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Undefined Boundaries: Crisis in Sudan

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By Neelima Ravindran:

An all out war between Sudan and the newly formed South Sudan looms large as the relations between the two neighbouring countries spiralled downwards with the bombing of a street market in South Sudan which resulted in the death of a boy and injured many others. The glimpse of peace following the receding of the South Sudanese troops from the oil town of Heglig escalated into a threat of a full blown combat as the Sudanese President Al-Bashir ruled out any talks with the south claiming that the latter knew only the language of gun and ammunition.

Sudan Over the Years

Sudan, formerly Africa‘s largest country, has been involved in years of civil unrest since its decolonisation from Britain in 1956 which saw power being given to the northern elites based in Khartoum, resulting in the First Sudanese civil war. North Sudan predominantly has an Arab population with close ties to Egypt while south Sudan has non Arabic and Christian population. These ethnic, religious, regional and cultural differences led to years of conflict which grew rapidly into a full scale civil war that ended in 1972 with the agreement of giving religious and cultural autonomy to the south. An uneasy calm prevailed over the region for ten years from 1972 to 1983, when formation of South Sudan Autonomous region helped the southern part enjoy self governance. The second Sudanese civil war from 1983 to 2005 ensued between the Sudanese government and the Sudan people’s Liberation Army fighting for the independence of the southern provinces after the then President Nimeiry declared all Sudan an Islamic state thereby terminating the South Sudan Autonomous Region. The resulting conflict lasted over two decades displacing an estimated four million and killing an estimated two million; leaving the country in disarray, economy in shambles, poverty rampant and zero investment. Peace was consolidated in 2005 with the signing of the Nairobi comprehensive peace agreement which gave six years of autonomy to the south to be followed by a referendum of independence. The referendum in 2011 was in favour of secession and on 9 June 2011, the Republic of South Sudan was born.

Neighbours in Conflict

But all is not well as the contention continues over the demarcation of the international borders as well as resource sharing. Both the countries depend heavily on the oil fields around the border lands. The two nations’ economic development too remain inter dependent. South Sudan which owns the major chunk of oil resources needs the help of Sudan to export its oil. Sudan demanding export transit fees seized shipment of South Sudan oil; in retaliation South Sudan shut down the oil production. The clashes that flared in these oil rich territories along the borders have affected economies of both the regions adversely. Many international firms including ONGC Videsh Ltd have discontinued production from the regions. The south’s occupation of the Heglig oil field has exposed an alarming dimension of the unacknowledged war that has been going on in the backdrop for quite some time. Though under international pressure, the South withdrew its troops, the hard liners in Sudan have raised the cry for the military forces to enter Juba. Heglig under the occupancy of South Sudan was thoroughly destroyed and looted further escalating the confrontation. President Bashir has vowed to liberate South Sudan from what he calls an ‘insect’ regime, a move that could be perilous as well as anarchic. The tensions have also intensified racist crimes against ethnic Southerners in Sudan, the latest being the burning down of a church. The government of both the regions are also accused of backing the proxy rebel factions of the other country, something which they have both denied vehemently. The foes are mobilising troops and weapons as they look ahead to the fall of the rival government leading to mounting tensions in the entire East African region.

The Road Ahead

Like all wars, any confrontation between the two countries would only lead to more agony and havoc. The countries have enough problems within their borders itself. The economic crisis persisting, lack of oil revenue would result in both struggling with high cost of war. There are also rebel groups inside the countries that the governments have to deal with. Malnutrition, poverty, rising cost etc have mounted the hardships of people on either sides of the border. Countless deaths, hordes of injuries and thousands of fleeing refugees have culminated in horrifying humanitarian crisis. The international community and the African union have urged both parties to return to the negotiating table. China which has trade ties and diplomatic relations with both the nations could play a major role in the negotiating process. In fact, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir is on a trip to China seeking support and help, which emphasizes China’s importance in the region, though it is clear that the Asian giant which has abundant oil reserves in the area is treading the path carefully. Issues of border demarcation, border monitoring mechanisms, division of national debt, export transit fee, residency conditions, and existing refugee crisis should be resolved amicably under the guidance of UN and AU. Both the countries must move on from their bitter history, looking forward at the long term interests of their respective nations and the African continent as a whole to ensure peace, respect and stability along their borders and among their people. Dialogue can win them the war that guns cannot.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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