PETER RING KUOL
When women in Yirol in the Eastern Lakes area get together to discuss their concerns and priorities, they have to settle for sitting down in the shade of an admittedly exuberant mango tree. Not good enough, they say, arguing that their significant role in South Sudan’s battle for independence should result in a proportionate improvement of their living conditions.
Their first demand, given the vulnerable nature of encounters not shielded from the elements, is to get a decent meeting place where they can periodically gather to ponder issues they find particularly important.
“On behalf of women in Yirol, I am urging UNMISS [the United Nations Mission in South Sudan] to construct a centre for us that will offer us opportunities to get together, to learn from each other and to discuss social, economic and political issues that affect us,” the women’s representative Hellena Achut Momol said when a patrol from the peacekeeping mission visited the area.
The local Minister of Gender and Social Welfare, Joselito Yoc Kulang, strongly believes that their request is justified and fair.
“During the liberation war, our women participated immensely, and now they need to be rewarded for their heroic sacrifices,” he said.
According to the Eastern Lakes Women’s Association, such a meeting place, which could also be used for capacity building activities, would serve as a precious resource for women in the entire area.
“We will look into the matters you have raised, including the construction of a women’s centre,” UNMISS Human Rights Officer Elizabeth Thandizo Mwambala said.
In South Sudan, women are significantly worse off economically, socially and politically than men.