Articles (Opinion/Analysis)

South Sudan, “Not merely a Woman”: what are the matters?

By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 17th August 2022

What are the matters really in South Sudan when terms such as “Not merely a woman” or “Ma mara sakit”; Equal Rights and Duties of Men and Women; Gender Equity; Affirmative Action and such are mentioned? This Article looks at what the Transitional Constitution, the R-ARCSS, and relevant arguments say, with intentions to create understanding, protection against manipulations.

Under the Concurrent Powers in Schedule C, the Transitional Constitution provides that the National and state governments shall have legislative and executive competencies on matters including Empowerment of women; and Gender policy. Worth to note that in its Preamble, the Transitional Constitution also talks about commitment “to upholding values of human dignity and equal rights and duties of men and women.”

The R-ARCSS, already incorporated into the Transitional Constitution, which talks that Provisions of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan and ARCSS on participation of women (35%) in the Executive shall be observed, due consideration to gender equity and affirmative action be given; protection of the needs of women, girls and those of other groups with special needs; also provides that the Parameters of the “Permanent” Constitution to be made per the Agreement guarantees “gender equity and affirmative action”.

The Transitional Constitution also says “there shall be a substantial representation of women in the Judiciary having regard to competence, integrity, credibility and impartiality.”

Of course the matters are more than just politics, they include other aspects of empowerment, public life, including education. Also on  Right to Education, Article 29 (1) of the Transitional Constitution provides that “Education is a right for every citizen and all levels of government shall provide access to education without discrimination as to religion, race, ethnicity, health status including HIV/AIDS, gender or disability.”

So, who are Women?

In an interview with Radio Tamazuj published Monday 17th, Dr Ann Itto Leonardo said “Our political parties are not creating enough forums for women to understand who they are,” arguing that “women are very cautious in politics,” and that “the parties must do a lot to attract more women to their membership.” Dr. Itto, being a senior SPLM member and currently a member of the East African Legislative Assembly representing South Sudan, also talked about an organization, Mara Muhim (A woman is Important), which she has established based in Juba, she said, to share her experiences, carry out research on women leaders, among others.

“So what I want to start in my program is to introduce to women how political parties work and what types of political parties they can join. We need to change how political parties behave because some parties do not encourage women who want to progress in politics,” She said.

“As citizens, you have equal rights to participation and responsibility in transforming what is happening in the country. My advice to women is, do not fear politics. But before you get into it, inform yourself very well. You need to know how political parties work. You need to understand how to support your interests but do not wait for somebody to call you. Begin to play a role because this is your country…”

Indeed the matters are more than just politics, they include other aspects of empowerment, public life, including education.

In a publication a year ago, I wrote:

“Dear South Sudanese Women,

The rationale behind the Affirmative Action requiring all levels of government in South Sudan to promote women participation in public life and their representation in the legislative and executive organs by at least thirty-five (35) percent is redress for imbalances created by history, customs, and traditions. It is at least 35 Percent. 35 percent was never to be your limit. For example, if certain Bomas and Payams have very few qualified women because of the imbalances created by history, customs, and traditions, it’s okay for such Bomas and Payams to have 35 Percent or even fewer women representatives in their organs (executive, e.g.) while policies are put in place to address that.

However, at County, State and National Levels, the number of highly qualified South Sudanese women are so sufficient for appointment on the basis of 50-50 with men. Or at least I think so. And I don’t think it’s right to reduce women to demanding full implementation of 35% when actually they deserve 50%.

In my last article, I said there are credible, respected South Sudanese elders, intellectuals and professionals, religious leaders and youth, who can be able to do the task of transitioning South Sudan to lasting peace and democracy, fast and timely, in collaboration with good partners in the region and beyond. Some of you probably noticed that this is unusual as I left out Women. Well, I did that deliberately. But for good reasons as I believe South Sudanese Women have come a long way, they are not just on the downside all the time, when we mention elders, intellectuals and professionals, religious leaders and youth, they are not and should not be men only, but women and men!

Ladies, do not be tricked. You are more than 35% Affirmative Action. And more than 50 percent of the population. Just because a big number of our women have not been lucky to go to school doesn’t mean that women be limited to or be made to limit themselves to 35% Affirmative Action, even when they have the numbers to go higher.”

Rights of Women

Article 16 of the Transitional Constitution Provides that:

(1) Women shall be accorded full and equal dignity of the person with men.

(2) Women shall have the right to equal pay for equal work and other related benefits with men.

(3) Women shall have the right to participate equally with men in public life.

(4) All levels of government shall:

(a) promote women participation in public life and their representation in the legislative and executive organs by at least twenty-five per cent as an affirmative action to redress imbalances created by history, customs, and traditions;

(b) enact laws to combat harmful customs and traditions which undermine the dignity and status of women; and

(c) provide maternity and child care and medical care for pregnant and lactating women.

(5) Women shall have the right to own property and share in the estates of their deceased husbands together with any surviving legal heir of the deceased.”

Conclusions:

All these matters can be about continued discussions, improvements, making better, through the available legal framework and legitimate avenues. They are more than just politics, they include other aspects of empowerment, public life, including education of women, girls, and  protection against manipulations. From imparting such information and ideas to various levels, through parties, organizations, associations, groups and relevant authorities.

Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, a South Sudanese journalist is the Author of the Book Freedom of Expression and Media Laws in South Sudan, and Producer and Host of The Weekly Review: Making Sense of Relevant Topics and News. For more, more about his work on related topics of peace, justice and democratic transformation, visit his website ROGERYORONMODI.COM

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