With One Decision, and A Few Women, There Can Be Change
Zeinab Mohamed Blandia
This is a follow-up to Zeinab’s story 2 weeks ago about forming the Women’s Solidarity Fund Group in her home of Nuba Mountains, Sudan.
“Women want to show that they have been released from their domestic pressures and demonstrate their deep involvement in the community. It’s not just women who have changed, but their husbands change too.”
Annually, we make a two-week visit around the state to see what the women in the Solidarity Fund Groups have accomplished. We go to the villages and see what’s happening in their communities. We then invite the leader from each group to come to Kharthoum to show their work and progress.
In our first exchange visit, 10 women leaders participated, while in the last visit we had 60 women. Women want to show that they have been released from their domestic pressures and demonstrate their deep involvement in the community. It’s not just women who have changed, but their husbands change too. Men see that women have changed. Initially, it was difficult for the men to let the women leave for 15 days. Now, they allow them to go and come back with new ideas. This is progress. Men even say they want to come to the exchange visits. This is a good indicator that men realize that the Solidarity Groups bring benefits at home, as new ideas are brought from the outside and there are many things that women and men want to learn.
We are thinking of having men’s Solidarity Groups. We also wanted to create mixed groups. We tested with one group to see if it would work: 25 women and 20 men are currently working together in one village. Women insisted that men should not be on the board. They can be group members and take decisions with them, but should not become leaders. The women in the group, by insisting on this, show that they have become strong.
There are many successful stories of women working together to promote change. In one village, seven groups have been formed, with seven women leaders. They have separate meetings for each group, but one meeting for all the groups. They collect the 5% from each group and put it in a box for the village. As a group, they discussed how they could change their houses. There are small huts in their village, built with local materials (grass and mud). Houses burn down easily, which is why they need to be changed. Ten to twenty houses burn a year, and families lose everything. The women wanted to mobilize their families to build their houses in a different, more durable, way. Each woman thus worked with her children and husband to change their shelter. Some changed it to mud bricks with metal sheets.
Women’s solidarity can make a difference with just one decision.
* * *
Zeinab was a 2009 Woman PeaceMaker at the Joan B Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. A full length narrative, written by Jen Freeman, describing Zeinab’s peacebuilding work in the Nuba Mountains can be found here: http://www.sandiego.edu/peacestudies/ipj/programs/women_peace_makers/women_peacemakers/africa/Sudan2.php