The women who participated in the in the leadership mentorship sessions with the National Transformational Leadership Institute (NTLI) and UNDP, supported by the Government of Sweden, in Bor, Jonglei State. Photo: UNDP

 

At national and state level, South Sudanese women continue to push for diligent implementation of the 35% quota for women in governance structures as agreed in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).

In Jonglei State, women want their voices heard.  

“I am leader of a women’s group in the Protection of Civilian (POC) site in Bor, Jonglei State. In the PoC, leadership established a communal court. Unfortunately, in the beginning, all nine members of the court were men. I, as the chairperson of the women's group, protested and demanded the inclusion of four women representatives on the court. When the men were not willing to give up their positions, I reported the matter to UNMISS Human Rights, who supported us. As we speak now, the court in the PoC includes women representation,” said Elizabeth Joseph Chan. 

Elizabeth was speaking during a three days’ women leaders mentorship workshop conducted by the woman-led National Transformational Leadership Institute (NTLI), part of the University of Juba. A cohort of 42 emerging and current women leaders, from different sectors and age groups, gathered for the sessions in Bor.  

“I am leader of a women’s group in the Protection of Civilian (POC) site in Bor, Jonglei State," said Elizabeth Joseph Chan. Photo: UNDP

The meeting was held ahead of International Women's Day (IWD), commemorated annually on March 8th, and convened in 2021 under the theme #ChooseToChallenge. The IWD Generation Equality campaign emphasizes women and girls’ full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence. 

Supported by UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion project, coaching and mentoring women leaders in Jonglei State and elsewhere is designed to bridge the gaps preventing equal participation in public life in South Sudan. Women in the country tend to be disadvantaged to men when seeking public roles due to limited access to information, lack of role models and lack of experience in party politics, where nominations and appointments shape political leaders of the future. 

Through the workshop, the women leaders in Jonglei had a chance to discuss and reflect on their unique leadership journeys, shared experiences, as well as strategies for increasing their participation in decision making.  

Hon. Awur Chol Adol, member of the Jonglei State Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation Commission, making her remarks. Photo: UNDP

“Despite the fact that I am not a graduate, I am still a leader. I pray that I shall make it to the greater heights in Jonglei’s Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation Commission. Rebuilding South Sudan and Jonglei state is a collective responsibility of both men and women leaders,” said Hon. Awur Chol Adol, who has been appointed as a member of the commission. 

Amongst the hurdles shared during the mentorship sessions:  

  • Many women who #ChooseToChallenge and articulate issues are reluctant to come forward or join decision-making bodies due to gender norms, such as fear of being labeled and outright gender discrimination creating hostile environments.

  • Unclear party manifestos and combatant behaviors turn some women away from participation. 

  • “Pull her down” syndrome exists among some and can impact self-esteem.   

  • Poor time management of existing structures presents issues for the women, who must balance domestic responsibilities with any professional aspirations.  

  • For young women, they requested support to navigate in such spaces from senior women. The group discussed transitioning leadership to the younger generation through intergenerational collaboration and mentorship.  

The group discussed transitioning leadership to the younger generation through intergenerational collaboration and mentorship. Photo: UNDP

“Women leaders do not [have] weak knees and feeble hearts, for we shall always face hurdles blocking us. However, that should not be discouraging, for it has been a battle fought by every woman leader that is admired today. We are ready to contribute by all ways possible for peace and security to be realized in South Sudan,” declared Hon. Elizabeth Achol Wal, a former member of the Jonglei State Peace and Reconciliation Commission, and now a member of the Jonglei State Employees Justice Chamber. 

Emphasizing the skills of the women in Jonglei in mediation and conflict resolution, the women shared experiential learnings on how to resolve disputes amongst women and communities. The women leaders also appreciated the uniting factor the workshop itself achieved, by including a wide range of participants, including women from the PoC and Bor town.  

“Each leadership opportunity [allocated] to women can make a tremendous impact on the greater society. For example, women’s participation in the local peace committee in Jonglei has drastically reduced conflict incidents at water points. I would like to recommend that women be given more leadership for peace to be achieved,” said Mary Dok Chuor. 

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Not only women in Jonglei State are standing up to take up leadership roles in their communities, institutions and beyond. Women in Northern Bahr el Ghazal are forming groups to foster economic interdependence and participating in border peace negotiations. Learn more about UNDP's Peace and Community Cohesion project.

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