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Women Voting in Large Numbers in Southern Sudan


As voting continues for a third day in Sudan's first multiparty elections in 24 years, women appear to have come out in huge numbers to participate in the elections. Analysts say the women's vote may be the determining factor in the outcome of the elections.

Despite extreme logistical and organizational challenges facing the Sudanese elections, the women of Sudan appear to be more determined to have their voices heard in these landmark elections.

It will take days to determine exact figures, but visits to Southern Sudan polling stations in the past three days have shown that women clearly outnumber men in voting queues. Reports from other parts of Sudan also indicate that more women have cast their votes, most of them for the first time in their lives.

The deputy secretary-general of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Southern Sudan, Ann Itto, related her voting experience at a press conference in Juba. "It was the first time I ever voted in my life. The feeling was great. And I felt that I had made my contribution to making this country a better place to live. More than 70 percent of the people in the queue were women ... pregnant ones and those who had just delivered the other day," she said.

Women have also proven to be more tolerant to the frustrating moments during the voting process, patiently waiting for their turn to vote. This reporter witnessed a number of men turning their back and leaving the polling stations with frustration, but many women stayed on to cast their votes.

This woman voter explained the frustration she encountered at a polling station in Juba.

She says some names are written in English at the polling stations, and it is hard to recognize those names because they are not in Arabic.

The SPLM's Itto said women, just like men, faced numerous frustrations at polling stations across the country, but there was an obvious determination in them to exercise their voting rights. "The determination I saw on the faces of those Sudanese who wanted to have an opportunity to choose their leaders for the next government, is the determination that SPLM would like to protect," she said.

There are also many women candidates in the elections. According to the Southern Sudan Election Committee almost 1,000 women are running for legislative and local government positions. Three women are running for governorships in the Southern Sudan states of Western Equatoria, Warrap and Unity.

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