International Women’s Conference Spotlights South Sudan

February 21, 2023

Juba---Four hundred and thirty (430) national and international women from fifteen countries gathered in Juba from February 13 to 15 for the first International Conference on Women’s Transformational Leadership. 

The conference dubbed #GuwaTaMara(Strength of a Woman) ended with pronounced recommendations including extending the 35 percent inclusion of women in political participation to local governance and systems; promote decentralization of governance processes to include women;  implement the peace agreement with focus on women, youth and children; and  capacity development in digital technology for women and their families,  focusing on food security, protection and engagement in the political and constitution process.

In his remarks, His Excellency President Kiir Mayardit said the conference highlighted the strides South Sudan has made in elevating women to public office. South Sudan can boast of a woman vice president, eight cabinet ministers including the Minister of Defense and Veterans and Speaker of Parliament. 

‘Our country cannot afford gender-based discrimination as this hinders peace and development,’ President Kirr said. “We have nurtured women leaders in South Sudan who are working incredibly toward the realization of gender equality.’

The historic gathering, dubbed #Guwatamara (Strength of a Woman),  came as Africa’s youngest nation tries to beef up the  implementation of the 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), which has key provisions aligned with the women peace and security agenda. 

Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, who hosted  the conference, said the Guwa Ta Mara conference brought visibility to South Sudan, and thanked the UN partners for supporting the conference. Vice President De Mabior and the UN partners emphasized that recommendations from the conference will serve as a catalyst for developing programs to support gender equality in South Sudan.

‘This Transformational Conference on Women’s Leadership is a spark to a bright and beautiful fire, we join together to recommit to advancing gender equality, not only in South Sudan, but also globally.’ She said. 

First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon  agreed with Vice President De Mabior  about the global recognition the conference has brought to South Sudan, especially after visit of Pope Francis. 

‘In a span of ten days, the world’s attention has been on South Sudan,’’ he said. “Many times, our women have gone to conferences in Nairobi, now we can say South Sudan can hold an international conference.’’ 

He encouraged the women to follow-up on the conference’s recommendation, especially the push for educating the girl child and suggested that they form a union to push for their rights and hold public officials accountable.

During the conference, delegates discussed six themes: women peace and security; governance and political participation; women’s economic empowerment; climate change and its impact on gender equality; movement building and women’s leadership in civil society; and intergenerational pathways to leadership.

In her keynote address, Africa’s first female President Madam Sirleaf recognized the women of South Sudan for their resilience in keeping Africa’s youngest country in peace. She also praised the government for fulfilling its commitment to ensuring 35 percent women representation.

While acknowledging the gains,  Madam Sirleaf said South Sudan’s women still face multiple forms of discrimination and barriers: two million women who are malnourished; nearly 75 percent of girls are illiterate; increase in conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence; women lack access to sanitation; and 45 percent of girls get married before the age of 18.

‘South Sudan needs its women to grow, so that it will grow as a flourishing nation, women are game changers when they are given opportunities and protected in the socio-economic and political system,’ she said. 

Making her remarks the United Nations Resident Coordinator for South Sudan, Sarah Nyanti said the Guwa Ta Mara conference aimed at shifting the narrative of South Sudan from humanitarian to development saying the women of South Sudan deserve the best. 

‘Let us put South Sudan on the international radar in a new way with development lens, hundreds of women from around the world came to “lift, motivate and encourage the women of South Sudan to continue on the journey that started so many years ago as they struggled for independence. The women of South Sudan deserve the best, so let us support them to make the best of this country,’  She said.

Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa said the conference was timely as it gave the women of South Sudan an opportunity to express themselves and discuss issues on empowerment. 

‘Women economic and political empowerment is central to realizing women’s rights and gender equality. Women’s economic empowerment included women’s ability to participate equally in existing markets; their access to and control over productive resources; access to decent work; and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels-from the household to national and international institutions.’ She said. 

During the conference, national and international speakers urged South Sudanese women to  ensure that their voices are reflected in the new constitution, political parties field women candidates, advocate for  relocating women from displaced camps, ensure that the 35 percent inclusion extends to the states and   that the national budget  supports  women rights agenda. Women make up 60 percent of South Sudan’s population of ten million; and youth comprise 75 percent.

Do whatever you can to ensure peace is solidified in your country, be involved in the political process to ensure that Africa’s youngest nation succeeds. To the powerful women of South Sudan, do not disappoint your children. You may not like each other but you love South Sudan more. It is not about you; it is about the future of your nation.’  Said Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee. 

South Sudanese women shared stories about their role in their country’s liberation and its transformation and learned from the experiences of women from Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Mauritius, Egypt and the United States of  America. 

The three-day conference featured high-profile speakers including Liberia’s former President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mauritius former President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Catherine Samba-Panza, former president of the Central African Republic, Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee and local and national women leaders in South Sudan and from the UN. The conference also attracted South Sudanese women from the diaspora, women from the displaced camps, the states, and administrative districts. 

For more information contact:

Nyankuir De Mabior
Office of the Vice President 
         Tel: +2110924944344

 Nomsa Taulo, UNDP 
         Tel: +211923561174

Sarah Nyabik Chaat, UNWomen
         Tel: +211926133169

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