News / Africa

    Can Women Save South Sudan?

    • Sisters Matilda (left) and Sarah Rial speak to a remote participant in a conference about restoring peace in South Sudan, via Skype.
    • Women carry food at a food distribution site in Nyal, Unity State, April1, 2014. Women and children make up the majority of people displaced by the conflict in South Sudan.
    • Western Bahr el Ghazal Finance Minister Lilian Riziq tells a conference in Washington that women can play a key role in bringing peace to South Sudan, just as they have done in her state.
    • Women carry the body of a civilian killed in the center of Malakal, Upper Nile State in South Sudan, Jan. 21, 2014.
    • Sarah Rial, organizer of the conference in Washington, D.C. on May 24-25, 2014, says the time is ripe for women to take a lead role in restoring peace in South Sudan.
    • South Sudanese women, displaced by the fighting, collect garbage in a camp for displaced persons in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Juba, February 19, 2014.
    • The executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (third from left) said during a visit in February to a U.N. base in Juba where thousands of people have sought shelter from unrest in South Sudan that women should be given a bigger role in the peace process, and they and children are bearing the brunt of the conflict.
    A conference in Washington is told that putting South Sudanese women in leadership positions could help to bring lasting peace to the country.
    With South Sudan's peace process floundering, members of the diaspora and their American supporters have come up with a possible solution: give women leadership roles and let them restore peace.

    “Women bring order to things much faster than men with AK-47s,” U.S. businessman and political advisor, Ken Feltman, told a conference in Washington that was focussed on bringing sustainable peace and economic development to South Sudan.

    “The more women we can get involved everywhere, the better off we seem to be," Feltman said. 

    "Women tend to  be what we need to hold things together and to keep us out of the tragic consequences of men just moving off in every direction,” he said.


    The conference looked to the state of Western Bahr el Ghazal as an example of how to build and keep peace.The state in the northwest of South Sudan has remained peaceful, for the most part, in the past five-and-a-half months, even as violence has engulfed other states and plunged the country into crisis.  

    State Finance Minister Lilian Riziq attributed that sustainable peace to the fact that different ethnic groups live in harmony in Western Bahr el Ghazal -- and because women play lead roles there.
    Women bring order to things much faster than men with AK-47s.


    “We have women ministers -- I happen to be one of them," she said.

    "We have two women advisors to the governor out of nine, and we have 15 women in the state assembly. Basically, women are everywhere. You find them as nurses, as doctors. There’s so much women leadership emerging at different levels of governance, “ she said.
     

    Years of war changed women's role


    South Sudan's women are no strangers to leadership roles: the long struggle for independence forced them to move away from the traditional women's place as a mother and homemaker to the roles of breadwinner and peacemaker as men went off to war and never came back, Riziq said.

    Women were active in the negotiations that led to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, which ended the decades-long war of independence, but, in the first round of peace talks during the current conflict, the government side included no women.

    That changed after women pressed to be included in the talks, which have led to two ceasefire agreements, the most recent of which was signed three weeks ago and appears to be holding better than the first one.
     
    We need a woman president in America, not only in South Sudan.
    "Women do play a very big role in building peace at the current moment," both at the peace negotiations in Addis Ababa but also on the ground in South Sudan, Riziq said.

    "Communication is the most difficult part in South Sudan, but women are already playing this role. Women bring communities together because they can spread the message of peace very fast and they have abilities to reach people in the rural areas,” Riziq said.


    Time is ripe for women leaders


    Sarah Cleto Rial, the organizer of the conference and program director at women-led, women-focussed humanitarian group, My Sister's Keeper, said it’s time for women to take the lead in restoring peace in South Sudan. 

    “Most of the people in the camps for the displaced are women and children, most of the people being killed are women and children...I think it’s time that women have to step in and start the peace process," she said.
    Women can bring communities together because they can spread the message of peace very fast and they have abilities to reach people in the rural areas.


    "Sometimes it sounds like the peace process is not going to happen. It’s time for women to start getting involved and do something,” Rial said.

    Just two months into the conflict, the head of the U.N. agency that fights for gender equality and the empowerment of women said women and children have borne the brunt of the conflict in South Sudan, and pressed for women to play a leading role at peace talks in Addis Ababa.

    "For peace to take root in South Sudan, women and men and young people must play a full role in a national dialogue, peace negotiations, nation-building and strengthening social cohesion in the country," Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, the executive director of U.N. Women, told reporters in Juba, where she was wrapping up a two-day visit to South Sudan in February.

    The conflict in South Sudan is now five-and-a-half months old.
     

    Madame President?


    When asked if she thought South Sudan needs a woman at the helm -- and, more particularly, if she would consider running for president --  Rial replied with a hearty laugh.

    But then she added," If I can be part of a team building the country, I'm happy to be part of a team."

    Riziq said, "We need a woman president in America, not only in South Sudan."

    "But it's not just about being the president," she added.

    "I think this is a time for women to take the lead because women, especially in South Sudan, have shown and have proven ability in leading during difficult situations and solving difficult issues," she said.
     

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora