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Conference will combine the efforts of civil society activists and political leaders to promote women’s participation
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Oct 3, 2007 - 8:59:54 PM

For immediate release – October 1, 2007


Conference will combine the efforts of civil society activists and political leaders to promote women’s participation


Juba, Central Equatoria State — A conference will mark the beginning of the collaboration between legislators, government officials and civil society groups in their common effort to support women’s participation and leadership in Southern Sudan, Abyei Area, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile (the Three Areas). Participants will convene at a conference under the title of “Strengthening women’s participation and leadership in Southern Sudan and the Three Areas”, which will take place from the 3rd to the 6th of October at the Sunflower Inn, in Juba. This forum will be a unique opportunity for these actors to understand each other’s role and recognize their potential for collective action to achieve women’s equality.


The conference will give a chance to 70 civil society women leaders from rural areas to voice the challenges for women’s participation in 15 counties across Southern Sudan and the Three Areas. They will work along with members of the Government of Southern Sudan, including 30 members of the Women’s Forum of the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA). Invited guests include the Chairperson of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee of the SSLA, HE Mary Nyaulung; the Special Adviser to the President on Gender and Human Rights, HE Rebecca Garang; the Deputy Secretary General of the SPLM, HE Anne Itto; and the Chairperson of the Southern Sudan Land Commission, HE Robert Ladu.


The conference aims to involve all actors in defining a way forward to promote the active participation and advancement of women. First, participants will identify the greatest challenges Southern Sudanese women face in political and social participation, and the barriers to implement and safeguard their rights. Then, they will define how they could act upon those issues in their specific roles as government officials and civil society leaders. This conference will also offer these players the chance to explore opportunities for collaboration. The words of Tereza Angeth Deng, a civil society leader and founder of Dot Baai Women’s Group in Agok, capture the spirit of this forum. “My vision for the coming years is that women continue to be empowered and confront gender inequality,” Ms. Deng said. 


Civic and political leaders attending this conference will review the legislative, structural and grassroots changes in Southern Sudan and the Three Areas in recent years, and their implications for women’s rights. As society renews its social foundation and builds governmental structures, it is crucial to include the voices of women in development and decision-making. Specific topics to be addressed in the conference include education, reproductive health, land ownership, inheritance issues, food security, political participation and civic engagement. Participants will look at existing equity tools in the current legislation, including the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan (ICSS), and ways in which they can ensure these instruments are fully utilized. 


Attendees will also have the chance to listen to the experiences of international women leaders, such as the 50-50 Group, from Sierra Leone, and the Ugandan Coalition. These groups were successful in bringing about change in women’s participation and civic engagement. Their cases will provide inspiration to participants on ways they could act in their specific roles as legislators, members of the executive and grassroots leaders. This collaboration was very important for Azza Mohammed Yusif, a middle school teacher in Kurmuk, and a member of the Kurmuk Women’s Association. Having overcome many cultural and religious barriers to achieve her goals, she highlighted the importance of getting assistance from both her community and the government. “I was empowered through support from my family, friends, and the local government,” she explained to Mercy Corps. In her opinion, “women should be determined, and openly discuss their concerns about education and career.”


Supported with funds from USAID, this conference is organized by Mercy Corps, the International Rescue Committee, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).


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