Statement from Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues – Catherine Russell on Her Visit to Sudan

April 26, 2015 | Khartoum, Sudan

Over the past two days, I had the opportunity to meet with a wide range of people from Sudanese society, including government officials, students, entrepreneurs, and representatives from civil society and international organizations.

It is clear that Sudan’s ability to ensure that women and girls are protected and empowered will determine how successful the country will be going forward.

I heard from the government about plans to address issues like gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and early and forced marriage, as well as other areas where legal reforms are needed. I look forward to seeing progress in the government’s efforts to pass strong laws on gender equality—including laws that raise the minimum age of marriage, ban FGM/C, and address gender-based violence—and to promote women’s roles in the peace process. Having strong laws is an essential step that must be followed by implementation and enforcement, as well efforts to increase access to services for survivors of gender-based violence across the country.

Government efforts on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will be more successful if a full range of civil society groups are consulted and engaged. The Government of Sudan should expand space for civil society—they are important partners for the country.

I met many amazing Sudanese women who are working to create a better future for their country. They have started organizations that empower young people, promote education, and engage men and boys as allies for women’s empowerment. They are breaking barriers for women in fields like engineering, sports, law, and medicine. They are using art and drama to tackle FGM/C in local communities, and they are supporting each other to meaningfully contribute to political dialogue and the economy.

The women I met this week are proof that women’s full and meaningful participation in the peace process, the National Dialogue, and political decision-making is critical to lasting peace and prosperity in Sudan.