From instigating violence to building peace : the changing role of women in Darfur Region of Western Sudan
The article sets out to examine the changing role of women vis-ร -vis inter-communal conflicts in Darfur region of western Sudan. The region is currently riddled with violent inter-group conflicts. Women are commonly accused of being one of the causes of such conflicts and the instigators of violence in general. This rather unfounded perception about women confuses their actual role today with regard to peace and war, and denies women their legitimate demand for participation in public life, including peace building and conflict resolution. The article attempts to separate fact from fancy. It points out that it is true that a small number of women in the region still act as instigators of violence. These are the women who live among nomadic communities and are generally known as Hakkamas - which literally means arbiters of man's conduct. The majority of women, however, are found among rural sedentary communities. Many women are also found in the urban centres. Both sedentary and urbanised women are strong advocates of peaceful coexistence among the regional identity groups. The male-dominated social structure impairs their effective participation in conflict prevention, management and resolution. The article is based on information obtained from the women themselves. No attempt is made to put words in their mouths or dictate for them the way they should behave. Findings are considered important for both researchers and decision-makers. It is about time to change the misconception that analysts have about the actual role of women vis-ร -vis peace and war in the region. It has been argued that changing the Hakkama role would only be possible by changing the entire social milieu in which the Hakkama finds herself. The situation calls for enormous developmental projects that lead to conflict transformation. Nomadic communities need to be settled so that women need not preserve the image of the 'warrior-man'. On the other hand, the demands made by the rural sedentary and urbanised women need to be met and women's associations need to be empowered so that women can become actual peace builders rather than violence instigators.
African Journal on Conflict Resolution Vol. 4 (1) 2004: pp. 11-26