10 Feb 2012 17:01
Source: alertnet // Katie Nguyen
|The home of a Nuba tribe family is seen on the side of a mountain in Kadogli town in the South Kordofan state of Sudan June 14, 2010. REUTERS/Mohamed Nurdldin Abdallh|
By Katie Nguyen
LONDON (AlertNet) – What do we know about women caught up in conflicts?
That they’re often subjected to rape, abduction and sexual violence. That just to collect water, they sometimes take desperate measures which expose them to even more danger – like aligning themselves to one of the warring factions.
It’s been documented again and again that women suffer disproportionately to men in times of conflict.
Yet despite this brutal reality, many women in one war-torn region – Sudan’s troubled South Kordofan state – said they were better able to cope with war than their men, according to a recent study.
“Women were different from men. They could build (a) house, bring (a) dying person from far and still be strong. They do not suffer like men,” a 35-year-old woman from the Moro tribe told researchers.
“We women can focus on looking after the household and deal with each problem as they come, but men just get angry and give up.”
Based on interviews with communities in South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains, the study is part of a project to record the views of local people about protection issues and the threats to their survival during major humanitarian crises.
It reveals that Nuba women believed they often had more stamina than men during the war that raged across the rugged range of granite outcrops, plateaus and escarpments between 1986 and 2005.
Psychologically, they felt much better equipped to endure the mental hardships of the war than their men.
“In working with women in conflict, we shouldn’t always put them in this ‘vulnerable women’ box that we do,” author of the report, Justin Corbett, told a briefing organised by the Overseas Development Institute this week.
“Women saw men as being much less able to deal with the situation and therefore more prone to getting depressed and angry, often resorting to drink to forget their problems,” the report said.
“Many told how men were less able than women to deal with hunger, crying children and bad living conditions.”
It went on to say the wisdom of the women interviewed was remarkable. One woman, who spoke of how men took out their anger about hunger and their children’s needs on their wives, suggested that counselling for men was needed.
South Kordofan, which borders newly independent South Sudan, is home to large communities that fought alongside south Sudanese SPLA rebel forces during its two-decade civil war against Khartoum, which ended in 2005.
The report noted that all Nuba men who were interviewed admitted without exception the crucial role of women in caring for the family as well as their wider contribution to protection: whether in feeding the SPLA forces, working as porters or caring for the injured.
However, the bigger point made by Learning from the Nuba: Civilian resilience and self-protection during conflict is how the most vulnerable people take the lead in protecting themselves, their families and communities in times of war – when the state, peacekeeping missions and the international aid machine often fail them.