Last week I was invited to the Dutch embassy to celebrate the launching of the Nobel Women’s Initiative’s report on sexual violence against women in Sudan. The report is titled “Survivors Speak Out: Sexual Violence in Sudan,” and it is meant to address the situation of “mass rape” and other forms of sexual violence against Sudanese women of all religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
As a Masters student interested in issues of gender and gendered violence, I was quite excited to be one of three students chosen to represent my university. I, a Mexican of indigenous background and a convert to Islam, was chosen alongside one Christian Lebanese PhD student and a second-year Masters student of Iraqi and Muslim background. Upon arrival to the embassy, the first thing we noticed was the demographic. We were three of the five minorities in a group of more than 50 people. There were only about four men, including the ambassador and a representative from Amnesty international. Whereas demographics may be irrelevant in some contexts, I think the demographics of this event set the tone for what would be an afternoon of drawing dichotomies, praising the big bucks coming from abroad, and presenting few recommendations to solve the issues. As three of the five minorities we were photographed constantly… My Iraqi friend, who is also a hijabi, attracted numerous people who kept asking to take a picture with her. It was like being in the zoo. Nonetheless, perhaps one of the most shocking (but not really) facts was that in an event celebrating the launching of a report about Sudanese women, there were no Sudanese people.