55 women leaders trained on gender responsive governance in Yambio
WESTERN EQUATORIA – Equal rights for women and girls is a shared struggle across the world.
In South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, the gender gap has been exacerbated by conflict, a patriarchal culture and age-old customs that marginalize women’s rights.
While efforts have been made to ensure women and men are on an equal footing in all walks of life, much remains to be done.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), in partnership with the South Sudan Women Peace Monitoring and Advocacy Group, recently hosted a training for 55 women parliamentarians, civil society activists and business owners on the need for gender responsive governance.
The forum saw free and frank discussions.
“As women, we often identify ourselves by our father’s name or our husband’s name. We should be proud of our own identity and work hard to build it,” said Diako Pauline, a newly appointed member of Western Equatoria’s state legislative assembly.
“I am very grateful for this training. I am a new Member of Parliament, and I have much to learn. The leadership lessons I have learnt here are invaluable,” she added.
For Hanan Idia Elias, an advocacy officer from a nongovernmental organization in Yambio, the takeaway is simple: Women can do anything they set their minds on.
“This training has taught me how women can compete with men and be equally effective leaders. It’s a question of being creative and committed to the communities we serve. There is no reason we shouldn’t be involved in taking decisions that impact the future of our country,” she averred.
Flora Alfred Futuyo, the wife of the state Governor and keynote speaker at the event, stressed that unity was essential if women were to claim their place in the sun.
“Hatred cannot take us anywhere, but our unity makes us exceptional and can help us win the battle for equal results as well as build a peaceful, prosperous future for all South Sudanese,” she emphasized.
Women are powerful agents of change and can usher in far-reaching benefits of diversity and gender parity if they are involved in decision making. It is on this note that Theresa Siricio, one of the workshop’s facilitators and member of the South Sudan Peace Monitoring and Advocacy Group structured her remarks.
“Women make up 50 per cent of South Sudan’s population. The voices, opinions and needs of half a society can never be ignored. So, my advice to all of you is be fearless, speak up and speak out about the issues that impact you directly,” she recommended.
For Christopher Murenga, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in the state, women’s participation in constitution-making is of paramount importance.
“Drafting a permanent constitution is the quintessential act of sovereignty and women must be fully included in this process,” said Mr. Murenga.
UNMISS, for its part, remains committed to supporting all efforts aimed at ensuring gender equality.
“UNMISS will continue to build women's capacities to participate meaningfully in political processes as the country moves towards eventual elections," said Patricia Njoroge, a Gender Affairs Officer with the UN Peacekeeping mission. “It is important to bridge and strengthen the national and subnational nexus enabling women leaders to effectively lobby and advocate for enacting gender responsive governance,” she added.
At the end of the two-day forum, participating women agreed to form a network unifying their common interests across the state while boosting their accountability to their constituents.