March 9, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s ruling party has said it intends to increase the mandatory percentage of women in the SPLM from 25% to 35% in order to empowering women so that in the future they will be able to compete with men on an equal basis.
- Women leaders, from the left, Angilina Teny, the wife of South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar, Rebecca Nyandeng, Presidential Adviser on gender and human rights, among others saluting women and men in Bor’s Freedom Square, March 8, 2013 (ST)
The Deputy Speaker of South Sudan’s National Legislative Assembly, Daniel Awet Akot told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that the country had "formulated laws that promote and protect women rights".
The day after the country celebrated international women’s day Akot said:
"They have the right to hold senior positions in the government. Some of them are now ministers either at the national level or in the state. Others have had opportunities to be governors. Others are senior now in positions. Governor in Warrap State is a woman. This shows that we are committed to promoting women representation. The constitution gives them the opportunity to serve in any position like men."
Akot thanked and appreciated the enormous role which women played during South Sudan’s decades of liberation struggle for equality, respect for diversity and equitable power and wealth sharing against successive Khartoum-based regimes from where it seceded in 2011 under a 2005 deal.
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement stated that 25% of women in the Government of South Sudan should be filled by women, although the SPLM struggled to fill this quota, largely due to low literacy rates especially among women.
Under the deal South Sudan gained independence in 2011, an achievment that could not have been accomplished with out women, Akot said.
Women "helped us achieve the dream. They provide logistics, they provide foods to our troops, they provide care to our children and all the other goods which helped us moved on with the mission”, he explained.
South Sudan minister of information and broadcasting service, Barnaba Marial said president Salva Kiir congratulated women for celebration of the dedicated to them globally and affirmed the committed commitment of the government to empower them at all levels of government.
"The president had passed his sincere thanks and congratulatory message to women. You know that women had made enormous contributions in the liberation struggle. Their immense contributions to the birth of this nation are beyond any measurement. They are architects of our history and for clearing the way for future generations to live in a more equitable society. As government, we will do whatever we can within our capacity and power to make sure that they get the opportunities to realize their dreams and utilise their potentials at any level”, Marial told journalists at the Council of Ministers on Friday shortly after attending weekly cabinet meeting.
The Secretary General of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), Pagan Amum, said the decision raise women representation to 35% was taken at a three-day meeting which brought together senior members of the SPLM’s Political Bureau, the highest organ in the hierarchical structure of the former rebel movement.
He said he expected the resolution to be implemented at all levels.
“The SPLM leadership has resolved at its extraordinary meeting at the level of political bureau to increase women representation from 25% to 35%. This proposal has been approved by the political bureau. It will be presented at the national liberation council and also at the national convention for approval. It will be in the constitution and it will be implemented in the SPLM institutions, in the government and in our society”, Amum told journalists on Friday.
He said the leadership was fully aware of the fact that women and girls are facing a lot of challenges including early marriage, gender-based violence and illiteracy.
Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Agnes Kwaje Lasuba said some negative traditional practices were still forcing girl’s to become child brides, denying them their right to education.
"The child and teenage pregnancies that follow marriage put these girls at grave risk. As we are celebrating this day with our fellow women in the world, I must tell you that South Sudan is one of the most dangerous places for any girl or woman to give birth. It has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The situation is compounded by customary traditions such as dowries which are used as bride price", either in the form of cattle as the main source of income for some rural communities, which perpetuates this practice and to some extent, the veil of silence or in some of some cash in some of the communities in our country”, she explained.
The minister, in a text broadcast by state owned South Sudan Television on Saturday asserted that prevalence of gender based violence in the country affects at least four in ten women, with many more cases going unreported. Even more alarming, studies indicate that eight out of ten South Sudanese men and women tolerate violence against women.
To address in imbalance created by traditional beliefs and cultural practices as well as the result of South Sudan’s conflicts, various speakers on international womens recommended girl education as the best way to empower women.
“Women have made a lot of contributions in our society. They have participated a lot in the struggle of our people. They have made significant sacrifices. They have suffered. As government the only to reward them is to educate them. The best reward is education”, Moris Yel Akol, Deputy Governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal reportedly told women gathering on Friday
Akol, who was addressing the gathering in his capacity as acting governor, said the government had done a lot to promote and empower women at all levels and was working together with partners to reverse the practice of child marriage and prevent gender based violence.
"As government, we are committed to promoting women rights and empowering them. We have created a ministry dedicated to women affairs. It has a mandate to look only on how women rights can be protected but also monitor, investigate, and report issues related gender based violence to the government. We also encourage our partners to do the same. At the moment, we have developed strategic plans and approaches and initiatives aimed at mobilizing communities, NGOs, and the Government as change agents in this endeavor", Akol told Sudan Tribune by phone from Wau, capital of Western Bahr el Ghazal State on Friday.
The Acting Governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Madut Dut Yel, said the government was focused on women’s empowerment in the state, encouraging them to actively participate at all levels of government.
“This is a big day not only to women but also to us in the leadership positions and in the society because women have contributed a lot in the liberation. We know how much they have contributed during war. This is why we have given fair share in the government. It is actually in our government where we have more women”, Yel reportedly told the gathering on Friday.
Women in South Sudan currently make up approximately 30% of the legislature, with more than 25 percent holding ministerial positions. Government statistics show that in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal State Legislative Assembly there are more women than men.