“Women can positively change society not only by farming or entrepreneurship or doing domestic chores but also by holding political positions at all levels of government,” a women’s leader in Yei River county, Central Equatoria, stated.
Her words set the tone for a two-day conference organized and funded by the Civil Affairs Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which brought together some 50 women leaders from across the county.
“I am happy to learn that we have power now as women to influence decisions and have our voices heard. This has lifted my once dispirited soul,” averred Mary Kusendeo, a 41-year-old resident of Tore payam [administrative division], attending the forum.
Ms. Kusendeo, a mother of two and a women’s counselor, clearly explained the strengths women possess that set them apart in society.
“We are peace ambassadors right from our homes. If we get the necessary support to influence political, social, and economic decisions, we can make South Sudan a better place for everyone. We want action, not promises,” she asserted.
However, Alice Yama Pillip, Chairperson of the Yei River County Women’s Association, said translating promises into meaningful actions requires collective effort.
“We must work together to speak up and present our issues passionately to those who are willing to listen to us,” urged Ms. Pillip.
“We want peace to prevail so that we shall have a chance to elect leaders of our choice. We are tired of suffering; since I was a young girl, I have known mostly hunger, disease, war, and death,” she continued. “Now is the time to silence the guns and chart a future of prosperity for every citizen.”
Another participant, Rose Apai, 45, and resident of Goja village, Otogo payam, agrees.
“We have lost everything through widespread looting and numerous conflicts: Our animals, our farmlands, homes, and clothing are gone. So many of us live in desperation, without shelter, food, medicine, or education for our children,” Ms. Apai said. “I pray that one day, justice and accountability will prevail against perpetrators of such violence. I am happy to be trained as a peace ambassador and will trickle down everything I have learned to other women in my village,” she added.
Emphasizing the fact that human rights are not given but are demanded, James Mugo Muriithi, Team Leader of Civil Affairs Division in Yei, urged participants to reclaim what belonged them.
“Constitution-making and electoral processes are at a critical stage in the country, so you should get involved fully as women before vital legislations are passed by the government,” Mr. Muriithi told the attentive attendees.
Achieving this, he continued, requires a change of mindsets and a shift in focus from usual advocacy to articulating issues at key meetings, discussions, or fora pertinent to governance, economy, constitution-making, and elections.
“As UNMISS, we are working with all stakeholders to build capacities of women so that they can take their rightful place to positively contribute to an inclusive political and civic space across South Sudan,” the UN official said in conclusion.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).