As the transitional period nears its end, inclusion of women’s voices becomes key for sustainable peace

unmiss women peace security equality rights torit eastern equatoria south sudan united nations un peacekeeping

Some 35 women, and five male gender champions, joined a two-day workshop to discuss ways to boost full and equal participation of women in politics, leadership and decision-making. Photo by Samira Y. Salifu/UNMISS

6 Jul 2022

As the transitional period nears its end, inclusion of women’s voices becomes key for sustainable peace

Samira Y. Salifu

EASTERN EQUATORIA – In 2018, when parties to the conflict in South Sudan inked the Revitalized Peace Agreement to end repeated civil wars, hope permeated the air in the world’s youngest country.

Today, necessary benchmarks for the peace deal to be fully implemented remain lagging.

This has created an urgent need for fresh momentum to be infused into existing peace processes as limited time remains for the current transitional period to end with the conduct free, fair, and credible elections.

Women’s full and equal participation in the political life of the nation is key to ensure an enduring peace.

As such, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) recently held a two-day workshop for women’s leaders in Torit, Eastern Equatoria.

The aim: To strengthen their abilities in lobbying for inclusion of women in leadership roles and governance.

“Many of our problems as women come from entrenched patriarchal traditions and practices; changing the culture and the mindset of a nation takes time and is an uphill task, said Jennifer Nabongorika, the state Minister of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare. “But as women leaders, we cannot give up,” she added.

Interactive sessions focused on challenges faced by women leaders, as well as on improving the knowledge, skills, and strategies in good governance of participants.

Facilitated by Edmund Yakani, Executive Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), and by two representatives of the South Sudan Women Peace Monitoring and Advocacy Group, Theresa Siricio and Philister Baya, free and frank discussions among the 35 women’s representatives, mostly drawn from the State Legislative Assembly, and five male gender champions, including the Chief Whip of the Assembly, were illuminating.

“Women—many of them at least— are excluded from leadership positions on the grounds that they lack capacity. Some traditional beliefs and years of civil war, which impacted women disproportionately, are root causes of this. Building their capabilities is time intensive; it is not a matter of weeks or months but requires sustained commitment from everybody. However, this shouldn’t stop us from accelerating trainings and speaking up for equal opportunities,” asserted Peter Oting Carlo, Chief Whip, Eastern Equatoria State Legislative Assembly.

“Women constitute 50 per cent of any society and upholding their rights is critical for any country to progress.”

For Angela Achiro Onorio, a parliamentarian, given the right support, women can do anything their male counterparts can.

“Most days, I am in my county, raising awareness and mobilizing women to speak up for the right to actively participate in nation-building,” she revealed.

“In my opinion, increasing women’s participation in security sector reform, in particular, is crucial.”

Theresa Siricio, one of the discussion facilitators and Chair of the South Sudan Women Peace Monitoring and Advocacy Group, shared positive developments. “As we have continued such sensitization activities, we have noted a marked change in attitudes and growing appreciation of the insight brought by women in leadership positions. Our hope is that this positive trend trickles to the grassroots as well,” she shared.  

Much more needs to be done, though.

“We appreciate the appointment of 30 women out of 100 parliamentarians from various political parties to the Eastern Equatorian State Legislative Assembly. It is an important step towards ensuring full and equal participation of women in public life and service delivery at all levels,” said Caroline Waudo, the Head of the UNMISS Field Office in the state. “However, upholding women’s rights isn’t merely limited to governance. Women and young girls must be involved at every step—within families, within communities—in shaping decisions on issues that impact them directly.”

The workshop, based on the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, concluded with several useful recommendations, including reinforcing partnerships to advance micro-financing for women-led projects; running adult literacy programmes in all counties of Eastern Equatoria; harnessing media partners to sensitize women on gender provisions contained within the Peace Agreement; and ensuring the presence of social workers to the counties.