In a speech at Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman, Sudan, on April 9, USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg announced a new USAID global grant initiative to increase women’s participation in peace processes. Grants of up to $2 million each, totaling up to $14 million, may be made available for projects that support UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for women’s involvement in all aspects of peace and security, recognizing their leadership in peacemaking, and ending sexual violence in conflict.
“We all know that when social order breaks down, it is women who suffer most,” said Steinberg, who visited the university during a three-day visit to northern and southern Sudan. “But we have to reject the vision of women as victims. Women are not victims. Women are the key to building just and lasting peace, stable and prosperous economies, and vibrant civil societies.”
The new program provides funding for female negotiators and mediators to fully participate in peace processes, taking into account their potential need for assistance with child care, transportation, accommodations, and security.
Steinberg said USAID will continue to assist people throughout Sudan, as the largest country in Africa prepares to divide into two nations July 9, following the overwhelming vote of southern Sudanese in January to secede and form an independent country.
In Juba, Steinberg visited Juba Port, where thousands of Sudanese have returned from the North to their areas of origin in the South. Since October 30, more than 307,000 Sudanese have returned from northern to southern Sudan and the “Three Areas” along the north-south border (Abyei, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile). Steinberg learned about the challenges returnees face, including scarcity of livelihood opportunities and access to basic services such as water, education, and health care.
One widow with eight children told Steinberg she has no family members living in the south and didn’t know where she and her children would go or who would help them. Staff with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) indicated that returnees in such situations qualify for UNHCR’s vulnerable assistance program that provides help with immediate needs such as transport and emergency shelter. USAID staff in Juba planned to follow up with UNHCR on her case as an example of how returnees are assisted.