Sudanese women in joint call for greater political representation


Juba, 12 May 2007: The Samani Hall of the prestigious Juba University in South Sudan reverberated with song and dance. More than 700 women filled the hall that has a seating capacity of only 200 people. With the air conditioning not functioning and an extremely humid weather making things worse for the audience, they should have been complaining. But they were singing, clapping and dancing, and clearly in jubilation.

They were the delegates to the historic conference on Women in Politics the first of its kind in this part of the world, held in Juba from 7 -12th May 2007. It brought together women leaders from both North and South Sudan. The conference was jointly organized by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, the Government of Southern Sudan, and UNDP Southern Sudan Office.

Opening the conference, the First Vice-President of Sudan and President of Southern Sudan, H.E. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, reiterated his stand on the need to fully empower women. He pledged support for efforts towards building the capacity of women to enable them to make a more meaningful contribution to national development.

Amid thunderous applause, the President warned the male legislators “who are occupying posts meant for women” to vacate such offices if they cannot live up to the challenge.

Responding to the President’s remark that the women of Sudan have already created a momentum for themselves, Mr. Patrick Sweeting, Head of UNDP, Southern Sudan Office, said UNDP highly valued the recommendations of the conference and would take guidance from them for future Programmematic considerations.

Mr. Sweeting commented the immense commitment and unity of purpose among the women noting that this was the beginning of a dynamic political process and an essential part of politics.

Key speakers at the conference included Hon. James Wani Igga for Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly, H.E. Rebecca Nyandeng Minister for Transport and Road, H. E. Mary Kiden, Minister for Gender, Social Welfare and religious Affairs, H.E, Awut Deng, Presidential advisor, H.E. Minister for Public Service and H.E. the Governor for Central Equatoria. In addition were also Hon. Dr. Wal Duany, Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly Rajaa Hassan Khalifa, Secretary-General for Sudanese Women General Union, Dr Amna Mohamed Bedri, Dr. B. F. Bankie, from the Academy for Leadership and Life Skills, Juba, and Madam Awatif Mohamed Kamil, from the Ministry of Public Service and Development of Human Resources.

The conference was convened to create awareness about women’s political participation and to establish a better understanding of their development needs as well as addressing the causes of women’s marginalization and developing a common strategy for their political participation. It also sought to develop a common strategy and action plan for women’s capacity building for improved political participation.

The five-day conference resolved that the status of women in Sudan requires special attention as they suffered immensely throughout the war to safeguard their fundamental rights and continue to do so as gender issues are still hampered by traditions and the persistent social and economic neglect.

Recalling the long and heroic campaign for justice, freedom, equality and dignity, the conference called upon the people, political parties and government of both National Unity and GOSS to initiate a healing process. It is only through this that the people can herald an era of peace and progress and to attain the Millennium Development Goals, it has agreed.

Acknowledging the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on women’s participation, the delegates representing political parties, NGOs, business endeavors and civil society organizations called for dissemination and full implementation as a priority task, not only of the government, but also of the women.

The conference emphasized the need to build the capacity of women while taking into consideration the various challenges that hinder their effective participation. These include traditional, religious and customary practices and, the resultant effect of the war such as closure of educational institutions, brain drain and lack of economic development. It was noted that women’s participation be founded on a strong pedestal of competence. It is therefore imperative to provide appropriate training for women in order to fully equip them with technical skills for political office.

It was agreed that there is urgent need to address the current status of women in Sudan which has been neglected over the years. The conference called for the full implementation of constitutional provisions, especially those promoting the participation of women at all levels of government. It further called on the government to enact rules and regulations to implement the 25 per cent requirement and ensure that such regulations are incorporated into individual political party constitutions, so as to enable women to enjoy all rights, especially political and democratic rights.

Currently, despite the policy guideline which dictates that 25 per cent of all positions be held by women, there are only two female ministers and two advisers in the Government of Southern Sudan. With the notable exception of a handful of female county commissioners, there is probably a pervasive perception that women lack the qualities and experience to hold high office. This is despite the fact that only a few Sudanese men gained experience in governance during the many years of fighting.

The challenges confronting political parties, in general, and women, in particular, include the years of instability that have left an indelible impression on the principles, policies, activities, plans and ideas about future of political parties. Lack of funding for political parties, lack of offices, furniture or facilities to print and publish party documents has been a major constrains for all.

The conference called for increased and more frequent interactions with international organizations to facilitate and accelerate the capacity building process of women. It also called on women to network with political parties and the international which are working in the area of good governance and capacity building of democratic institutions.

In a communiqué the women demanded greater participation at all levels of government calling on the government to ensure proper implementation of the 25% constitutional provision. They demanded that all the relevant documents such as CPA, Interim constitution of Southern Sudan, constitution of GoNU, the state constitutions be unpacked to enable women to make an informed decision during the two events

For more information please contact:

Lona Elia, Project Manager, Good Governance and Equity in Political Participation, UNDP, Southern Sudan Office: lona.elia@undp.org

Antonette Miday, Communications Officer, UNDP, Southern Sudan Office: antonette.miday@undp.org

 



 
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