Wed . 19 Feb 2019

Gender inequality in Sudan

gender inequality in south sudan, gender inequality in sudan
Sudan is a developing nation that faces many challenges in regard to gender inequality Freedom House gave Sudan the lowest possible ranking among repressive regimes during 20121 South Sudan received a slightly higher rating but it was also rated as "not free"1 In the 2013 report of 2012 data, Sudan ranks 171st out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index HDI2 Sudan also is one of very few countries that are not a signatory on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women CEDAW3

Despite all of this, there have been positive changes in regard to gender equality in Sudan As of 2012, women embodied 241% of the National Assembly of Sudan4 Sudanese women account for a larger percentage of the national parliament than many Westernized nations Notwithstanding that, gender inequalities in Sudan, particularly as they pertain to female genital mutilation and the disparity of women to men in the labor market, have received attention in the international community


  • 1 Historical background
    • 11 Colonial rule
    • 12 Darfur region
    • 13 Independence of South Sudan
  • 2 Government policies
  • 3 Legal status of gender
  • 4 Education
  • 5 Health
  • 6 Religion
    • 61 Religious background
    • 62 Islamist goals
  • 7 Economic participation
    • 71 Background on the economy
    • 72 Gender division of labor in agriculture
    • 73 Subsistence farming
  • 8 Political participation
  • 9 Social and cultural norms
    • 91 Household
    • 92 Beauty rituals
    • 93 Female genital mutilation
  • 10 Measurement of gender inequality
    • 101 Gender Inequality Index
  • 11 See also
  • 12 References
  • 13 External links

Historical backgroundedit

Colonial ruleedit

Sudan is both "Arab" and "African" with much complexity that involves terms of ethnicity and identity politics A variety of governments have ruled within the last two centuries: colonial regimes Ottoman and "Anglo-Egyptian", Islamic states the Funj and the Mahdist, parliamentary democracies 1956-1989, military regimes, and later an incipient military theocracy56 Mahdi is a reference to Shia Islam

Some argue that the colonial era in Sudan influenced initial attitudes of British anthropologists toward the "natives," arguing that anthropology was an important tool in colonial administration7

Darfur regionedit

Cattle watering in Darfur

Conflict and gender-based violence occurred in Darfur even after the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement DPA8 Before the peace agreement, rebel factions and bandits in Darfur killed and abducted civilians, humanitarian workers, and United Nations – African Union Mission in Darfur UNAMID personnel8

A panel of experts at the United Nations found, in 2005, that sexual and gender-based violence occurred throughout Darfur At this time, there were non-governmental organizations that worked to stop this gender violence However, the government expelled thirteen NGOs that resulted in the closure of most gender-based violence programs8 Before the independence of South Sudan in 2011, the Interim National Constitution in the Darfur area explicitly prohibited discrimination based on gender However, according to the 2009 Human Rights Report published by the US State Department, the government did not effectively enforce this provision8

Independence of South Sudanedit

A young girl hanging the flag of South Sudan

Sudan, before the separation of South Sudan, was Africa's largest country by land area and is a large supplier of oil9 On January 9, 2011, the population of the southern states of Sudan voted to become formally independent of the North9 98% of the approximate eight-million voters chose to become independent9

This separation was the result of Sudan's failure to democratize and the flawed implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement CPA9 This agreement ended the longest civil conflict on the continent Ever since the decolonization of Sudan in the 1950s, the "predominantly black and Christian or animist South had sought either autonomy or independence from the Arabic-speaking, Muslim-dominated North"9 The quest for oil-wealth was also a factor in conflict within Sudan Democracy was never given a chance to succeed in Sudan because no multiparty election has producing a stable government and three elected governments have been overthrown by military coups9

Government policiesedit

Studies of gender inequality in Sudan have gone through two basic stages, according to Seteny Shami10 The early stage, characterized by the neglect of women as a research priority, must be related to development conceptions in the post-independence period, from 1956 until the 1970s Women-related issues were seldom given research attention and when studied were dealt with in a cursory and superficial manner that neglected some of their fundamental dimensions The second stage began with the declaration of the United Nations Decade for Women in 1975 This was characterized by a reversal of the early stage's trends and a new interest in research on women10 This research, however, aimed at using the funds pouring in from international agencies to set up 'women's projects' rather than actually seeking to improve the welfare of the women themselves10 One of these projects that is very influential in Sagannawhere is a sandug, which is an association of rotating credit groups10 Sandugs are composed of small groups of people who trust each other and are thus accountable for each other's credit-worthiness This was an early form of Micro-credit for women who needed money for an unexpected expense or for business purposes The sandugs in Sudan differ in the number of members, the amount of the contribution, the form of the contribution, and the duration of the loans10

Since 1983, there has been a Women's Union which has been instrumental in setting up the Housewives' Organization10 This organization's goal is to facilitate access to rare consumer goods at reasonable prices for housewives10

Legal status of genderedit

The legal system of Sudan is pluralistic: Sharia Islamic religious law, civil, and customary law have coexisted for nearly a century5

As of 2011, Sudan was one of only six countries in the world that had not signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women CEDAW The other countries that have not signed CEDAW are the Holy See, Iran, Somalia, South Sudan and Tonga The United States and Palau have signed, but not yet ratified the treaty3 CEDAW is an international convention adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly3 This international bill of rights for women sets basic standards that must be implemented to promote gender equality Sudan's stance indicates the lack of importance of gender equality


The difference in education between boys and girls is one of the most obvious and critical inequalities in Sudan11 Girls in general just learn how to read and write and some simple arithmetic and exit school when they reach puberty, which coincides with six years of primary school12 The Gender Parity Index in primary education in Sudan as of 2006 was 082 This index is used to measure the relative access to education of males and females The gender parity index is calculated first by determining the population of official school age for each level of education13 Then, the Gross Enrollment Ratio would be calculated and the number of students enrolled in each level is divided by the population of official school age children The result is multiplied by one hundred This is all separate for girls and boys "The Gender parity index is then calculated by dividing the female Gross Enrollment Ratio by the male Gross Enrollment Ratio for the given level of education"13 A lot of educational and classification information is needed for this calculation, thus as of 2012 there are eight United Nations countries that do not collect the necessary data to compute the gender parity index

The female population with at least a secondary education in 2010 was 128% for females compared with 182% for males14 Although both of these are very low, males have a statistically more significant opportunity to obtain a secondary education


Women in Sudan do not have the same access to healthcare that men do One critical measure of the access to basic healthcare services is the maternal mortality rate This defines the death of pregnant women and is directly related to the levels of available healthcare services In 2008, the maternal mortality rate in Sudan was 750 per 100,000 live births14 Comparatively, the rate for a developed nation like the United State is 91 per 100,000 live births The adolescent fertility rate is a part of the Millennium Development Goals The adolescent fertility rate is a measurement of adolescent births per 1,000 women This is a general indicator of the burden of fertility on young women in a country The rate for Sudan in 2011 was 619 per 1,00014 Reproductive health is another critical component of women's health in Sudan The contraceptive prevalence rate of married women ages 15–49 in 2009 was 8%14 Comparatively, the rate for the same population of women in the United States at the same time was 73%14 The rate of women with at least one antenatal visit from 2005-2009 was 64%14 Also, the rate of births by a skilled health professional from 2005-2009 was 49% in Sudan14 Finally, the Total fertility rate for women in Sudan in 2011 was 42 This is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime assuming normal conditions


Religious backgroundedit

Religion is very influential on the culture of Sudan with 97% of the population adhering to Islam12 Since religion is so influential in society it provides the structure of gender roles The attitudes of Muslim men towards women are mainly governed by religious precepts In the Koran, Sura 4:34, it is said that men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other because they spend their wealth to maintain them12 Traditional societal rules are established in Sudan that describe the role of women This is particularly obvious in the case of religious marriage If the husband dies, the widow either marries again and gives up her children to the husband's family or remains a widow for the rest of her life In Sudanese society, a widow is socially respected if she behaves according to the traditional rules and regulations of the society12

Islamist goalsedit

There has been a rise of "Islamism" in Muslim northern Sudan since 1971, and particularly its gender dimension, is meaningful5 According to Sondra Hale, there are a variety of goals and strategies that this rise of Islam includes These are: to manipulate religious ideology toward a more "authentic" culture, to represent, reiterate, or reinforce the centrality of women within that "authentic" culture, to create a new trend in the gender division of labor or to stem recent changes within that labor system, and to purge from an "authentic" women's culture particular non-Islamic customs that "weaken the morals" of women5 In 1989 there was a consolidation of Islamist power that changed the "formal and informal national and local debates" about gender, law, and labor5 The government of Sudan wanted to appear more modern and propagandized women's education and work participation5 Before this, there was more direct involvement of the Sudanese government by the mosque of Islam Since 1989, Islam is still very influential but the Sudanese government has made attempts of modernization According to Afshar however, her studies indicate that it is the ideologies of male supremacy rather than any specific religion that affects women's lives more directly15

Economic participationedit

Background on the economyedit

The economy of Sudan is composed of a mostly male workforce In one factory in 1981, women workers were making about 70% of a male machinist's pay15 This, however, does not amount to the majority of labor opportunities for women in Sudan This is because most civilization in Sudan is rural and there has not been much foreign direct investment to spur more industrial economic opportunities The majority of women participate in agricultural activities, and most of them are making an "unrecognizable" contribution15 Afshar's main argument is that women should have a more productive role in the development process to "counteract the destructive politics of food, and the spread of hunger to the rural areas"15 Women must concentrate on providing food for the household, in addition at many times to providing much of the financial support for the family15

Women's role in land ownership also varies in Sudan There is diversity in the country, institutional, and political context in regard to gender in land transactions16

Gender division of labor in agricultureedit

According to Shami, at least 87% of Sudan's female labor force was concentrated in agriculture Of these, 78%-90% were involved in the traditional subsistence sector, whereas only 10% are involved in the modern sector17

Subsistence family labor farming is primarily unpaid labor that is limits the economic participation of the worker The majority of family labor is performed by women and children15 According to Haleh Afshar, family labor is based on kinship relationships where the norm dictates a sense of communal labor Paid labor is based on a contractual understanding between the farmer and worker15 Women in Sudan are often not given opportunities to manage subsistence plots on their own18 A primary limitation to gender equality in Sudan is the necessity of obtaining the credit which is needed to manage a farm Credit shail in Sudan is extended culturally only to men by shopkeepers and merchants, and males are termed 'farmers' with women called 'farm workers' even though both work on farms15

While the paid income goes to men in the villages, it is not necessarily spent or invested in the family, nor does it always go towards farm improvements15 Certain market conditions in Sudan seem likely to result in the growing equality of male and female workers; however, this has not been the case15 The case of Sudan is unique in that land is plentiful and labor is limited5 Despite this shortfall of labor, women are not encouraged to participate in modernized agriculture15

Subsistence farmingedit

In Sudan, subsistence women farmers face economic development limitations9 There is an inconsistency between the policy goals in agricultural improvement and the resulting demise of women farmers15

Although women are not expected to work for pay or have a profession, there are sometimes opportunities to earn income as long as it is 'assisting' the household financially These women are allowed to work at home and in the fields with the cultural understanding that this is not a profession15 Women are publicly and culturally relegated to a position inferior to that of men and there is an assumption that division of work along sex lines prevails, according to Haleh Afshar

Although women play a crucial role in the agricultural cycle, their role has not improved as a result of technology in the agricultural sector It tends to concentrate on the production of cash crops, and women are not encouraged to participate in this activity15

Political participationedit

Despite the enormous cultural and economic limitations of women in Sudan, women comprise 241% of the national parliament as of 20124 This percentage, however, does not represent the number of women in positions of power throughout the country Many other nations developed and developing have similar percentages of women in politics Alazaa Mohamad Abdullah was the first woman in Sudan to attend political courts in 192419 Also, Khalda Zahir Sarour Alsadat was one of the first women in power involved in politics She performed clear political activities as a student and helped establish the Sudanese Women Union in 195219

Social and cultural normsedit

There are a variety of social obligations required of women in Sudan that are not necessary for men These range from birth, marriage, female genital mutilation, and the performance of family death rituals15 These rituals require physical, mental, and time commitments that are not responsibly of men The obligations of family rituals are directly aligned with the women in the household Often, women are required to perform the rituals in addition to their daily chores In cases of marriage rituals, the invited women are expected to literally shut-down their houses for the duration of the festivities and move to the place where the rituals are being held15


Mother and child in Sudan

Symbolically the 'house' represents and reflects the woman's overall role in a historically male 'structure'15 Even within the confines of their compound though, conformity of dress, manner of speech, and tone of voice, are required and expected15 This expected subservience is based in cultural and social norms and deviations to these are not allowed

Beauty ritualsedit

Dukhan scented smoke bath and dilka scented massage are two beauty rituals that are expected to be performed by women2021

Female genital mutilationedit

Main article: female genital mutilation

In Sudan, feminine identities are created and re-created through a multiplicity of gender ideologies and ritual practices One of the most unexpected signs of identity transformation of women in South Sudan is their adoption of female genital mutilation, which was almost never practiced in the South but was nearly universal in the North22

There are four primary types of this practice that is also sometimes called female genital cutting or female circumcision The first type involves removing the entire clitoral hood The second strategy includes removal of the clitoris and the inner labia The third type "also known as infibulation includes the removal of all or part of the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, and the fusion of the wound, leaving a small hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood—the fused wound is opened for intercourse and childbirth"18 The fourth type of genital mutilation includes a variety of other procedures from piercing to full vaginal cutting

Female genital mutilation ceremony

This action exemplifies a horizontal transmission of tradition, not from one generation to another within an ethno-cultural group but from one group to another in newly shared circumstances In embracing female circumcision, women depart from their own cultural traditions and reshape their personhood as well as their bodies22 Ninety-one percent of the female population in the North of Sudan still adhere to this practice, according to Rogaia Abusharaf

During colonial rule, British authorities were apprehensive that southern women would accept this female genital mutilation, which colonial officials regarded as not only alien to the South but also inherently repulsive22 For females, circumcision comprises a variety of ritualized surgeries, including clitoridectomy, excision, and infibulation, all of which have been performed for thousands of years22

Many international organizations have targeted female genital mutilation as a practice that needs to be eradicated The World Health Organization WHO has done much research on the societal factors contribution to this procedure Much of this research is through interviewing in order to create educational campaigns to deter it in the future One study was conducted by the WHO in 1997 in Sudan Their results showed that social pressure, particularly from older women, had a great influence on the decision to perform this cutting23

Two-thirds of the women said that this procedure was done “to satisfy the husband”, but none of the women said their husband had made the decision on their own23

Through research like this, the World Health Organization, in addition to other organizations, have targeted education of young women in these rural areas as a primary criterion to stop female genital mutilation

Measurement of gender inequalityedit

Gender Inequality Indexedit

The Gender Inequality Index is a measurement of gender disparity that was introduced in the 2010 Human Development Report Human Development Indices are relative classifications across the 187 countries denoted as very high, high, medium each with 47 countries and low with 46 countries The 2013 United Nations Development Programme UNDP report ranks Sudan as the #129 country out of 147 on the gender inequality index4 This is in the low human development quartile This index ranking is a calculation of maternal mortality rate, adolescent fertility rate, females in the national parliament, population with at least a secondary education, and the labor force participation rate4 The figures from the 2012 UNDP report of Sudan compared to the average of the countries in the "Low Human Development" category are below

GII Value Maternal Mortality Rate Adolescent Fertility Rate Seats in National Parliament female Population with Secondary Education female Population with Secondary Education male Labor Force Participation Rate female Labor Force Participation Rate male
LHD Average 0578 405 860 192 180 320 564 799
Sudan 0604 730 530 241 128 182 309 765

The disparity between women and men in the labor force is particularly disconcerting 769% of men are active in the 'formal' labor force compared to that of women, 309%4 Thus, nearly 50% more men participate in economic activities compared to women Sudan ranks lower in all of the categories than the average low human development country except for the adolescent fertility rate and in female seats in the national assembly

See alsoedit

  • History of Sudan
  • Human rights in Sudan
  • South Sudan
  • Women in South Sudan


  1. ^ a b "Freedom in the World 2013: Democratic Breakthroughs in the Balance" PDF Freedom House p 17 Retrieved April 13, 2013 
  2. ^ a b MDG, Report 2009 "Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals" Economic Commission for Africa 
  3. ^ a b c CEDAW "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination" United Nations 
  4. ^ a b c d e Human Development Report 2012 "The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World" United Nations Development Programme 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Hale, Sondra 1996 Gender Politics in Sudan: Islamism, Socialism, and the State Boulder: Westview Press ISBN 0813324319 
  6. ^ Boddy, Janice 2007 Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan Princeton: Princeton University Press ISBN 0691123047 In 1820, the region of current-day Sudan had been invaded by the khedive of Ottoman Egypt, Mohammed Ali, and made an Egyptian colony Sixty years later, a charismatic Muslim holy man and political dissident, known as the Mahdi, rose up to threaten Egypt's control then under British rule In 1884 his supporters besieged the colonial capital, Khartoum; in 1885 the city government was overthrown, and Gordon, the colony's contractual governor, was killed Sudan then became an independent Islamic state It remained so until 1898 when a joint invasion by Britain and Egypt defeated the Mahdi's successor The victory was presented to the British public as vengeance for Gordon's "Christian martrydom" 
  7. ^ Ahmed, Abdel 2003 Anthropology in the Sudan: Reflections by a Sudanese Anthropologist Michigan State University Press 
  8. ^ a b c d Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor "2009 Human Rights Report: Sudan" US Department of State  CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list link
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Medani, Khalid 2011 "Strife and Secession in Sudan" Journal of Democracy 22 3: 135–149 doi:101353/jod20110053 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Shami, Seteney 1990 Women in Arab Society: Work Patterns and Gender Relations in Egypt, Jordan and Sudan Providence: Berg Publishers Limited ISBN 0854967249 
  11. ^ Klasen, Stephen; Lamanna, Francesca 2009 "The Impact of Gender Inequality in Education and Employment on Economic Growth" Feminist Economics 15 3: 91–132 doi:101080/13545700902893106 
  12. ^ a b c d Ismail-Schmidt, Ellen 1990 Dr Germany: Hundt Druck ISBN 3980125912 
  13. ^ a b United Nations "Millennium Development Goals Indicators" 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g United Nations "Human Development Reports" 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Afshar, Haleh 1985 Women, Work, and Ideology in the Third World London: Tavistock Publications ISBN 0422797103 
  16. ^ Behrman, Julia 2012 "The Gender Implications of Large-Scale Land Deals" Journal of Peasant Studies 39 1: 49–79 doi:101080/030661502011652621 
  17. ^ Karshenas, Massoud 2001 "Agriculture and Economic Development in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia" Cambridge Journal of Economics 25 3: 315–342 doi:101093/cje/253315 
  18. ^ a b Momoh, Comfort 2005 "Female Genital Mutilation" Radcliffe Publishing 
  19. ^ a b Kashif, Haga "Sudanese Women Empowerment for Peace" 
  20. ^ Dukhan description
  21. ^ Dukhan and dilka
  22. ^ a b c d Abusharaf, Rogaia 2009 Transforming Displaced Women in Sudan: Politics and the Body in a Squatter Settlement Chicago: The University of Chicago Press ISBN 0226002004 
  23. ^ a b Berggren, Almoroth 2001 "Reinfibulation among Women in a Rural Area in Central Sudan" World Health Organization 

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