Pariang women inspired by female UN peacekeepers’ peace building experiences
After years of very limited political participation, women in Pariang are looking forward to receiving their 35 per cent representation in all decision-making bodies stipulated in the revitalized peace agreement signed in September 2018.
But exactly how can politically inexperienced women in the newly declared Ruweng administrative area, to which Pariang belongs, maximize and optimize their contributions to the peace and reconciliation process?
Local authorities decided that female leaders in the area could do with practical advice from sisters with experience from similar challenges.
The best way of finding such expertise was to invite female peacekeepers, serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, from countries with a conflict and post-conflict past, as knowledgeable sources of inspiration.
Sergeant Princess Kamala, with 15 years of police experience in her native Sierra Leone, which in recent times suffered from eleven years of civil war, spoke poignantly about the role women can play in rebuilding broken societies.
“I have witnessed the power of women in peace building. I have seen women changing lives and developing their communities despite many challenges,” Sergeant Kamala said. “It’s a matter of commitment and self-determination. If I did it, women from Pariang can do it,” she added, also stressing the importance of educating oneself to be able to contribute effectively.
A photo exhibition, military simulations and several cultural performances were also part of the UNMISS-organized programme in Pariang, much to the enchantment of local women attending the event.
One of them, Angelina Abui, was particularly impressed by the braveness of female Mongolian peacekeepers protecting civilians in the area.
“Women can serve as military or police. Some of us understand these professions much better than others because they have been at the warfront with men, struggling to liberate this country. When it comes to legislation, we have female lawyers, so we can bring a change to this country,” said Ms. Abui.
For the first time, communities of Pariang celebrated International Women’s Day together with Sudanese refugees from the Ajuongthok camp. They highlighted female contributions to the peace process and the embryonic sustainable development in the area, with some boldly asserting that women may do better than men in these areas.
“This is a day that we have been waiting for, to show our leaders that South Sudan needs equal rights for all, and that we [women] can do even what men have failed to do,” said Anyel Maker, a female lawyer who graduated from a Sudanese university.