“We can’t just keep talking. If we really want our voices to be heard, if we really want women’s full, inclusive participation in erasing the memories of civil war and ensuring that our children have a peaceful future to look forward to, we have to act now,” says Flora Sebit, Executive Director, Women’s Agency for Progress Organization (WAPO). “To help shape a sustainable future for all South Sudanese, women must be given the space and opportunity to join political parties.”
Flora’s impassioned remarks were echoed by many others who participated in an UNMISS-organized state-wide forum on the landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
October 31 marked 20 years since the adoption of UNSCR 1325 which acknowledged for the first time that comprehensive peace anywhere in the world requires the meaningful participation of women at all levels of governance, security and decision-making.
“It is a known fact that the most successful peace processes are those which included women at all stages,” states Mary Buyu, Director, State Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, Eastern Equatoria. “However, in South Sudan, too often the concerns of women and girls tend to take a backseat especially when it comes to our contributions in building families, communities and peaceful societies,” she avers.
“The truth is South Sudanese women are the backbone of numerous peaceful reconciliation initiatives. These may be restricted to the local or community level, but it’s time to make our voices count at the highest levels of governance,” she adds.
“We, therefore, are in agreement that we need to be proactive in advocating for our rights and participate shoulder-to-shoulder with men in having a say in decisions that impact our daily lives,” continues Mary. “The most important thing is for us to work together and come up with sustainable ways to empower women living in rural areas as well.”
These committed activists revealed that challenges hindering their contribution in governance and economic development are deeply frustrating. Most feel that the overarching patriarchy in the world’s newest country coupled with inadequate awareness on women’s rights caused by widespread lack of education for young girls and women are key factors in the lack of women’s representation overall.
As a result, the forum unanimously recommended a more dynamic approach to ensuring women and girls become politically aware and economically independent.
“For women anywhere to progress we need to be empowered within political spaces and economically self-sufficient,” stated Caroline Waudo, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in the region. “For South Sudanese women to be equal participants in shaping a future of peace, it’s important that they take the lead in decisions that impact them the most. UNMISS will support them every step of the way.