Darfur's Women 'Hamakat' elders revise songs for peace
Updated: Mar 1
Rights for Peace held a two day awareness and training workshop for 24 Hakamat women and influential leaders in Darfur, 23-24 January 2021.
Women are often perceived to be passive victims of violent conflict. Sudan's Hakamat or female elders contradict this image. They they have played an active role in the country’s ongoing tribal conflicts.
Hakamat are traditional female singers and lyricists who hold great significance for many tribes in Sudan, particularly those based in South Darfur and the North-West Kordofan regions. The Hakamat’s repertoire traditionally revolves around warrior chants, songs about honour, bravery and cowardice to encourage the men in their communities to fight and seek bloodshed in the face of conflict and rivalry.
The influence of Hakamat is paramount during times of conflict, their status and command in many tribes remains constant and they play a key societal role. For instance, in the past tribesmen trying to defuse conflict with neighbouring groups have been ridiculed by Hakamat, their reputations undermined and authority questioned.
Hakamat’s continued ability to incite violence was the motivation behind the two-day workshop held by Rights for Peace and KAICIID. The workshop aimed to encourage attendees to channel messages of peace rather than incitements to violence in their songs, using their influence to develop a culture of tolerance, solidarity and dialogue in their communities.
The workshop brought together Hakamat and local leaders from 18 localities. This diversity initially proved a challenge. However, after exchanging their interests and backgrounds the women were able to identify commonalities and unifying identities.
The participants discussed conflicts and challenges from their respective stand-points. They were able to recognise their impact on social cohesion.
Key messages and lessons learned :
there is a need for continued awareness raising among Hakamat about their impact on social cohesion and the positive role they can play;
there is a need to spread critical thinking amongst Hakamat to ensure rumours are not spread without fact checking;
there is a need to question and uncover the truth before taking sides and promoting fighting, particularly to avoid being manipulated by others.
The case of Maryam Zakhira was highlighted. Maryam was an influential, charismatic Hakama who was sentenced to death due to her role in a conflict involving her tribe. Her incitement resulted in the death of dozens. She was charged with the possession of guns and ammunition as well as incitement to violence. The participants agreed that Hakamat were often exploited by others through misinformation.
On day two of the initiative, participants were able to produce songs calling for peace and co-existence. It was mutually agreed that land, resources and the weekly village markets were often the source of conflict and so solutions to these problems were shared between participants and integrated into their songs. The workshop explored how hate speech and ethnic-based violence can lead to conflict between the tribes, and participants were able to recognise their role in this.
To conclude the training participants came up with recommendations they would like to see actioned by their communities and national government . They agreed that Hakamat and local leaders have the ability to mobilize communities and a desire to contribute in peace building and preventing hate speech. The workshop equipped participants with resources to build on this new found motivation, empowering them to bring positive change.
Rights for Peace thanks KAICIID for their collaboration on this impactful work.
This project has been funded by KAICIID International Dialogue Centre. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the donor.
Cover photo credit: (c) UNAMID on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
 Nadine Rea Intisar Ada, Hakamat and Peacebuilding 2004-2012. Égypte/Monde arabe, pp.155-167. (2016) https://journals.openedition.org/ema/3595
 Blake Evans-Pritchard. Female Singers Stir Blood in Darfur. (2012) https://iwpr.net/global-voices/female-singers-stir-blood-darfur>
Photo credit: UNAMID. https://www.flickr.com/photos/unamid-photo/14253409641/in/photolist-dxS8J4-dxS974-25SnBQe-27aT9dN-nFLPE5-nrjZj5-nHws76-nrjZ5Y-nrkK3K-DPC4wZ-27776fm 24uja6d-25So5QB-nFMpTL Creative Commons License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0