“Unthinkable” for peace process to proceed without inclusion of South Sudanese women
Women politicians in South Sudan are saying “enough is enough”.
They are calling for their voices to be heard and for a more inclusive process that allows women to play a pivotal role in the peace building process.
“Women are the backbone of humanity,” says the chairwoman of the Sudan African National Union (SANU) political party, Theresa Sericio. “It is important that they participate in the peace process so as to incorporate issues of human concern which can bring about the peace that the people of South Sudan are looking for.”
“Men alone cannot bring peace. Women alone cannot bring peace. But men and women, together and united, can bring sustainable peace,” she said.
Theresa Sericio joined other women politicians, academics and civil society activists at a workshop organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s Gender Unit and Political Affairs Division to discuss women’s participation in the peace process. The forum comes at a time when political leaders from across the country are meeting with regional and international agencies at the High Level Revitalization Forum in Addis Ababa where a cessation of hostilities agreement was recently signed.
Speaking at the workshop, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (Political), Moustapha Soumaré, said the UN will continue to support all endeavours to enhance the participation of women in the peace process.
Canada’s Ambassador to South Sudan, Alan Hamson, shed light on the importance of women’s participation and contribution to peace processes both at national and sub-national levels.
Norway’s Ambassador to South Sudan, Lars Andersen, echoed that sentiment saying it is almost “unthinkable” to have a peace process that does not include women.
Research by UN Women has found that, when women are involved in peace processes, they bring the discussion beyond narrow personal interests of warring parties to help to address the root causes of conflict. This approach contributes to a more enduring peace.
In South Sudan, women politicians have come together to form a network to ensure participation in the various phases of the peace negotiations. Mediation efforts have also led to a 25 per cent increase in the number of women elected and appointed to public office.
“We are trying to build a momentum where women will come together and speak with one voice,” said Theresa Sericio.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the women leaders issued a communique setting out eight resolutions, including urging the international community and regional bodies, such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to remain committed to the inclusive and effective participation of women in peace talks and for all stakeholders to commit to the cessation of hostilities agreement.
“We do not want a peace that comes today and dies off. We do not want a ceasefire that is signed today and dies off,” said Theresa Sericio.
Since the conflict began in 2013, tens of thousands South Sudanese people have been killed and four million have been displaced or forced to flee to neighbouring countries as refugees.
As the second round of talks continue at the High Level Revitalization Forum, it is hoped that women politicians will have a seat at the negotiating table and act as catalysts of change to forge a path to peace for the fragile East African nation.