The Denial of Women Full Participation in the Government of South Sudan

By Loku Lo Laja

A young patriot, wrapped up in national flag to celebrate South Sudan, a country where women are equated to less than 25%(Photo: supplied/Nyamilepedia)

A young patriot, wrapped up in national flag to celebrate South Sudan, a country where women are equated to less than 25%(Photo: supplied/Nyamilepedia)

April 07, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —- Women participation in the government and in any institution is one of the pivotal principles of sustainable development in the world. Gender sensitivity has become the viable focus of the world in the 21th Century. Therefore, it is deceptive to deny gender balance in any national developmental agenda; otherwise such an agenda will be worthless. In this regard, national gender balance must be prioritized and institutionalized.

Before, I advance further, there is imperative need for me to show first of all the readers what the concept of gender is?

From a conceptual framework, gender is the social role that men and women play, because of the way their society is organized. It is expressed in the kinds of relations between sexes that arise from those roles and assumptions about “appropriate behavior.” Gender can also be expressed as the social construction hence the differentiation and institutionalization of the expected characteristic, norms, and behavior associated with being female and male in any specific social context. Gender, also may refer to the way in which it organizes social life and divides labour into separate spheres associated with women and men. Reflecting a gendered division of labour, women and men in society are not only assigned different roles and responsibility; these positions are valued differently and ranked. Gender roles that accompany each status consist of realm of responsibility and sets of expectation of women and men in a society.

Practically then, the distinction between female and male gender roles operates in the family, the economy, religion, political systems, educational institutions, and culture. It also interacts with other system of social differentiation such as race, ethnicity, class and sexuality. Conceptualizing gender as an institution that acts as pivotal organizing principle in human social life. It must incorporate process, stratification and structure. The gender mindset is learned and can change from generation to generation and from culture to culture.

No surprise, in the contemporary society, gender inequalities between women and men are considered not only destructive to women in particular but to society as whole and therefore, it must be regarded as a societal issue rather than as “women concern.” It is widely recognized that gender inequality is not about women’s lack of integration in society or lack of skills, credit and resources, but social processes and institutions that produce inequalities.

In fact, women constitute a vital national resource whose ideas, creativity and concern for social cohesion can help bring about positive change in the society. They play important role in propelling society into high levels of economical, social and political standards. But despite this fact, women are often excluded from decision-making, such as in the management of their homes and in participating at the highest levels of government and other institutions.

In the specificity of the Republic of South Sudan, women are denied their full involvement in the political race due to the challenges they face as a result of stunted and sterile thinking compounded by ignorance of women who are held back by traditional deceptive believes on their inferiority. Such challenges are manifested mostly in cultural traditions that have it that, leadership is a role of men, depriving women of political support and in general their rights as they are discriminated and disempowered without any due consideration to their education, merit, political base etc. In this way, women are exploited, oppressed and humiliated because of archaic cultural attitudes, ignorance and illiteracy, and low capacity that deny them a place in the leadership of many institutions. This explains why there is little accountability by the government towards women and gender-equality issues.

In this regard, public observers in South Sudan have confirmed that, there are still far fewer women than men with the power to make decision in governance institutions. The decision-making process is still dominated by men. When women are involved, they are kept at margins of that process as the important decisions are made by men in closed inner circles. This has exposed the hypocrisy of the stratocracy government of South Sudan for denying the full participation of the women in the government despite the 25-30% it claims to have given to them. Such contradiction highlights the deep gender insensitivity of that government that can be easily discerned in the habitual ways of perceiving, reasoning and treating women with contempt with a view to marginalize them as this evidently finds its practical expression and application through presidential appointments and states action as they ruling elites are threatened to organize and support social right for women.

This comes out very clearly when President Salva Kiir directed the 28 governors of the suspended states to appoint women as their deputies; they defied the orders and contrary to this, they went ahead to appoint their fellow men as deputies. Such politically motivated actions have revealed the bias of the junta regime in Juba but also show its lack of gender sensitivity and lack of representative gender balance government. It is nevertheless hoped that such perspective of gender issues will generate sufficient interest in the epistemological and ideological debates on important role of women in government and in any developmental agenda, because, gender equality establishes equal political, economic, cultural and social rights for both men and women, in all societies and especially society in South Sudan today.

It is extremely important then, to note that women participation in government and other institutions is prerequisite for the emancipation of the whole society and should therefore, be taken as matter of fundamental concern based on the concept of gender sensitive governance, because it requires equality and the realization of women’s rights as the heart of goals and practices of government. In this connection, our policies in the government of South Sudan should address the differing needs, interests, priorities and responsibilities of women and men as well as their equal economic and social power. It is affirmed in the developed countries that, giving women greater access to resources would contribute to an equitable and efficient development process that requires good governments which give men and women equal voices in decision-making and policy implementation.

In the conclusion, I would like to suggest that, the transitional government of national unity (TGONU) should kindly carry out gender sensitivity reforms in the national and local governments to help in creating favourable conditions to the realization of gender inequality in order to achieve a better gender balance to enable more women participate at all levels in the government for better development. This reform must be thoroughly made to change chauvinistic thinking and policies that are discriminatory or gender blind. The existing ideas of governance as the domain of privileged men must be broken and both men and women be inspired to identify their own potential roles in bringing about a transformed more equal society.

Some countries in Africa such as South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia, have made great strides in increasing the number of women in the government and we should take those countries as exemplary. Now, we are aware that, globally, any society that lags behind in empowering women will be at a disadvantage in almost every field, unless it supports and implement women human right norms in accordance with the international covenants that protect and help them to ensure their participation is constitutionally recognized to uphold their dignity to the satisfaction of their basic needs. Women might also need to be abreast with political information through attendance of social and political gathering, reading any available political literature and media article. They must be aware of their participation in political life and should take it as important aspect of correcting the current horrendous imbalance.

Loku Lo Laja

MA/PPM, MA/DS-CUEA

He can be reached at lokulolaja@ymail.com Tel. +254721404679