As South Sudan strives to complete its democratic transition, full inclusion of women is vital, say participants at an UNMISS workshop
WARRAP – “We realize that empowering women and young girls is critical if our country is to leave endless cycles of violence in the past and look towards development,” said Garang Aguek, a paramount chief from Tonj East.
“If all girls receive the same education as boys, they will be economically self-sufficient and have jobs which give them sustainable incomes to look after their families. Their worth will no longer be measured in terms of their dowries, in the number of cattle they bring to their husband,” he added.
Mr. Aguek was speaking at a two-day event organized by the South Sudan Women Peace Monitoring and Advocacy Group (SSWPMAG) and supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
This unique, capacity-building workshop was structured to run parallel training sessions between participating women and men, aimed at identifying existing gaps in ensuring women are fully and effectively represented in leadership, before a final joint discussion on strategic ways to bridge these shortfalls.
“We committed to working together so that women play a central role in the constitution-making process and take the lead,” stated Mr. Aguek.
More than 40 women ministers and members of parliament from Warrap state attended the workshop, building various skills such as communication and public speaking, understanding legal frameworks, their roles in the ongoing constitution-making process, and actively preparing for the upcoming election.
Meanwhile, over 20 male representatives, including traditional leaders, youth, and parliamentarians, were educated on legal provisions protecting women's rights and preventing gender-based violence, as well as their own role in ensuring a gender-equal South Sudan, where women take their rightful place as true partners in politics, decision-making and governance.
Theresa Sircio, the lead facilitator from SSWPMAG called on women to break the shackles of patriarchy and strive to make their voices heard.
"Women must work in solidarity to solve their problems,” said Ms. Sircio. “This is a time-consuming effort and not a fight against men, but rather a way to examine our past and make sure our future is forged through shared decisions at every level of public life, including the highest levels of government,” she added.
The 2018 peace deal provides 35 per cent affirmative action for women in governance; however, the reality is that much needs to be done to ensure this representation is achieved uniformly.
For his part, Riak Madut Angok, Chair of the state’s Human Rights Commission advocated for ongoing sensitization for gender equality at the grassroots. "We are pleased to see the national government’s latest initiatives to promote education for girls. Sensitization and education are key," he said.
Mary Awien, a participant and Member of Parliament representing Gogrial East county had a simple endorsement upon the conclusion of the forum.
"We have accomplished a great deal in these two days but it’s important we trickle down the concrete skills we have gained to other women in our communities. I’m going to begin sharing everything I have learned as soon as I return so that everybody can reap the benefits from this capacity-building exercise.”