South Sudan Women’s political participation: A Case of Conscious Awakening

South Sudan's women in war torn South Sudan.

South Sudan’s women in war torn South Sudan (Photo: supplied).

Feb 10, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —– South Sudanese women’s political participation is essential for building a sustainable democracy and increasing prospects for durable peace. During the three decades of civil war, the country has lost a great number of its men and today women represent more than half of the population. Hence, their contribution to the social and economic development of the society is also more significant. Nevertheless, women’s historical exclusion in politics still hinders their advancement and continues to widen gender disparity in the political sphere.

In South Sudanese society, women are still reduced to their stereotypical role of nurturing, denying their rights and abilities to participate in decision-making. From a women’s rights perspective, women have legitimate role to play, and an equal role with men in democratic governance which should not be denied. Nonetheless, from the instrumentalist standpoint, women are different from men in their perception of issues as well as their approach to solving problems; this is attributable to their gendered values which give rise to increased attention and care to the subject. Adding to that, it is only a female that could holistically comprehend and analyse topics related to her gender and not the contrary. But on several occasions in our society, men have made decisions on issues related to women devoid of any feminine input.

Despite the many proofs to women’s leadership capacity, in form of numerous high-rank positions in national and international governance institutions, multi-national companies et cetera, there still remain some structural barriers such as discriminatory laws and institutions, still limiting opportunites for women to run for office. There is also a gender capacity gap since women are less likely than men to access education.

Adding to these barriers, other obstacles may lie in the path of the woman towards political participation; cultural practices, instability of the country, division of labor, and women’s perception of themselves, to name but a few.

To bridge the gender gap in politics, the country should work hard to reinforce girl-child education at the national, community and family levels. Therefore, individual and personal support are important; fathers, brothers and husbands should encourage the education of all the females in their household and discourage early marriage and heavy domestic tasks which deprive small girls from pursuing an education. Gender equality should also be practiced on a family level so that little girls can have time to achieve their goals in education and be agents of change in future.

When women are educated, they can realize the necessity of being a part of a system and their influence can make a lot of difference once they take seats on the legislation and the other government institutions in greater numbers to make sure that ‘women’s interests’ are being protected.

In the rural areas, females can be aware of their rights to vote and how one vote could make a great change in any election; therefore they can be affiliated to diverse political parties or serve as political activists to participate in the political development in the country.

Women should be empowered to promote gender equality. They must be involved with all policy-making and be allowed to have a voice in the peace building process. The 25 per cent quota granted to females as affirmative action in the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, for their participation in all levels of government institutions should be fully implemented to narrow the political gender imbalance.

At this critical moment of our history, South Sudan needs equitable participation of both men and women to rebuild and bring real peace and stability. Hence, women should strive to acquire the necessary tools to diminish their under-representation in leadership positions. 

Rebecca Andrew Kong is a South Sudanese citizen; holds a Master of laws, International Law with International Relation, Human Rights, she can be reached at rebeccaandrewkong@yahoo.com


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