The women of Southern Sudan have urged the authorities of the world's newest member state to involve women in all levels of governance from the beginning, countering trends for societies in conflict to rely on male elites and then repeat the cycles. Previous examples have highlighted the need to implement policies of gender equality.
CEDAW, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, has long been stating that after disasters occur, the natural capacities of women as caretakers of children, the elderly, injured and disabled affords them a critical role in early recovery and in implementation of long-term sustainability mechanisms.
Being the most effective way to protect human rights and take care of the most vulnerable, the role of women in building new societies from periods of upheaval and conflict is obvious, but so often overlooked.
Women are also the most vulnerable members of society at times of increased stress and lawlessness.
A concrete example of the effectiveness of involving women in governance in post-disaster scenarios was in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where women heads of household were given priority in receiving and distributing food assistance, carrying out the task in a more sensible, orderly and calm way than males, in general terms, who in turn often push women out of line in queues.
Now, on the eve of the first international meeting on the future of South Sudan, the women of South Sudan reiterate the need to integrate them fully in the planning and development process of the world community's newest member. Recommendations were made at the Gender Symposium, hosted by UN Women and the Institute for Inclusive Society, namely:
*Establish a Women's Bank with start-up capital of a minimum of USD 10 million, providing women with accessible low interest loans and substituting social for physical collateral.
*Require 25 percent of all investment in agriculture to target and increase women's rate of crop production and ensure their access to markets.
*Ensure half of the resources in the Community Development Funds (financed through a share of oil revenues) is allocated to women's health, education, economic and physical security.
*Enable each state to double adult women's functional literacy (from current levels of 12 percent to approximately 25 percent nationally).
(Source: UN Women)
Further Reading: UN Women Press Release
South Sudanese Women Call for their Full Engagement in the Development Planning for South Sudan
UN Women and the Institute for Inclusive Society host Gender Symposium to put forward policy recommendations ahead of International Engagement Conference
On the eve of the first international meeting on the future of South Sudan, women leaders from the world's newest nation today put forth concrete policy recommendations on development, security and governance priorities for their country. These recommendations were developed at the Gender Symposium co-hosted by The Institute for Inclusive Security and UN Women, where South Sudanese women leaders from the government and civil society deliberated on development issues central to women's lives.
The recommendations will contribute directly to the discussions at the South Sudan International Engagement Conference (IEC) starting tomorrow in Washington DC, which will focus global attention on the post-separation priorities of South Sudan. It will shape the South Sudan Development Plan, the foundation and primary source of the country's social, economic, and political policies.
The South Sudan International Engagement Conference will encourage private sector investors and development aid donors to enter into a new relationship with South Sudan - as partners for peace and development.
"This is a vital opportunity to ensure that the next few years of stabilization bring opportunities, and don't reinforce or create new types of exclusion," said Sarah James, Chairperson of the South Sudan Women's General Association.
In other countries where war has ended, post conflict recovery and private sector development have most often returned power and economic opportunities to male elites. The Gender Symposium made a wide range of recommendations to ensure this does not happen in South Sudan. Their recommendations covered the major topics of the IEC: human capacity development, basic social service delivery, governance, private sector engagement, petroleum revenue management, physical infrastructure, and mobilizing aid in support of South Sudan.
During the symposium's deliberations women stressed that investment in South Sudan's future requires investments in women's capacities as workers, citizens, and members of families and communities. Although women made over 40 specific recommendations they highlighted four proposed initiatives as immediate priorities:
Establish a Women's Bank with start-up capital of a minimum of USD 10 million, providing women with accessible low interest loans and substituting social for physical collateral.
Require 25 percent of all investment in agriculture to target and increase women's rate of crop production and ensure their access to markets.
Ensure half of the resources in the Community Development Funds (financed through a share of oil revenues) is allocated to women's health, education, economic and physical security.
Enable each state to double adult women's functional literacy (from current levels of 12 percent to approximately 25 percent nationally).
Women in South Sudan have always been integral to the development of their country. During the civil war, women continually came together across borders to advocate for peace and played a critical role as agents of change. The Gender Symposium has been an opportunity for South Sudanese women leaders to leverage their vast experience and skills, and contribute concrete recommendations which can shape the development of their new nation.
"Women played such a central role during our long liberation struggle - we fought, we held together communities," policymaker Honourable Angelina Tenny said. She added: "We have a lot to offer. Women have invested everything they have in South Sudan's independence. We are setting the agenda and defining women's role in nation building, peace and development. We must invest in women, for peace and development."