Minister of State Conor Lenihan meets Sudanese Human Rights Advocate Maha Alsherief
The Minister of State for Development Cooperation and Human Rights, Mr. Conor Lenihan T.D., today met with Ms. Maha Alsherief of the Sudan Social Development Organisaion to discuss the plight of women in refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan.
According to the UN, some 3.4 million people continue to be affected by the conflict in Darfur, of whom 1.8 million are internally displaced and approximately 300,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad. This level of internal displacement has exacerbated rates of violence against women, or Gender Based Violence, including rape, sexual assault and abduction.
Speaking after the meeting the Minister said, “All too frequently we see the brutal rape of women and children used as a weapon of war. Sexual violence is now an integral and devastating part of the ongoing conflict in Darfur.
It was the reports of widespread and systematic rape in Darfur that provided the impetus for the joint initiative between my Department, Amnesty International and several Irish NGOs on violence against women. This consortium's report Gender Based Violence – a failure to protect…a challenge to action was launched by Mary Robinson on November 18 of 2005.
First, and perhaps most important among the report's recommendations was that donors should listen to and engage with local communities. If we are to effectively help them and advocate on their behalf, we must understand their needs and fears.
Ms. Alsherief's works on the ground in the refugee camps in Darfur, specifically with victims of sexual assault and abduction. I welcome this opportunity to listen to her first-hand experience and recommendations for action by donors such as ourselves. It is invaluable information that can only enhance our understanding of the scale and harrowing affects of this type of violence.”
Note for editors:
Ms. Alsherief was invited to Ireland as a guest of Front Line - an organisation for the protection of human rights defenders to speak at Féile Bríde 2006 – Shining Lights on Human Rights. Development Cooperation Ireland has provided support to Front Line since its foundation in 2001. Under its Human Rights and Democratisation scheme, Frontline has received a total of €569,074 to date.
In 2004-2005 , the Irish Government provided €1.5 million to support the African Union mission in Darfur. This was in addition to the €15 million pledged by the Irish Government for the recovery and reconstruction of Sudan in April 2005.
1 February 2006