Caroline F. (Project Manager), written over 6 years ago
Please find below a newsletter about the conference. I pdf version with images included will be emailed out to all non-anonymous supporters. If you'd like a copy but donated money without leaving your name please contact me at email@example.com for your version.
September 16th 2008 Dear Friends, Family and Fellow supporters of the South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network, As members of SSWEN we are writing to thank you for your recent support of our national women’s conference which was held in August 2008 in the capital of South Sudan, Juba. The conference was a great success, with over 200 women leaders (and a number of men too!) participating in the event from across Sudan. The event served to develop and build upon connections between women in the diaspora and across Sudan and concluded with a series of next steps for action towards women’s empowerment at family, community and state scales. Your donation helped to fund the travel of a number of women who participated – some of whom are featured below. To cover delegates’ travel we raised over $8000 from grassroots organizing, which was matched by a travel and delegate support grant of E5000 Euros from an international women’s fund called ‘Mama Cash’ (www.mamacash.org). Thank you! The conference as a whole was also supported by a number of other Governmental and non-Governmental organizations, civic groups, and individuals. They provided us with both financial support as well as a host of in-kind donations which included flight-time, documentary filming, leadership training, tape recorders, website design, and even the use of a private plane! In the following account we’ve covered some of the highlights of the event for your interest as well as some of the personal stories of the amazing women that participated. If you’d like to learn more, become a SSWEN member, or keep up with post-conference projects and SSWEN’s work both in Sudan and the US, please feel free to check out the conference website at www.sswen.org or our European based donation website at www.betterplace.org and watch out for a short film of the event produced by our guest documentary film maker Jen Marlowe (Darfur Diaries, Rebuilding Hope www.rebuildinghopesudan.org) over the next year. There’s also a great blog about the event available at http://girlinthenorthcountry.wordpress.com by one of the co-organizers Jennifer Erickson. Thank you again for your donation from the SSWEN team! “We have come here together to discuss the greatest challenges facing women here in Sudan, to bring them out. Now we have to ask ourselves, ‘what next? How can we respond to what we have heard?’ Now is the time for us to make change. It must begin with us. We cannot sit back and wait for others to do this work for us.” Lucie Luguga, UNIFEM SSWEN national conference, August 23rd 2008 pic 1 One of our translators and MCs, Lily Akol, stands in front of the conference banner on day 3 of the event. This session was devoted to discussions of Women and Education and Women in Business. A ‘Weaving Together’ of members of the Sudanese diaspora and those women living in Sudan was at the heart of the conference mission. This process began long before the conference but was well evidenced by the close, rich and collaborative connections established when the first SSWEN conference organizers from the US, Lilian Riziq and Bonnie Lloyd, flew into Juba in July and began networking with colleagues in Juba. Members of the women’s union and women-focused non-profits in Juba such as Norwegian Church Aid and NESI – a Sudanese indigenous NGO network, provided invaluable guidance and assistance in the many details that still had to be worked out in advance of the conference. These included finalizing invitation lists of dignitaries, speakers and delegates, providing sources of funding, advising on transportation for delegates traveling from outside the city, and recommending local entertainment for the event. Through a series of pre-conference meetings, (with and without the aid of electricity!) the women worked hard to make their joint vision to reality. SSWEN members from the diaspora and local to Juba meet in the days leading up to the event to finalize the details. The local organizing committee often came together late at night after long working days to ensure the event was a success. Delegates began pouring into Juba from for the conference in mid-August. The coming together of participants for the event from across the world was a moving and exciting experience, marked by the troubled history of the region and the stories of loss, but also strength and survival, shared by the women. The various welcoming ceremonies, dances, meetings and meals saw families, old friends, students and teachers reunited as well as the formation of new valuable connections and relationships – a project at the heart of the conference goals. pic 2 Delegates arrive from the US and are met on the airport runway by a welcoming dancing group organized by the local Juba SSWEN ladies. For many it was the first time they had traveled to the capital city since the peace agreement was signed in 2005, and for some, like conference volunteers from the UK, US as well as some traveling from Sudanese regions further afield, this was their first trip to a city that had been of such strategic and symbolic significance during the long conflict. For members of the diaspora in particular, the return to Sudan triggered both happy and sad memories of life along the Nile and later, during the conflict, of flight to neighboring villages, regions or countries. Many delegates had families and long-established connections in the south, but had spent their lives growing up elsewhere, for example in the North in Khartoum or outside Sudan in the US. One SSWEN volunteer commented on how this shaped her experience of traveling to Juba “I feel that, although I have a home in the US, I can call this my home now too. I feel my connections to the country are stronger and I am excited to work with women here side-by-side. Now I feel even more committed to the fact that my life will be spent between here and home in the US”. Another delegate, a medical student based in Khartoum, spoke of her excitement to see Juba and her homeland in the South “I’m so happy to attend the conference and to share in our discussions of women’s problems – and to work to solve them. I’m also so happy to get to know women from other states in Sudan. My next step is to go back and to begin to educate women about their health” pic 3 SSWEN members (L-R) Khaltoum, Ekram, Evaline and Agum. They are studying civil society and medicine in Khartoum and were part of a larger student delegation from the city that helped to organize the conference. Training for facilitators began on the 16th August and was led by professional small business and non-profit leadership trainer Angela Gracey. The day-long session focused on the collaborative development of a project, including how to facilitate the process effectively and how to ensure it was manageable, well-defined and measurable, that it could be both successfully funded and carried out, and that it addressed the key needs of the population in question. This training aimed to ensure that the conference closed with each thematic group articulating a series of ‘next-steps’ for action. This training was complemented on the following day by a workshop on Cross-cultural Dialogues with Sarah Rial and Gloria White-Hammond, representatives of My Sister’s Keeper and Sisterhood For Peace. This aimed to ensure that the engagement between delegates at the conference was as rich, open and productive as possible and was of particular importance given the wide diversity participants in terms of faith, region, income, age, and location in Sudan or the diaspora, as well as the different priorities delegates had for women’s empowerment. SSWEN was keen to create an environment where these differences would be celebrated and valued as a resource rather than as a site of division. As such this was an important space in which to address the delegates’ concerns and to lay the foundations for a collaborative and supportive conference. pic 4 Representatives of My Sister’s Keeper and Sisterhood for Peace facilitate discussion about in one of our pre-conference sessions. Jen Marlowe captures the moment on film. The conference opening on the 18th was an incredibly busy and exciting day with over 100 delegates registering for the event, a host of speakers and dignitaries in attendance and local, national and international media attention, including the Juba Post and Sudan Radio Service. Our fantastic MCs translated speeches and questions in English and Arabic, kept speakers on schedule as best they could, and entertained the audience with impromptu poetry, jokes and stories. Meanwhile the local organizing committee put on an engaging series of skits to highlighting some of the key challenges facing women. In the background, SSWEN volunteers worked hard to distribute registration packs, ensure late arrivals were housed in the hotel, direct guests to their seats, and coordinate tickets for the first conference lunch. The whole event was interwoven with dancing and singing from local talents including a youth and women’s choir and the powerful voice of the famous Sudanese singer Nyancol Mathing. pic 5 Over the next 3 days we had a series of engaging plenaries with animated discussion throughout on topics related to the particular challenges facing women in Sudan. These were focused on; Women’s Health, Women’s education, Women in Business, Women’s Equal Participation in Politics and Leadership, Violence Against Women, Social and family Issues and Women and Law. Each day two to three speakers, carefully chosen for their expertise in the field and invited from across Sudan and the diaspora, presented on these topics. Speakers included Governmental representatives such as the Minister for Gender and Women’s Affairs Mary Kiden and Governor Jemma Kumba, representatives of non-Governmental groups Madam Lucie Luguga from UNIFEM as well as experts from the private sphere. These talks were followed by lively question and answer sessions, which were intended to provide a rich opportunity for delegates to engage with the speakers on these sensitive and vital issues. Both delegates and speakers alike spoke about the valuable opportunity provided by the conference to voice their thoughts and concerns, tell their personal stories, and articulate recommendations for the young government, civic society, community members, families and individuals to address key challenges facing women in Sudan. pic 6
Lively plenary sessions gave women the opportunity to question the panel of experts as well as to make recommendations for the future. Each day these speeches were interwoven by closely related workshop meetings. On the first day of the conference, delegates were invited to join a group of their preference, based upon the areas that held most interest for them and within which they felt they could contribute towards change most fully. Each group was assigned two facilitators who also acted as English and Arabic translators to ensure that everyone participating was able to do so as fully as possible. Facilitators assigned roles to members; including time-keepers, scribes, and report-back presenters. The groups worked through a specific process over the three day period; firstly articulating one clear problem statement relating to their issue, then developing a focused, manageable, time-bound goal statement of what they would like to achieve to address this problem. Each group then outlined the Governmental, Non-Governmental, Community and individual services, facilities and resources currently available that were working on the issue and what the institutional gaps existed. On the final day of work, each group articulated two ‘next steps’ of action and identified specific ways that SSWEN, beyond the provision of funds, could assist in this process. The conference proceedings closed with each group reporting back on their work to the group and responding to questions and comments from the invited expert panelists as well as participants from other groups. This proved to be a useful opportunity to share the work of each group more fully and to obtain the valuable feedback of the wider delegate body. A ‘Silent March’ marked the final day of the event, and included a motorcade of vans, trucks and cars carrying delegates across the city to our starting position at the heart of Juba. Along the way we sung and shouted out some of the key messages of the conference – often met with encouraging waves and cheers from spectators alongside the road, and requests for our banners and flyers, as well as some surprised faces! pic 7 However, as we stepped onto the road and began the march itself we fell silent, a symbolical act to show our desire to open respectful and collaborative dialog with the Government of South Sudan around women’s rights and empowerment. We were met at the Presidential offices by the President and Government Ministers who lined up to receive our message. Flanked by SSWEN members, conference delegates, the media, and security officers, our Director Lilian Riziq, presented a speech and a petition requesting the Government of Sudan to sign the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This was warmly received and the President promised to take the issue to the highest offices of the Government of Sudan. Updates on the Government of Sudan’s stance on CEDAW to follow! pic 8 At the close of the conference, members of the diaspora who had traveled far to attend the conference took advantage of their final few days in the country, participating in a series of field trips to visit the maternity wing at Juba hospital, the women’s prison in Juba, and an orphanage in Yei. Delegates brought packages of donations and met with representatives to discuss the key challenges facing women and girls in each of these institutions. pic 9
In the months following the conference, SSWEN members in Juba, Khartoum and the diaspora will be working hard to evaluate the event itself, to formalize the many connections made between women leaders on the ground in Sudan and on the SSWEN listserve, and to identify the next steps for action. Delegates arrived home saddened the stories of women who have experienced early marriage, lost families, stifled educations, and legal discrimination yet SSWEN is resolved to action alongside the courageous women who seek to protect and promote women’s rights. SSWEN members from the diaspora were inspired by the amazing work of women leaders in Sudan who have been working tirelessly for women and families in their communities and the young students who are committed to taking on this legacy. The conference was one step in the journey – thank you for your part in making it happen! The SSWEN Team September 2008. SSWEN, Inc. •www.sswen.org• Membership inquiries to Apol Parek at 8670 Brae Brooke Drive, Lanham, MD 20706, USA May 08, 2008 Prospective Donor Company Address City, State Zip Dear Prospective Donor, As a member of the South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network (SSWEN), I am writing to ask you to consider donating towards our upcoming National Women’s Conference, to be held in Juba, South Sudan August 17th to 19th 2008. Sudanese women have persevered through and are enduring intractable conflict. They have experienced the use of rape and violence as a weapon of war, the problems of massive internal displacement and refuge, rural and feminized poverty, illiteracy and unequal access to education, and restrictive civic, political and legal rights. Sudanese women, each in their corner of Sudan or the world, has become a sole bread winner, an advocate, an activist, a community organizer, a professional, a politician …and most importantly mothers of another generation of Sudanese. In these ways each one is affecting change in their communities and beyond. They all have a critical role to play in building a peaceful and just new Sudan, therefore, it is essential that women from all the marginalized areas of Sudan and the Diaspora, network, coordinate efforts and collaborate in nurturing the seed of Sudan’s rebirth and renewal. SSWEN’s National Women’s Conference entitled “Weaving Together, Strategizing for a Just and Sustainable Peace: The Critical Role of the Women in Sudan and its Diaspora” is a mechanism to create a platform for this fundamental requisite to ensure the development of a sustainable peace in Sudan. Through informative and motivational presentations, trainings, plenary sessions, and networking and sharing with one another, Sudanese women will discover their shared vision and areas of collaboration and support. SSWEN’s National Women’s Conference will bring together over 200 Sudanese women leaders from a range of fields and expertise, and from across the Sudan, including areas of Southern Sudan, Darfur, and three transitional areas – Abyei, Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and the diaspora. SSWEN is a registered 501(c) 3 non-profit organization formed by Sudanese women in the Diaspora and in Sudan focusing on the empowerment of Sudanese women in Sudan and in the Diaspora through programs that encourage women’s rights, education, policy advocacy, and organizational development. We are committed to empowering Sudanese women to achieve economic, social, and gender justice in the civil society sector, a healthy and peaceful community and country, and human rights for all. We would like to request (Organization’s/Company's/individual (your)) assistance in providing the opportunity of “Weaving Together” for women from the marginalized areas of Sudan and from the Sudanese Diaspora. Our Conference Budget is $179, 50 of which $85,000 have been secured through grants from the following organizations - Humanity United: $ 50,000 and Bridgeway Foundation: $35,000. In addition, $7000 has been donated by SSWEN Diaspora members who will be participating in the Conference in Juba. Our target now is $90,000 in order to finalize everything necessary for this important conference to happen. Your sponsorship would be greatly appreciated as an important foundational thread in the strong fabric of a network of empowered Sudanese Women. Since SSWEN is a registered 501 c 3 organizations and all donations are tax-deductible. You may make all checks payable to “South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network” and send these to my contact address below or that of our treasurer Apol Parek at 8670 Brae Brooke Drive, Lanham, MD 20706. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact me at xxxxx or our Director Ms Lilian Riziq at the email address or phone number below. Thank you for your support Regards, SSWEN Member name Contact details including address Lillian Riziq Director SSWEN 604 487 6575 Lilie0001@yahoo.com