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Princesses in Darfur

Ali Dinar princess

The Sultan of Darfur Ali Dinar lost his political power when he was killed by the British in 1916. However, his family has been keeping their dynasty symbolically until now and his grandson Ibrahim Yussuf Ali Dinar, currently living in Khartoum, still keeps the title of Sultan.

Besides, all female successors of the Ali Dinar’s family call themselves Meram (“princess” in the local language) as a sign of distinction. In some other contexts, the term Meram is also used to refer those women who have outstanding skills on cooking, but the Sultan lineage does obviously not like this meaning.

There are about one thousand princesses spread all over Sudan, successors of the great Ali Dinar and all of them playing an important role within the “royal” family. They are decision makers, with the same authority than male members in every domestic matter. “Although traditionally men assume the responsibilities of the familial economy and we focus more on the house working, all of us have equal rights to defend our opinions”, says Saphia Bahraidin Ali Dinar, granddaughter of the original Sultan Ali Dinar.

Saphia is 63 years old and a retired teacher. She has been always committed with the concerns of women. “I am proud of being woman and princess at the same time and I wish to pass this feeling to my successors”, adds Saphia.

Her cousin Alawia Abbakar Ali Dinar, 65 years old, has the same opinion and explains that “we regularly organize meetings among princesses to talk about our problems and challenges”.

Both of them are engaged not only with women’s issues within the family, but also in their community. Alawia has been leader of the Women’s Center in El Fasher for 16 years and both are still serving the organization as consultants. They defend the rights of women in the society and help to elevate local women economically by promoting the handcrafts that women make in the Centre. All products that are manufactured by women are sold through the center cooperatively.

On March 8, the world celebrates Women’s Day and these two Meram take it as a good opportunity to make their voice heard by everybody. Their matter is not only an issue of being a woman, but also a distinguished one. They are part of a unique family and they have the need to defend it.

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