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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs