Hundreds of women displaced by recent inter-communal fighting in the Al Geneina town of West Darfur are suffering from anxiety and depression as they shoulder the responsibility of caring for their families without husbands, say women’s rights activists in Sudan’s western region.
The fighting that erupted in April left more than 200 people dead and a little more than 200 others wounded.
Thousands of families have been sheltering in government buildings, schools and mosques in overcrowded conditions with limited access to proper sanitation, according to Sumeya Musa, a women’s advocate with the local nongovernmental organization, Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa.
“Some don’t have a place to sleep, some lose their job and property and everything. Some are suffering from social pressure, raising children alone, taking care of elderly and sick people and yet they don’t earn anything for life, so these economic and social pressures have really affected their lives,” Musa told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus program.
Sixty-five-thousand people — mostly women and children — were displaced in the wake of the violence, according to the United Nations.
Musa said some women reported being raped or sexually harassed but most incidents of sexual violence are covered up for fear of stigma.
“There are a lot of women who got miscarriages and they really are in need of psycho-social support. There are those who have unwanted pregnancy through rape cases and other forms of gender-based violence. We all know that during war time, a lot of things happen,” Musa told VOA.
Sudanese women are hoping peace will be restored soon so they can return to their homes, said Musa. She said many of the women know that a peace deal was signed between the transitional government and armed groups but are not clear on what it entails regarding women’s rights.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir mediated the talks between Sudan’s transitional government and the armed groups in the South Sudanese capital, Juba. The transitional government was created following the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir after three decades in power. Women were key players in the pro-democracy revolution in Sudan. Women helped organize protests that led to al-Bashir’s removal from office.
Several women in the gathering sites do not want to talk about the abuses they suffered during the recent fighting, believing they will not receive help or see justice in the court system, said Musa.
“The most important thing is to give full protection to women against all forms of violence. Especially at homes or on the streets against sexual harassment when they are going out to look for work or they are returning back to the camp,” Musa told VOA.
The United Nations Population Fund has set up five temporary spaces where social workers coordinate with midwives deployed by the state health ministry to provide sexual and reproductive health services and support victims of gender-based violence.
Musa says she hopes more social workers, psychologists and health care providers will be deployed so that the women of West Darfur get the help they need.