Women Advocate for Enhanced Inclusion in Politics

JUBA, July 19 (Gurtong) – The Minister for Gender, Social welfare and Religious Affairs, Agnes Kwaje Lasuba on Friday called upon the Government of Southern Sudan to initiate policies that favour women’s involvement in politics.

By Juma John Stephen

She spoke when she opened a conference titled “Conference for Southern Sudan Women in Political Parties to Develop a Women’s Common Agenda for the Elections” held at Star hotel in Juba between 17 July and 19 July.

She added that discrimination of women in politics has discouraged and scared many women not to get involved in political life and develop their full potentiality.

“The stereotype that girls should not go to school has resulted into high illiteracy rates among women, early marriages and low involvement in politics”, she said.

“Unless these obstacles are removed, women cannot progress faster in political or public and private sectors. Concrete measures should therefore be taken by all levels of government to promote women’s participation and to inform the public of all the legal provisions, which establish and define the principles of equality between men and women”, said Lasuba.

She said that women’s involvement in politics will only be realised if there is sufficient political will from the government and commitment through a unity of purpose from women in all political parties in South Sudan.

“If this is done, indeed women can achieve gender equality within six years, if not thereafter”, said the Minister during the convention aimed at preparing women for the forthcoming elections.

The Southern Sudan Programme Manager for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Lucy Luguga said the forum will help the women sit together, discuss and come up with a common agenda   which they will use during the elections in their different political parties.

The Chairperson of Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission, Joy Kwaje said the workshop aimed at ensuring that women are represented across the political divide.

A guest speaker, Dr Miriam R K Matembe, a former Ugandan Member of Parliament and Minister responsible for fighting corruption and Member of Parliament of the Pan-African Parliament, said the current quota system that has been introduced in the electoral law is a good idea but expressed doubts on its likelihood to discourage women’s involvement in politics.

She argued that many of the women will fear to go for the 60 percent allocation and stick to the 25 percent, which is their right.

“Women who will decide to go for the 60 percent will be discouraged by the voters for being hungry for power. We are here to share with the women of South Sudan and challenge them to take up the courage and go for the 60 percent”, said Dr Matembe.

“My call to the women is take courage. Get up and take your rights. Rights are never given, they are taken up and that is why we are here”, she added.

Participants called upon the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Political Parties Affairs Council, political parties in South Sudan and the media to address their recommendations.

“All political parties should commit themselves to allocate at least 10 percent of their positions to women on the party list and they should encourage and support their candidacy for constituency seats. Moreover, fair competition should be promoted and women aspirants should, at the same time, work hard to raise their visibility and profile within and outside their political parties”, said Honourable Alakiir Malual, who read the recommendations on behalf of the women.

“Political parties should provide material and financial support to women candidates and party leadership should visibly support women candidates and women’s ‘election basket’ should be set up to support the women candidates”, she added.

During the conference, the women formed a 7- member committee made up of women who are based in Juba to follow up on their recommendations and in turn report to the entire women on the progress.

Among those selected were former South Sudan Minister of Gender, Social Welfare and Religious Affairs Mary Kiden Kimbo and the chairperson of the Southern Sudan Anti-Corruption Commission Dr Pauline Riak.

The South Sudan Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Dr Martin Elia Lomuro, who was the chief guest, urged women to uphold high moral values in order to gain respect in the community in their pursuit for political power.

He called upon women to identify and encourage potential leaders among themselves so as to attain sufficient representation.

He pledged to support civic education in the states and called for free and fair elections devoid of violence.

“I am going to go to every village and teach the people there what elections are. We have 625 trainers who will go door to door to educate the people, and we are going to make sure that the majority are women”, said Dr Lomuro.

The conference was attended by women in South Sudan with political interests, members of parliaments and social workers among others.

It was facilitated by officials from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and political parties’ officials in South Sudan.

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