Sudanese Women's Union

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Sudanese Women's Union
الاتحاد النسائي السوداني
FoundersFatima Ahmed Ibrahim, Fatima Talib, Khalida Zahir
Focuswomen's rights
Area served

The Sudanese Women's Union (SWU, Arabic: الاتحاد النسائي السوداني‎, transliteration: Aletahad Elnees'y Alsodanni) is a Sudanese women's rights organisation that is one of the biggest post-independence women's rights organisations in Africa.[1]:43


The Sudanese Women's Union (SWU) was created in 1952 during the struggle for independence from Britain, with Fatima Talib, Khalida Zahir and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim forming the executive committee.[1] In 1956, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim was elected president of the SWU.[2] Khalida Zahir was elected president in 1958.[3]


The SWU was Pan-Africanist in its early years. It organised women's solidarity actions for women and against apartheid in Zambia, South Africa and Namibia; in protest against the 1961 execution of Patrice Lumumba in the Republic of the Congo; in protest against the arrest of Djamila Bouhired,[1] an Algerian anti-colonial activist who in 2019 participated in 2019 Algerian street protests;[4] and in support of Palestinian women activists.[1]

In Sudan, the SWU campaigned in favour of girls' education during the British colonial period in which education was only organised for a small minority of boys and the British authorities opposed formal education for girls. The SWU created schools for girls in Khartoum and Omdurman and in 1970 organised an international conference against women's illiteracy that was attended by many women's organisations from around Africa. The SWU created evening classes for adult women, encouraging literacy and women's health education and opposing underage and forced marriages.[1]

The SWU also campaigned for polygamy to be regulated;[1] for the right to consent to marriage; against laws requiring abused women to return to their husbands;[5] for women's employment, for equal pay, and against discrimination against "Africans".[1]

After Sudanese women gained electoral rights in the October 1964 Sudanese Revolution, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim became, in 1965, the first woman elected as a member of the Sudanese parliament (at the time called the Constitutional Assembly)[1] and, according to author Caitlin Davies and Middle East Monitor, the first woman member of any African parliament.[6][2]

The post-1964 prime minister Gaafar Nimeiry banned the SWU and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim was held under house arrest for two years.[5]

Campaigning by the SWU and other feminists continued during the 1960s and 70s and led to improvements in family law and equal rights for men and women in the 1973 Constitution.[1]


The SWU (along with many other citizens' associations) was officially dissolved in 1989 when Omar al-Bashir took power in a coup d'état.[1] The SWU continued to operate unofficially. Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, in exile in London, created a London branch of the SWU.[5]

On 13 July 2012, the SWU together with other citizens' groups organised protests in cities in Sudan against the repression of demonstrators and against the torture and abuses of female activists by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).[1]

Sudanese Revolution[edit]

In August 2019, during the Sudanese transition to democracy period that followed the first 2018–2019 civil disobedience, coup and massacre phases of the Sudanese Revolution, the SWU argued that since women had played as significant a role in the revolution as men, positions chosen by civilian–military consensus in the Cabinet of Ministers should be allotted equally between men and women, stating that Sudanese women "claim an equal share of 50-50 with men at all levels, measured by qualifications and capabilities".[7]


The SWU was awarded the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 1993, along with eight other groups and individuals.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Osman, Amira (2014). "Beyond the pan-Africanist agenda: Sudanese women's movement, achievements and challenges" (PDF). Feminist Africa (19): 43. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 October 2019. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b Charles, Khalil (15 August 2017). "Friends and foes unite to honour Sudan's first female MP". Middle East Monitor. Archived from the original on 2 October 2019. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  3. ^ "1st January Sudan National Day: Women Role In Independence Movement". Sudanow. 23 December 2018. Archived from the original on 15 November 2019. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  4. ^ "Algeria: Tens of thousands protest president's bid for fifth term". Al Jazeera English. 1 March 2019. Archived from the original on 2 October 2019. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Kile, J (16 June 2013). "Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim". Moral Heroes. Archived from the original on 2 October 2019. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  6. ^ Davies, Caitlin (3 June 2018). "Sudanese Women's Union". Archived from the original on 2 October 2019. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Sudan signs power-sharing deal as its former dictator goes to trial". Vox. 19 August 2019. Archived from the original on 19 August 2019. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  8. ^ "The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights – List of previous recipients". OHCHR. 2019. Archived from the original on 27 May 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2019.