The Brilliant Women Making A Difference In Sudan's Female-Led Revolution

For 155 days so far — almost half a year — protests against the Sudanese regime have taken over life in the country. It took 113 of those days to finally depose its president of 30 years, Omar Al-Bashir, in a phenomenal first win for its citizens. However, his regime remains and, since April 6, hundreds of thousands of the population have formed a sit-in demanding their democracy.

Despite the oppressive Public Order Law, a moral prohibition that can arbitrarily punish women for "indecent acts" such as wearing trousers or walking alone, and despite government orders for militia to target them in shocking ways, women powerfully form the vast majority of protests. They have refused to let energy lull, instead becoming the loudest voices carrying out the most rebellious actions.

A cultural renaissance has appeared to begin blossoming as public squares buzz with debate, artistry, and the excitement of feeling the future at their fingertips. Vogue speaks to three among these leading women who are vital to the paradigm shift.

The Poet

Marwa Babiker is a modern griot, documenting stories through poetry. Her work on the uprisings took her from an audience of 1,000 followers on Facebook to over 111,000 today. She wrote her first poem 12 years ago, borne of the rage of being told that only men could speak on political issues. Now, as an exceptional Neuroscience PhD student and frequent public speaker, she reflects women's boundless capacity.



The area of the sit-in is huge so they set up stages all over the place to display art, raise awareness about political issues and host discussions about how to lift our country, with singers singing revolutionary songs. I have been on many of these stages with my poetry.


The immediate demand is that we want the transitional military council to handover power for a civilian government, so that's why people are still at the sit-in.

The motto of the revolution that people have been chanting is freedom, peace, and justice. The majority of people are Muslim but we have Christians and a few Jewish people too and we want every single one to have the freedom to follow their own beliefs. We want our freedom to dress or to at least not to have the Public Order Law.

We want to prosecute those in the previous regime that committed genocide, war crimes, or participated in the killing or torture of any Sudanese citizen. We have Darfur in the West, we have the Nuba Mountains; we have a lot of war zones. We want everyone to be equal and we want peace.

There are people who are consultants or in very high medical positions who left their jobs to sit at the sit-in. The situation in the hospitals in Sudan is very bad, they lack essential life-saving medications and a lot of people cannot afford treatments. The doctors are on strike and broke the record of the longest doctors’ strike in history.

I’ve been on national TV twice on two different programmes. I said a few poems and talked about the previous government in a very negative way then described the sit-in and march that day. It's a huge step because Sudan for years has never allowed someone against the government to talk [on television] and they have a lot of conservative rules. I was on without my hijab, I think I’m the first one to do that in like 30 years. A lot of people took a screenshot of me on television without the headscarf and it went viral.

Women were [wearing white toubs, the traditional wear of married Sudanese women] as a symbol to support the revolution, so I wrote a poem about how women in Sudan were believed to be just for the kitchen. We have a very old saying in my country that "even if a woman is an axe it will not cut anything". I used that in my poetry to say now we know that this is absolutely not true.

Historically, the women of Sudan have been there to motivate the men to pull through wars. Even in [past] revolutions their role was almost motivational. But now, this has changed, they’re not only motivational, they are side-by-side with them in the revolution, doing every single thing that men are doing. I believe in the past four months we moved forward 40 years.

Before the revolution, I was set to probably live the rest of my life outside of Sudan. Now, I believe that I might be able to play a part in this change. We don’t have many PhD neuroscientists or scientific labs so perhaps I could be the one to start something like that. It’s time for us to go back and to be part of the process.


Amel Mukhtar


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