days ago. A powerful agenda for action has emerged and has just been shared with you by the Sudanese women themselves. So I would like to highlight three key priorities for UNIFEM in supporting women’s leadership and participation in Sudan’s peace-building and reconstruction process.

The first is security: Security does not just mean the end of war. It must mean the ability to go about your life knowing that you and your family will be safe. However, we know that gender-based violence still continues and atrocities are still taking place, especially in Darfur. We will work and advocate on issues of gender justice for a security sector reform that includes women’s human rights, protection and the link between HIV/AIDS and violence, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS based on gender equality and partnership with men. We will engage with DDR [disarmament, demobilization and reintegration] from a gender perspective to include women combatants and non-combatants in fighting forces, and wives, widows and other dependents of ex-fighters.

The second priority is governance and the rule of law: Country after country where we have assisted women, we have seen how women’s participation in legal reform, in rule of law institutions, in the drafting of the Constitution, in elections, as leaders and as voters, are so important for sustainable peace and accountability. Support to women cannot wait. The capacities of Ministries and women’s organizations at the community level must be strengthened; a women’s coalition must be built and nationwide networks fostered; information must be shared with rural and urban women alike through media and other means; and experience-sharing and exchanges with many African women from different countries on peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction must be supported.

The third priority is economic security and rights: This is where the peace dividend comes. Swift implementation of livelihood programmes and of inclusive economic policies and strategies would move people from engaging in the economies of war to the economies of peace. An urgent step must be to support women’s land rights and to deliver development assistance in partnership with women’s organizations and businesses. Of immediate importance is access to basic services. Rural women and girls spend most of their time collecting water, firewood, and caring for other household members. Because of this, they may never make it to school or benefit from new opportunities, even if given a chance. That is why water, energy, feeder roads, health and education are fundamentally gender issues.

We have had generous commitments and discussion of funding mechanisms over the last two days. The challenge ahead is to ensure that these funding mechanisms, such as the Multi-donor Trust Fund, be accompanied not just by a women’s window, but by a women’s door for accessing the funds. The needs are too great. I would also like to mention the UN Trust Fund on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, established by the General Assembly and managed by UNIFEM, as an existing modality to address gender-based violence that is available for multi-donor support to countries such as Sudan.

The best way to measure commitment to women is to follow the money and to make sure that the money works. Gender-responsive budgeting can be put in place to guide Sudan’s reconstruction. UNIFEM has already assisted 30 countries in this area, and could provide technical support towards such an initiative.

At the end of the women’s symposium, our two leaders have said that women were the most marginalized people in Sudan. Both of them said they would support economic and political participation by women. By doing so, they have acknowledged Sudan’s most under-recognized resource and the need to involve women as full partners in peace-building and reconstruction. Women now need your support so they can contribute fully to a new future, free of violence and poverty.

I thank you.