‘Together we can reweave the social fabric of Darfur’

VOND, the Dutch acronym for The Netherlands-Darfur Women Foundation, empowers women leaders and youth by supporting women organizations in Darfur. Director Mekka Abdelgabar discusses the essential role women have in the Darfur peace process.

‘Sudan is a divided country. When I travel there and talk to people that belong to a tribe that lives in conflict with other tribes I tell them about Europe. That Europe too was once divided and in conflict. And then I tell them that the European countries ended their conflict and are now working together and everybody benefits. With this example I want to show them the importance of mediation.’

Mekka Abdelgabar

Mekka Abdelgabar during her recent appearance at HagueTalks

Essential role

‘Through the years women organizations have played an important role in the implementation of humanitarian and development programs in Darfur. For instance, because these organizations are community-based they can persuade women from conflicting tribes to come together to utilize common facilities. In doing so they play an essential role in the peace building and reconciliation processes.

Reweaving the social fabric

‘VOND was established in 2005 by a group of Darfurian women living in The Netherlands. The main objective is to help women develop their leadership skills. Through our leadership trainings we empower women to further work together. Because VOND brings together women leaders from different tribes, backgrounds and political affiliations we work on social cohesion. In this way they can restore the ties that were broken by the war and reweave the social fabric of Darfur.’

Teaching different skills

‘In our training we touch upon a lot of different subjects that are related to peace building, reconciliation, mediation and management of diversity. For instance, we talk about the Sudanese constitution and laws and the Darfur peace agreements, especially the issues about women. We discuss gender equality, and we analyse relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council. Like UNSCR 1325, on women,peace and security. And we also teach organizational skills like planning, monitoring and reporting.’

Building thinking skills

‘Developing leadership skills for women community leaders is not our only focus. VOND is also training young university graduates to consolidate peace and to develop the region and become mediators themselves. Through courses in life-, communication- and critical thinking skills we build their resilience. As a result they can be part of the peace process. VOND is also coaching them to become entrepreneurs so they can create employment. This provides an alternative for young, less educated Darfuri men. Currently these men usually become soldiers, either for  the government, militia leaders or as a mercenary.’

Dutch-Sudanese cooperation

‘From the very beginning we have worked together with Dutch ngo’s and government organizations. We regularly invite Dutch professional trainers to give courses during our learning events. We are members of the Dutch gender platform Wo=men. Through them we participate in the groups Women, Peace and Security and the Lobby group which works closely with the ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry also advises us on our projects and the development and implementation of the National Action Plans 1325.’

Earlier this month, Mrs Abdelgabar talked about women as agents for peace at HagueTalks.