As if gently stirred awake by the affectionate early morning rays of the sun seeping in through a gap in their bedroom curtains, a group of women in Nimule received a pleasant stroke of enlightenment as a visiting team from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan spread the word on the rights of women provided by the revitalized peace agreement signed last year.
“We women did not know what the peace agreement says about us. We thought we were just considered housewives,” said Grace Keje Habie, a women group leader of Nimule town council.
Together with 45 other women living in the Nimule area in Eastern Equatoria, Ms. Habie attended a forum organized by the peacekeeping mission’s Gender Affairs Unit to inform them about the entitlements bestowed on them by the peace deal, and what to expect once a transitional government of national unity has been formed.
The female leaders of civil society organizations were caught by surprise as they found out about the provision that women shall come to enjoy 35 per cent of political representation at all levels of society.
Some, like Victories Asiyah Mario, had their eyes opened wider than others, and proved the true worth of outreach activities.
“We did not know what UNMISS is doing in our country until I came to understand at this one-day sensitization forum,” the female participant with the serial winner-sounding name confessed. She explained that, more than eight years after the establishment of the peacekeeping mission, there are still people who believe that an approaching UN-marked car is a sign of conflict on the horizon.
Having cleared up that confusion, gender affairs officer Mikelina Emilio believes that the main takeaway from the event is a newborn strength by unity.
“This discussion among women from different communities in Nimule will bring them to speak with one voice on their rights in the government and community."