UNMISS essay contest winners: Women should participate in all decision-making for peace
Amid high spirits and enthusiasm marked by cheers, ululations, robust drumming, singing and nimble dancing, the winners of the nationwide essay writing competition on Wednesday 9 May seized their much-deserved glistening trophies at Nyakuron Cultural Centre in the capital Juba.
The writing competition, on the topic “How can women contribute to durable peace in South Sudan”, enabled proud and talented secondary school students from across the country to explore and define the avenues through which women can effectively participate in the process leading to harmony and reconcilation.
The three best of the ten winners of regional contests were Gladys Anek Cornelius of Don Bosco Secondary School in Juba, Khana Kockedhie Magel Loreto of Girks Secondary School in Rumbek, and Jacob Mach Kuany of Kapoeta Day Secondary School in Eastern Equatoria, who were awarded the first, second and third prize respectively. The other seven top writers from other regions also received significant awards.
The national winner of the essay competition, Gladys Anek of Don Bosco Secondary School, says women’s voices can be heard if the leadership empowers them to form local associations. These associations, she explained, should be the vehicles used to reach out to many other women and men in the villages, who can then also contribute positively as ambassadors of peace.
“Women should stand up as mothers and sisters, because talking about peace without action is of no help at all because it has to be worked for,” 15-year-old Gladys said, adding that the youth should, at this point in their lives, shun politics and concentrate on their education if they are to become credible future leaders.
Asked about how she feels about winning the first prize trophy, Ms. Anek could not hide her delight:
“I am very happy because I never thought I would make it this far. All the students [competitors] have been tough and used strong arguments related to the topic.”
She is optimistic when it comes to the future of South Sudan.
“We shall make a good generation of leaders if we are allowed to exploit our talents in full, through writing and in various other fields.”
To help South Sudan become a better and more peaceful country for everyone, young Ms. Anek is aspiring to become a politician herself.
“I want to become a politician to stop the ongoing suffering of our people. I am disturbed by seeing mothers with children on their backs and luggage on their heads fleeing to neighbouring countries, yet we have our own beautiful land with an abundance of minerals and fertile soils,” Ms. Anek says.
Essay competition jury member and UNMISS Gender Affairs officer Maria Nakabito focused on the importance of awareness-raising as she made her remarks at the award ceremony.
“We can only achieve durable peace when there is equitable and equal participation of women in decision-making processes by ensuring that the youth, the women and men, the boys and girls do understand what that entails,” she said.
David Shearer, Head of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan agrees.
“Experience has shown that where women have been actively involved in decision-making processes, the outcomes have been durable and sustainable,” he said. ”We want to create a safe space throughout South Sudan where the young stars can express their opinions on women matters and build durable peace.”
In his remarks, the National Minister of Higher Education, Deng Deng Hoc, used South Sudan’s “One people, One Nation” as the starting point.
“It [the motto] presupposes that we do away with tribalism and that our allegiances are not only to our tribes, but also to our country South Sudan,” Mr. Hoc said, commenting that such unity will remain a dream unless all South Sudanese embrace genuine love for one another.
John Juma David, a student from Vision Academy Secondary School in Malakal, believes that the current war would already have ended had the warring parties not ignored women’s voices as caregivers and peace lovers.
Explaining the topic of his essay titled “Men Make Houses and Women Make Homes”, Adhiik Anei from Standard South Sudan Secondary School in Wau, has a message to South Sudanese leaders:
“Men can make beautiful houses, but it takes beautiful women to change these houses into beautiful homes. At the same time and in the same way, we cannot have peace in the country if we do not have peace in our families, so peace must begin from homes that are being nurtured by women.”
Launched on 8 March to mark International Women’s Day and concluded yesterday, the writing competition witnessed the submission of X number of essays from 90 secondary schools across the country. Ten regional winners rejoiced in the festive award ceremony in Juba.