Koch County women determined to fight for political participation and representation
“What is it that men do that we supposedly cannot do? What we cannot do is to continue to suffer by the hands of men ten years after South Sudan gained independence. Independence was for everyone to enjoy, including women,” said Diew Dang Yuot, a Women’s League leader in Koch County, Unity State.
Speaking at a multi-stakeholder forum on women’s rights, peace and security jointly organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and partners, Ms. Dang Yuot had a lot on her mind.
“We should use the laws of the land to find our space. If we are sidelined from employment opportunities because we are not educated, why are we not employed in positions that do not require education?”
Angela Nyadet Kheat, a trader and female youth representative, expressed strong views as well.
“Women have been used for a long period of time as slaves who are meant to remain at home as housewives,” she said. “When a woman wants to join the military or police force, men think that her motive is to prostitute herself. If it were not for our children, we would start another revolution.”
Gordon Gatkuoth Chuol, Executive Director for Koch County, defended his administration.
“We do respect women’s rights. In this county, we have a woman who is the head chief of a Payam (administrative division). There are also female representatives in all the courts that have been established in the county,” he stated.
Participating women were hardly satisfied with his answer, drawing attention to the peace agreement’s stipulation of women to be given 35 per cent political representation.
“That’s not happening in Koch. Here, women have zero per cent representation, at all levels of governance,” said Diew Dang Yuot.
Some of those in attendance had drastic suggestions as to how to achieve the representation women are entitled to.
“My message to peace partners is that the next time you organize any kind of workshop, we will not participate if not at least 35 per cent of those present are women. We will simply pull out,” said Angelina Nyadet, representing female youth.
The women were unanimous in their conclusion that education of girls remains the passport to breaking barriers, reducing marginalization, and improving women’s representation and participation in the public sphere. They committed to sending their girls to school but demanded that local authorities provide necessary services and show political will to include women at all levels of governance.