||Last Updated: Apr 13, 2011 - 7:10:58 AM
South Sudan Activists Say : Women Need Bigger Role
65 percent of the South Sudanese population made up of women, they need
more than 25% of official positions promised by government
One of the impacts of two decades of war is that women now make up about 65 percent of the eight million people of South Sudan.
A girl holds a South Sudan flag on January 30 during the announcement of the preliminary results of voting on independence
And while women fought alongside men during the conflict with the north,
or helped the effort in other ways, after the ceasefire, many women
feel they did not get the same recognition or respect as men.
Merekaje Lona is an activist for womens rights in South Sudan. She
thinks that even the interim constitutional guarantee of one quarter of
public positions going to women isn’t enough
“The issue of 25 percent, I am not satisfied with it in 2 ways, 1-women
in participation in the nation cannot only be 25percent, 2-the 25
percent has not been implemented in the correct way, therefore I feel
there is a lot that needs to be done, we need to get to know, to
identify, the competent women and have them compete with men and
implement the 25 percent as affirmative action,” said Merekaje Lona, an
activist for women’s rights in South Sudan.
The south Sudan interim constitution and 2005 Comprehensive Peace
Agreement (CPA) provides for affirmative action, stipulating at least 25
percent female participation in public life and their representation in
the legislative and executive organs. However, many women in the soon
to be independent nation are dissatisfied because they are not yet
adequately represented in the government and in other key
The southern ruling party, the SPLM, did promise to increase the 25%
female participation rate to 30% during last year’s election campaign.
But Beatrice Aber, an SPLM Member of Parliament in the southern assembly
said that promise needs to be formalised.
“The 25% affirmative action is definitely not enough and we need the
pledged 30% to be enshrined in the constitution currently under going
review,” Aber said.
Low literacy rates and prevailing traditional roles of women remain a
hindrance to their meaningful participation in political leadership.
This has appallingly affected the women’s participation in the country’s
Nevertheless, Suzzana Jambo a special advisor on gender issues during
the CPA negotiations, appealed to women to push for more than 30
She admitted that the region still lacks skilled and educated women who can fill government positions.
According to Benjamin Marial, the southern minister of information, the government’s efforts to women should be appreciated
“We have already 30 % of women in the parliament,” he said. “We have even gone beyond 25%.
He called for patience among women, asserting that over the past five
years in power, the government has been able to introduce the concept of
affirmative action, a completely new idea for most south Sudanese.
There are widely varying levels of understanding of human and women’s
rights in South Sudan, with more awareness among the small urban elite
than the much larger numbers of women in the vast rural areas. All of
which make the challenge promoting women’s rights within government and
its institutions and difficult one, but one that women activist say is a
key to the prosperity of the new nation.
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