The women’s movement of Sudan holds a significant influence over the country’s modern history. It spans across seventy years, from 1940 to 2010, and throughout a multitude of associations and individuals, allowing for a plethora of written works. However, at present, there are no established archives dedicated to the women’s movement of Sudan.
While there are many associations connected to the movement, none of them have constituted a comprehensive archive. Furthermore, collections and documents from individual association members remain scattered throughout private homes. This project conducted by the French Center for Economic, Legal and Social Studies and Documentation (CEDEJ) works to bridge and connect these materials. In association with the French Institute of African Worlds (IMAF), the University of Bahri/Khartoum, and the National Archives of Khartoum, this project will conduct a survey of existing materials and consult with leading members of the women’s movement.
The materials originate from three sources: women’s associations, individuals, and the press.
Women’s groups that will be involved include the following:
- Historical feminist organizations such as The Sudanese Women Union (1950-1965), and The International Islamic Women Union (1960s - present)
- Professional women’s unions connected to The Sudanese Women Union such as The Nurses Union (est. 1950), The Female Teachers’ League (est. 1950), The League of Working Women, and more
- Vocational and artisan women societies such as women food vendors, women artisans' societies, and more
- Political feminist alliances from 1950-2000, such as The Democratic Women Alliance, The Alliance of the Political Feminist Groups, and The National Association of the Democratic Women
- Women cultural societies, such as The Cultured Young Woman Society, The Female Plastic Artists, and more
- The National Archives of Khartoum, which holds copies of feminist journals
The private collections held by individuals of the movement include:
- Material related to the official activities of feminist organizations, such as bulletins, memoranda, minutes of meetings, membership statistics, and description of activities
- Personal memoirs written by pioneering women members of the feminist movement
- Movies and radio programs by/about the women movement
- Photographic documents witnessing the members and the activities of the women associations
Materials from the press that will be examined include:
- National newspapers documenting the history of the women’s movement
- Newspapers either from feminist associations and women’s trade unions or were independent but had a clear feminist rhetoric
While the Sudanese Revolution of 2019 allowed for some progress for the women’s movement, the political and social activities of many Sudanese women are still considered problematic or undervalued both publicly and privately. Government institutions have been known to shut down some women’s non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and confiscate their materials, which is a constant looming threat over this collection. Furthermore, many participants in the movement and holders of the materials are elderly, further pushing the need to document and preserve the material as well as the valued knowledge of the owners.
Despite the struggle to participate in socio-political rhetorics, the movement has richly contributed to the political, intellectual, and social cultures of Sudan through established groups, written works, publications, and more. The project team believes that building a cohesive collection with these materials will be an essential first step in further representing the women’s movement as well as encouraging research on women’s activism, labour, and equality.
Researchers of Sudan’s gender and political realms will benefit from the work of this project. Providing open access to this collection will allow for historians and scholars to dive deep into the country’s socio-political history at the grassroots level, highlighting the unique experiences of those underrepresented in historical narratives. Written works on Sudan’s history often focus on the activities of men, who dominate the socio-political stage. This collection works towards legitimizing women’s voices by creating a platform for their ongoing struggles towards equality.