News / Africa

Women Take Role in South Sudan Peace Talks

South Sudan peace negotiators meet in a night club in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 13, 2014.
South Sudan peace negotiators meet in a night club in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 13, 2014.
Marthe van der Wolf
Three members of the team negotiating for South Sudanese rebels in Ethiopia are women.  They have been playing a role in what is usually a male arena.

The ongoing high-level peace talks between South Sudan’s government and opposition include three women on the opposition side who are members of the national parliament in Juba.

The three delegates said they were aware seeing women sitting at the negotiating table might look strange to some Africans.

Sophia Pak Gai said she felt her country needed to be transformed.

“We want to see that our people live in harmony and in peace.  And actually, we are here pushing for peace as women because the majority of the population in South Sudan are women, 65 percent,” she said.

Fighting in South Sudan broke out mid-December between the opposition and the government headed by President Salva Kiir.

The peace delegations have been in Addis Ababa for negotiations on a cease-fire since the beginning of January.  Each delegation consists of 10 members.

The conflict began as a division in South Sudan’s ruling party, the SPLM.  The party is no stranger to war as it fought against its northern neighbor Sudan for decades.

Pak Gai said the role of women during war should not be underestimated.

“Women participated in many fronts, they took care of families, they nursed the wounded soldiers, they prepared food for soldiers, even in the front line.  And on top of this, they took arms actually.  They took arms along their counterparts," she said.

One of the women who was fighting on the frontline is delegation member Banguot Amumm.

She said that during negotiations, women were more specific than men.

“For others, who will see us on TV, at the roundtable they will see it as a shock for them, and they were not expecting us as women to be the one rebelling.  We cannot accept to continue under the leadership of Kiir, where he organized himself and would start targeting certain ethnic groups to maintain himself in power,” said Amumm.

The delegation of South Sudan’s government does not include any women.  Acting lead negotiator and Minister of Information Michael Makuei said the delegation was appointed by presidential decree.

“What is important is not the gender representation but what is important is the achievement of the objective.  The objective is irrespective if they are represented or not,” said Makuei.

But former minister of social development and SPLM deputy chairperson Sarah Nyanath believed it did make a difference if women were present.  She said women had different priorities than men, such as protecting women and children during conflicts.

The SPLM has known affirmative action for a long time, assigning at least a quarter of seats to women in every party body.  In parliament, 100 out of 332 seats are women.

The United Nations agency UN Women said that for the most part, there was a striking absence of women in formal peace negotiations around the world.  The agency said their role as negotiators, mediators, signatories or even witnesses remained notably low.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs