An opportune moment, South Sudan's draft Gender Affirmative Action Bill is reviewed weeks ahead of International Women's Day

February 22, 2022

In centre from left to right, Hon. Martha Karua, Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Hon. Aya Benjamin Warille and participants from 9 State ministers and participants. Photo: UNDP/ Amos Agiro

JUBA 24 February 2022 — In a deliberate push to draft a Gender Equality Affirmative Action Bill (The Bill) for South Sudan, senior officials from the National Government and the States’ Ministry of Gender Child and Social Welfare, CSOs including people with disabilities, female political leaders and two regional experts on women’s participation reviewed proposed provisions on The Bill.

Opening the workshop, the Hon. Aya Benjamin Warille, Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare emphasized a collective effort in developing The Bill.

“The consultations for the development of this bill, started with people. We are in the stage of national consultations; this is to allow us to receive views and interests from a wide range of stakeholders and marginalized groups. Therefore, it is my hope that we expedite in these two days to achieve the effectiveness of 35% women’s political decision-making".

The consultative workshop welcomed the Hon. Martha Karua from Kenya, a senior counsel and former Minister of Justice, and Fatmata Bundu Sorie, a barrister and researcher from Sierra-Leonas as guest speakers to share a comparative analysis on gender justice reform and lessons learned which are useful to the development of South Sudan’s Gender Affirmative Action Bill.

This Bill is proposed as an Enforcement Bill that is specific to the implementation of Constitutional provisions on women’s inclusion and participation. Participants asked the regional experts how The Bill in South Sudan can safeguard women’s participation in decentralize governance. 

Participants deliberating the gender Affirmative Action Bill and Hon. Martha Karua sharing lessons learned in Kenya passing The BIll. Photo: UNDP/ Peter Kongmalavong

Theresa Siricio Iro Wani, Chairperson of Sudan African National Union asking regional expert Fatmata on gender development and ecology. Photo: UNDP/ Peter Kongmalavong 

Lessons learned from Kenya by Hon. Martha Karua guided stakeholders in the workshop to enforce penalties on duty-bearers. Hon. Martha Karua praised the 35% female representation in parliament and political caucus as a positive step for South Sudan. 

"For the two times I was a minister – we were 6 women in a cabinet of 24. Later about 6 women in a cabinet of 42. As a lesson to share, focus on deliberate policies to increase women’s participation and less on quotas,” said Hon. Martha Karua

“I encourage you to  be as explicit as you can be in this law… but in the case of gender equality, authority (the law)  put a duty on the duty bearers. So, let there be penalties for failing to comply...There are enough women in your country and my country too, so make the law as explicit as you can so you can get there...I want to conclude and say you have a good start because the transitional government and revitalized agreement all talk of the 35% women’s political representation.”

Representation for women in South Sudan falls behind in the political decision-making process, whether it is at county, state and payam level. This is despite a Constitutional provision that provides for ‘at least thirty-five percent (35%) representation of women.’

Participants deliberating the gender Affirmative Action Bill. Photo: UNDP/ Peter Kongmalavong

"This drafting of the bill is about having everyone on board, because when we talk about women representation in all life aspects, it should not just be one gender making every decision. When we want everyone on board, it is about democracy because we want everyone’s view to be there. This bill is about reddressing the historical imbalance of power sharing and decision making. Our cultural practices and gender norms, women were not part of the decision-making” said, Hon. Mary Ayen Mijok, Deputy Speaker of the Council of States

The workshop comes at an opportune time leading up to International Women’s Day celebrating on the 8th of March. The stakeholder engagement will deliberate key take-aways that will shape The Bill to improve the efficacy and implementation of the R-ARCSS.

“The political will is in the parties to do their part and to implement the peace agreement so our people can enjoy peace, stability and development. In my part, I push for education at the grassroots level – it is key for development,” said Dr. Elizabeth Joseph Shadar, Coordinator for Gender and Child Welfare – Office of the Vice President for Gender and Youth Cluster.

The workshop concluded on day 2 sharing state and regional lessons learned. UNDP South Sudan Resident Representative Samuel G.Doe said,

“This bill therefore comes at a critical time when the country is preparing for elections, and women political participation in decision making is even more crucial than before. The Bill provides notable provision to secure women’s representation in public life. We hope that this consultative process will even strengthen the bill further and through continuous advocacy, we shall have it in the law before the end of the transitional period.”


Read more below some key anecdotal facts on The Bill

  • South Sudan is implementing the United Nations Women, Peace and Security Agenda. The agenda is based on United Nations Resolution 1325 and ten (10) other resolutions. The Country adopted a South Sudan National Action Plan (2015-2020) and is in the process of developing a second plan. One of the key recommendations of a report on the National Action Plan is that the Ministry should enact an affirmative action law and oversight mechanism to guarantee the implementation of the 35 per cent quota for women.
  • This Bill is therefore proposed to be an Enforcement Bill that is specific to the implementation of the ‘…not less than 35%’ quota for women representation. It is intended to enhance compliance with the Constitutional provisions on women’s inclusion and participation.


For more information contact:

Peter Kongmalavong, UNDP Communication and Multimedia Officer,

About UNDP South Sudan Peace and Community Cohesion Programme:

The Peace and Community Cohesion programme (PaCC) at UNDP seeks to reduce and mitigate community level conflict and insecurity by investing in initiatives that address key drivers of conflict and insecurity. Using UNDP’s community security and social cohesion approach, the project empowers communities and supports the central and subnational governments and authorities to establish and enhance the capacity of peace infrastructures to manage conflicts peacefully; deepen social, cultural and economic cohesion among communities to foster healing, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence; and empower citizens, with added emphasis on women, youth and other marginalized groups for voice, agency and participation in governance and peacebuilding.

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in more than 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. 

Gender Affirmative Action Bill expert, Vicky Karimi presenting the Bill overview

Dr Elizbaeth Joseph Coordinator For Gender and Child Welfare Office of the Vice President and Rabab Baldo Senior Gender Advisor for IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan

The draft Gender Affirmative Action Bill

Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Hon. Aya Benjamin Warille

Samuel G.Doe UNDP Resident Representative opens the National Consultation on The Bill