Women in Bor, Jonglei State have concluded a three-day leadership dialogue on the need to increase women’s participation in the permanent constitution making process and how to ensure a gender responsive electoral process.
The discussion also centered around women’s role in conflict management and the ongoing peace process in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security.
Issues discussed revolved around whether serving in the electoral bodies as well as candidate and voter rights for women should be a part of affirmative action or not.
According to Simon Manyok, Jonglei state’s human rights advisor constitutional provisions focusing on women and youth empowerment should be added to the text of the permanent constitution and other relevant laws of South Sudan.
He also added that he believed that the 35 per cent affirmative action should be upheld by parties to the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement stating that it is a prerequisite for good governance, durable peace, and gender balance.
“Women make up 50 per cent of South Sudan, and women’s rights are human rights, including the right to govern. So, the parties to the 2018 peace deal must respect the quota allocated for women to take their rightful place in politics, governance, and decision-making,” stated Mr. Manyok.
For Adau Recho, a women’s rights activist and gender champion, there are numerous obstacles to women taking part in the electoral process.
“Electoral laws should be made with consideration of maximum women’s participation, but this should be added into the text of the supreme law of the land. The lack of economic empowerment and education coupled an overarchingly patriarchal social framework are some of the challenges that will hinder women’s full and equal participation,” she explained.
Abang Unis, another participant, said women’s participation at all levels of governance was key to addressing issues related to gender based violence.
“If women can take decisions for the good of their families and communities, then imagine the South Sudan we will build if women are on the frontlines of policy- and decision-making,” she averred.
According to Atong Kuol Manyang, state Minister for Animal Resources, Fisheries and Tourism, cyclical conflict is also a driver of inequity and peace is key for women’s voices to be included and heard in taking decisions that impact them directly.
“A window of opportunity for women’s voices to be heard and galvanized in a unified and coherent manner within the constitution review process and we must take advantage of it,” stated Minister Manyang.
For her part, Geetha Pious, Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s (UNMISS) Field Office in Jonglei, awareness raising is key for free, fair, and credible elections.
“Security and conflict negatively impact the ability of women to be fully involved in nation building. Therefore, awareness raising on the important role they play as South Sudan strives to complete its democratic transition is vital,” she concluded.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).