By Lucy Ayak Malek
OPINION – I want to commend His Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his entire (SPLM-IG) team, as well as the FVP, Dr. Riak Machar Teny and his (SPLM-IO) team, for finally reaching consensus on the appointment of the governors of the 9 states that form our Republic under the Revitalized Peace Agreement; I equally encourage his Excellencies to forge a way forward on deadlock surrounding the appointment of Upper Nile State governor such that 10 states that constitute our Republic would have its local administration in place to avoid conflicts caused by lack of political leadership at states and local levels.
The constant disagreements, delays and postponements over the nominees for state governorship have dragged on for a very long enough, threatening to derail the fragile peace agreement aimed at forging reconciliation, institutions’ building, rule of law, statecraft and all other good intentions that constitute prosperous Republic. I therefore thank you our leaders, for finally managing to maneuver through this daunting task, and giving our country a chance to march towards lasting peace. To the gubernatorial appointees, I congratulate you for your appointments, and I challenge you to work, not for self-gratification but for the good of our country and its people. We are a young nation that has been fractured by war, our country is limping, bleeding, weeping from the pains of war. I request our appointed governors to please work to heal us not further tear us apart.
That aside, my intention for penning this article is the noticeable absence of women throughout 6 States under flagship of SPLM-IG, a question of 35% affirmative on side of SPLM under President Salva Kiir Mayardit. A sustainable leadership is necessary for peace, prosperity and tranquility in the country, and sustainable leadership is only possible when all stakeholders are engaged and involved. With that in mind, allow me to register my disappointment at how the governorship appointments were made without due regard on women’s affirmative action as enshrined in T-CSS and R-ARCiSS, under 6-SPLM-controlled states; this is a clear demeaning of women’s roles in leadership and statecraft.
I understand that in such appointments, there are political interests that have to be appeased and alliances that have to be maintained, but with all due respect, do the leaders in both President Kiir’s and First Vice President Dr. Machar’s camps, mean to say that throughout the country, they could identify just a single woman to hold a governorship position? That question requires sincere reflection on the side of our leaders. Whether the interests of gun welding men override the overall good of the country, whether it is acceptable to literally ignore a section of the population that makes up more than half of the country?
I also understand that world over, male chauvinism still lingers, where few women appear in the ladder of leadership. Even in developed democracies like the USA and Europe, having women in substantial positions of leadership is not a norm but rather an exception. In the USA, they are just going to make history by having a female Vice President for the first time ever in over 200 years of American democracy, who knows how many more years it will take before a first female President is elected. In the UK, the only noticeable woman among the many Prime Ministers over the centuries, was Mrs. Margaret Thatcher. In Africa’s recent history, the 54 countries have had only one elected female President (Mrs. Ellen Johnson Serleef of Liberia).
In the view of these bleak figures, it would be justified for South Sudan leadership to ignore women since, well, after all they have long been and continue to be ignored everywhere else. However, allow me to point out, my fellow countrymen and women, that South Sudan, unlike many, if not most other countries, was born out of extra-ordinary circumstances, we found ourselves in a country (Sudan) that didn’t consider us (the then southern Sudan region) worthy of enjoying full rights of citizenry, they considered us only fit to serve them, and that is why we fought for decades to liberate ourselves from that enslaving mentality. One would assume that a people whose nation was born out of resistance to being segregated against, would be sensitive enough not to subject a section of its population to the same.
From the appalling figures of female leadership around the world, one would be compelled to simply give up and surrender to their fate. But let me point us to where the gist of this argument is. It is on record that in countries where women are actively involved in leadership, those countries have statistically performed much better on the leadership scale than those with predominantly male leadership. Scandinavian countries have performed the best in this area and its nowonder that they have the highest Human Development Index scores, the most effective universal health care, universal education, highest employment figures, and lowest poverty figures all over the world.
Finland today prides itself in being the third least corrupt country in the world, and it’s headed by Sanna Marin, a 35 year-old woman. Also, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought even the superpower nations to their knees, the one country that has proven a beacon of hope in controlling the spread of the disease with the least disruption to their way of life is New Zealand (the second least corrupt country in the world), and its headed by Jasinda Ardern, a 40 year-old woman.
In Africa, the one country that has adopted the policy of having women on a massive scale in its leadership is Rwanda, and over the past 25 years, its GDP has been growing by double figures. Today, Rwanda has more women MPs (51%) than men in its Parliament, it has more female ministers and other key government department leaders than any other country on the continent.
Not surprising, it is also a leading investment destination on the continent, it has the highest score on investor-friendly business environment, wastage of public resources is at a minimum, it recently constructed one of the largest and ultra-modern international airports on the continent. I bring out all these statistics to show our leaders and the entire nation of South Sudan, that having women in positions of leadership is not a favor, but rather a necessity for the good of the nation, and God knows that we need all the goodwill that we can get if we are to get our country back on track.
In any uncivilized political contestation, it is the women that suffer the most. In wars, they are left to fend for the families as the men go to war, they are left orphaned, widowed and/or childless as their fathers, husbands and sons die in conflict, they are targeted with mass rape as a weapon of war, hospitals are destroyed where they would run for medical emergencies, school are bombed down where they would take their children to study, and their farm fields destroyed in scorched-to-earth fighting strategies.
They deserve a voice in how their country is led – WE deserve to have a place at the decision-making table, because the decisions that come down from that table affect us the most. Unlike during the war when women were restricted to child-bearing/care and home making, today women have achieved commendable merit in literally all professional fields and am proud to say that South Sudan now has women who can be at the very helm of our nation’s leadership, so why continue to keep them down, despite clear evidence demonstrating that the country stands to gain if you involve them?!
I call upon the concerned citizens of South Sudan to critically reflect on this unfortunate incident and take a sustained advocacy for our leadership and SPLM to rectify its neglect over women’s. The Revitalized Peace Agreement provide for a 35% portion of leadership positions to be accorded to women. I especially appeal to Vice President Mama Rebecca Nyadeng, Defense Minister, Hon. Angelina Teny and the First Lady Mama Mary Ayen Mayardit to take up this challenge and become its driving force in policy circles.
Mama Nyadeng has especially demonstrated her yearning for peace in our nation, severally seen weeping (crying) whenever there were preventable huddles during peace talks. I wish to put it to you our dear mother of the nation, that ignoring women in leadership is the most dangerous huddle to sustainable peace and prosperity in our nation, and I therefore besiege you to make your voice be heard as you have always done. In every position of responsibility that women have been called upon to hold, whether in their homes, their professional careers or even public leadership, they always first consider the well-being of the people in their care, because that is how God created us, He gave us caring hands. And South Sudan desperately needs more than a few caring hands at this very moment.
God Bless you, and God Bless my beloved nation, Republic of South Sudan.
The writer is an activist for peace in South Sudan.
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