Women in Kuajok have expressed concerns about cultural practices impeding them from obtaining the 35 per cent representation in government that last year’s revitalized peace agreement grants them.
This week, the ladies were given a platform to discuss what they can do to play their part in safeguarding their allotted share at a forum organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s Kuajok Field Office’s Gender Affairs Unit.
“Underlying social factors such as the inability to receive an education and patriarchalism are creating obstacles to participating in decision-making for women,” said Awal Akook, chairwoman of Gogrial Women’s Union, addressing her peers.
The day-long event was one of three forums held in Tonj, Twic and Gogrial, with about 30 participants in attendance at each, including local ministers and the deputy governor of Kuot Ater.
“The main objective of this meeting is to encourage women to become more active citizens at all levels and to fight for stronger laws against sexual and gender-based violence,” said Roda Sube, a Gender Affairs Officer serving with the peacekeeping mission.
Participants pointed out that despite the 35 per cent stipulation made in the revitalized agreement, there is still a seeming contradiction between the emphasis on protecting women’s rights on the one hand and a lack of mechanisms to empower them on the other.
“Meting out a percentage does not amount to equal opportunities. Although women are still required to attain qualification to serve in office, they are often discouraged or held back from doing so by tradition,” said Kuajok’s minister of gender, child, and social welfare, Marko Nguet Yai.
For many participants, the forum was an educational experience, and upon its completion, heartfelt gratitude was expressed for the chance to be able to both speak and listen to others.
“I have learned a lot, especially about women’s constitutional rights, which I did not know about before. I will be sure to share my newfound knowledge with others,” Aluel Ayok, a local woman said.