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Sudan’s iconic ‘Lady Liberty’ advocates for new government with equal representation

Alaa Salah speaks to the UN Security Council

A young Sudanese known as Lady Liberty urged the UN Security Council on Tuesday to advocate for a new Sudanese government with equal representation for women.

The activist, community leader, and member of an NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, Alaa Salah told the 15-council; “Given women’s pivotal role in working towards peace and development, in the promotion of human rights, and in providing humanitarian assistance to communities in need, there is no excuse for us not to have an equal seat at every single table.”

Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old university student studying architectural engineering, told the council how women and men were tear-gassed and arrested, and how both sexes faced sexual harassment and were raped.

She said women were key members in helping shape the Declaration of Freedom and Change — “a roadmap for Sudan’s transition from military to civilian rule.” But she said only one woman participated in talks with the military.

Salah became a symbol of the push for reform in her country last spring, when a picture of her at a protest went viral. In April, as demonstrations against the nearly 30-year rule of long time leader Omar Al-Bashir were coming to a head, thousands of Sudanese protesters gathered in front of the military headquarters in Khartoum. As the crowd sang and chanted demands that Bashir step down, Salah, climbed on top of a car to lead a poetic chant.

It began with protests over the price of bread. But it was an image of Salah, dressed in white, standing on  a car with her hand pointing up to the sky, that captured the world’s attention as the protests led to the toppling of Omar Al-Bashir.

For some women, the revolution was not just about bread — it was about regaining a feeling of safety inside their homes and fighting a regime that oppressed women.

Read Ms. Alaa Salah’s statement at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security.

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