A recent news article posted by IRIN, a humanitarian news and analysis project of the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, described the dire situation of women and children in Southern Sudan. According to the online article “women and children are being increasingly targeted in escalating attacks against communities in Southern Sudan…” and further “there is a drastic escalation in violence…different to the traditional violence that occurs.” Reports of this kind are not new, women and children are typically part of the more vulnerable sectors of society, especially in conflict zones. We see similar humanitarian reports emerging from Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine to name a few.
The plight of women is often used as a catalyst for engaging in humanitarian or military intervention. Generally enveloped within a larger political agenda, such as supporting an election or peace process, women issues are seldom the primary focus. According to IRIN, the concern for the Sudanese officials is that the increasing violence in the Southern States will derail the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) under whose auspices elections are being planned for 2010 and possible Southern autonomy in 2011. While the CPA process is worthy cause, it is rather disheartening that the plight of women and children is not a political issue that stands alone. Instead we are confronted with the dire situation of Sudanese women and then asked to frame the issues as one that fits a larger agenda, bigger than human rights.
A word of caution to supporters and followers of humanitarian intervention: lift the veil and seek to understand the truth behind an intervention. Hold our governments and NGO’s responsible and accountable and ask the tough questions, why are we fighting and what are we fighting for?
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