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Women leaders raise voices to advocate for equal rights in South Sudan

The Government of South Sudan’s Revitalized Peace Agreement in 2020 included an important provision – that women should comprise 35 percent of governance bodies at both state and national levels. The country made a significant commitment to women. 

This aims for a strong empowerment call for women in the country to become independent decision makers and be able to raise their voices, and be heard.

In February 2022, World Vision organized a training of trainers for partners composed of national organizations in Juba under the Fortifying Equality and Economic Diversification (FEED II) Project funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC)The training focused on gender roles, social norms and how women in leadership can be empowered in South Sudan.

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Women Advancement Organization Acting Country Director Victoria Poni and World Vision’s FEED II Project Officer Sarah Naduru say yes to women’s rights and empowerment.

 

Flora Leila, the Executive Director of Samaritan Mission Aid (SMA), a national non-governmental organization in Juba is an active local woman leader.

She started her journey of being an advocate as a volunteer with SMA in 2019. The 37-year-old mother of three was trained on gender-based violence, peace and security, and leadership skills to build her capacity.

Flora says, “I am happy to be of help to other women who confide their problems with me and trust me as a leader. Leadership comes with a lot of responsibilities but I have decided and determined to walk in that path.”

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Samaritan Mission Aid Executive Director Flora Leila imparts knowledge with the women she counsels and mentors .

 

“I heard of a woman who lost her life because her parents forced her to return to her husband who was beating her”, she shares. Flora believes that countless women face inequality in decision making in issues. She adds, “It is injustices like indecision in society that make women and girls vulnerable and looked down as mara sakit."

Most women take care of their families even during COVID-19 and a bad economy. Men do nothing and expect food at the end of the day.” The term mara sakit means “just a woman”. 

The term is often used by men with their wives, implying that they have no voice as women.  Some communities in South Sudan still hold firm to their traditional beliefs and cultures.

Most women are not educated. Few have completed primary education. We need to advocate for girl child education and as leaders attain other qualifications to compete for positions with the males.

Most women in the rural areas are not allowed to share their opinion publicly on what is happening in their communities even if it affects them.

Another hindrance women face on their journey to leadership is a lack of education. “Most women are not educated. Few have completed primary education. We need to advocate for girl child education and as leaders attain other qualifications to compete for positions with the males”, says Flora.

She further adds, “Poverty encourages domestic violence that lead to broken families. I have used skills I learnt from World Vision to train a group of 20 women to empower and equip them with knowledge.”

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The women advocates believe that united they will change the perspective on women in their families, communities and the nation as a whole.

 

Flora’s dream is to become a member of parliament and a voice for the voiceless women. “I want a South Sudan where women are independent, respected and considered in all decision making processes”, she adds.

Victoria Poni, the Acting Country Director of Women Advancement Organization (WAO) said that most women in South Sudan have the potential to lead but they do not stand a chance to compete fairly against men.

Poni shares, “Women are so discriminated against that they have to face all odds to make it in life and in leadership. The training from World Vision will enable us to train other women in our women and girls friendly spaces in South Sudan.”

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Sarah Naduru facilitates a session with the women’s group discussing gender roles and how responsibilities should be shared in families.

 

She also decried that some organizations even disqualify women who apply for higher positions. “This should not happen. Awareness sessions need to be done in communities and men should be included in GBV programming”, adds Poni.

Just like Flora, Poni encourages women to fight and stand up for their rights. “Women should work hard, show their talents when given the platform. Change will take time but we need to start now with our advocacy work.”

“The FEED II Project is working with women and men to promote gender equality and resilience through strong businesses. It works alongside several local women-led organizations with a mutually beneficial arrangement in which we support and learn from each other”, says Alana Mascoll, FEED II Chief of Party.

Story and photos by Jemima Tumalu, Communications Officer