The women’s participation in public affairs is the way forward for development in South Sudan.

 By Ter Manyang Gatwech, Kampala-Uganda.
Opinion.
 
South Sudanese women leading the choir, singing the national anthem during the independent day in 2011(Photo: via Samaritan Purse)

South Sudanese women leading the choir, singing the national anthem during the independent day in 2011(Photo: via Samaritan Purse)

 30th Agust, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — Participation in social science refers to different mechanisms for the public to express opinions – and ideally exert influence – regarding political, economic, management or other social decisions.  South Sudan is not a country where every citizen in the country is allowed to express themselves in the public affairs. According to article 24 of South Sudan’s constitution which says that every citizen has a right to public media, right to move and a right to express your opinion. I wonder when President Salva Kiir orders the Ambassador to Uganda and therefore, all Nuer who wants to go to Nairobi, Kenya, don’t allow them to go yet it indicate in the constitution of South Sudan there is movement. The question remains, which lesson did Mr.Salva Kiir learn from burial of later former president of South African, Nelson Mandela in 2013?
 

According to  the members of parliament and senates, leaders of political parties and women’s parliamentary caucuses from countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and South Asia, namely Bolivia, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Liberia,  Libya, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe  participated in the Inter-Regional Seminar on “Women’s Political Empowerment – Translating Women’s Participation in Politics into Critical Actions and Influence” organized by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) in Accra, the Republic of Ghana;

Being actively committed to protecting and promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality in our various leadership capacities as members of parliaments and senates, political parties, women’s parliamentary caucuses and ultimately as gender equality and women’s human rights advocates focused on and distilled the following critical issues;

  • Increasing women’s access into decision making and “getting the numbers right” through mechanisms/strategies for accelerating equal entry in and retention of gender parity in political leadership and decision making at all levels;
  • Maximizing women’s presence, increasing influence and transforming political spaces/ “beyond the numbers and mechanisms/strategies” for influencing decision making or effective participation;
  • Advocacy by men and their involvement on gender equality and women’s empowerment- as a key ingredient in creating a political climate that enables women’s political participation.

Appreciating the support and cooperation from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance and the significance of this South-South Seminar as an initiative to enhance knowledge exchange and transfer between countries from across the world and as an intervention to document good practices and lessons on the contributions or differences that women bring into politics and decision making across the different regions,

Emphasizing that equality between women and men and the full enjoyment of women’s rights and freedoms is an inalienable tenet of a real democracy, as well as the means to achieve sustainable development and peace,

Recognizing that the implementation of gender quotas is one key strategy for achieving the equal participation and representation of both women and men thus enhancing the quality and outcomes of democracy,

Acknowledging that gender inequalities are the result of power imbalances between women and men which negatively affect the status and position of women in public and private spheres of life,

Insisting  that gender equality and women’s political empowerment cannot be achieved in repressive and authoritarian states and the continued under representation of women in positions of power and decision making  points to the general democratic deficit within a given country and the lack of intra-party democracy,

Concerned that in many parts of the world, gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched and progress in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in all spheres of life has been halting and remains uneven. Consequently, few women are represented in key political and economic decision making positions, for example the participation and representation of women in parliaments/legislatures across the world, is only 19.6 %. While we applaud the important strides made in some regions and countries were the critical minority of at least 30% of women in positions of power and decision making has been accomplished, we note that each step forward has been achieved against difficult obstacles and stubborn resistance to women’s empowerment,

Deeply convinced that if  a critical “mass” of women are elected into positions of power and decision making at all level levels, they bring different perspectives, skills and attributes in policy and decision making on issues of national importance, such as the economy and finance, poverty reduction, security and peace, environment and natural resources, conflict prevention and nation  building,  education, health, housing, employment and job creation, rights of marginalized groups and minorities,

Highlighting the importance of the need to level the playing field for electoral competition and political processes not just across political parties but between men and women in order to promote equal engagement by all stakeholders in respect of diversity, gender equality, justice, fairness and peace,

Recalling that political parties are the key gatekeepers for the equal political participation and representation of women and men and are in the position to contribute to the transformation of politics and eradication of obstacles to women’s effective empowerment, particularly women’s access into politics and positions of power and decision making at all levels,

Reaffirming our commitment to the values and principles contained in regional and international landmark inter-governmental conventions and declarations advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment,

Reiterating that principles contained in these documents are yet to be fully domesticated and effectively implemented through the national legal systems,

  DECLARE OUR COMMITMENT TO BE   TRANSFORMATIVE LEADERS;

In Legislative responsibilities on lawmaking, representation and oversight by 

Ensuring that guarantees on women’s human rights are enshrined in constitutions and endeavor to eliminate all forms of gender discrimination in constitutions, laws and policies as ways to achieve gender equality;

Advance the implementation of measures that ensure the full enjoyment of women’s rights and freedoms through the elimination of discriminatory  practices, policies and laws such as on  marriage and divorce laws, inheritance, land ownership, citizenship laws, children’s custody laws employment and economic policies and programmes and education and human development and other areas;

Adopt legislation which ensures the conduct of free, fair, and transparent and gender sensitive elections;

Adopt and implement the affirmative action measures to increase women’s political participation and representation through measures such as legislated gender quotas in all elective and appointed positions, at all levels of positions of power and decision making, in order to accomplish the objective of ensuring at least a critical minority of 30% (minimum) of women in decision making positions and strive further for gender parity in these positions, including the monitoring of the implementation of these measures;

Endeavour to put in place implementing mechanisms for affirmative action measures and commitment to international conventions agreed on;

Develop and promote implementation of measures for ensuring gender equality in the private spheres of life;

Adopt laws for the prevention and prosecution against all forms of gender based violence including violence in political and electoral processes;

Adopt laws which guarantee equal access of women and men to public funding for political parties;

Adopt laws which ensure the balanced and fair coverage by the media towards all electoral contestants in the political and electoral process;

Call for the organization of the next world conference on women, to promote continuity in the post Beijing era and to ensure further progress in the implementation of measures to attain women’s empowerment and gender equality.

              In Political Parties

Systematically spearhead the review and reform of internal political parties’ constitutions, rules of procedure and programmes to provide for a leveled playing field for female and male members of political parties;

Strengthen internal democracy within parties through increased inclusiveness, transparency in decision making and accountability on political parties’ promises and commitments;

Develop and further strengthen the implementation of gender quotas, including voluntary quotas within various political parties’ structures, in particular at the high levels of decision making;

Develop measures linking public funding for political parties with gender equality, thus creating more incentives for political parties to implement these commitments in an effective manner;

Advance the adoption and existence of a multiparty system and support real partisan action to ensure broad popular participation and inclusiveness in representative institutions through democratically and fairly elected processes;

Place women’s rights and empowerment as strategic issues for women and men on the agenda of political parties combined with nurturing partnerships with both women and men to achieve gender parity and encourage collaboration with male gender equality champions.

             Public awareness and transformative leadership development

Support and strengthen collaboration between elected officials and civil society representatives in order to promote knowledge transfer and development of public governance structures and processes as well as foster a broader ownership of the gender equality agenda among the public;

Promote networking and mobilization of women through mentoring and development of incubators of young women who would like to pursue political careers;

Seek to build support groups and coalitions across the public in order to diversify the support and promotion of gender equality objectives through sustained public awareness initiatives;

Enhance women’s capacity to mobilize as women and as agents for change and cultivate robust initiatives for women to support other women;

Strengthen transformative leadership skills among women through additional empowerment strategies that translate women’s presence into critical influence and actions to engage from an understanding of women’s rights as human rights and the broader democratic issues;

Engaging men and designing initiatives that systematically target men and boys on advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality and making men equally responsible for women’s empowerment through partnerships and collaboration with male gender equality champions;

Undertake media advocacy campaigns to raise awareness and address the underlying gender inequalities that are the key drivers of all forms of gender based discrimination and inequalities among women, men, boys and girls.

Ter Manyang Gatwech, a student of Cavendish University Uganda and chairman of Gawaar Community in Kampala, Uganda. Email: termanyanggatwech@yahoo.com

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