Sudanese Women's Union

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Women's-rights organization.

The Sudanese Women's Union (SWU), an affiliate of the Sudanese Communist Party and an heir of the Educated Girls' Association and the Association of Sudanese Women as well as other organizations of the 1940s, was founded in 1952. Its first executive committee was composed of Fatima Talib, Khalda Zahir, and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim.

The SWU was active during the late nationalist period (19521956). It reached its zenith in 1965, when it had branches throughout the country and a successful monthly publication, Sawt al-Marʾa (Woman's voice), and had made gains in women's rights such as suffrage, equal pay, and maternity leave. In addition, its president, Fatima Ibrahim, was the first woman elected to parliament. Under Ibrahim's leadership, the SWU gained prominence as one of the largest and most effective women's organizations on the African continent, boasting some 15,000 members at its peak.

Political repression under successive military governments took a toll on the SWU. Ultimately, with the Islamist military coup d'etat in 1989, the SWU was forced underground and Ibrahim into exile in London. Nonetheless, in the 1990s Amnesty International and the United Nations presented the SWU with human-rights awards for its history of struggle and its efforts in exile.

see also gender: gender and law; gender: gender and politics; ibrahim, fatima ahmed; sudan; sudanese civil wars.


Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. "Women and Social Liberation: The Sudan Experience." In Three Studies on National Integration in the Arab World. North Dartmouth, MA: Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1974.

Hale, Sondra. Gender Politics in Sudan: Islamism, Socialism, and the State. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996.

Hall, Marjorie, and Ismail, Bakhita Amin. Sisters under the Sun: The Story of Sudanese Women. London: Longman, 1981.

Mahmoud, Fatima Babiker. The Role of the Sudanese Women's Movement in Sudanese Politics. Unpublished M.A. dissertation, University of Khartoum, 1971.

Niblock, Tim. Class and Power in Sudan. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.

Sanousi, Magda M. el-, and Amin, Nafissa Ahmed el-. "The Women's Movement, Displaced Women, and Rural Women in Sudan." In Women and Politics Worldwide, edited by Barbara Nelson and Najma Chowdhury. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994.

sondra hale