The prospects for lasting change lie in the hands of millions of women who form the backbone of society, but are currently living in poverty. Being a woman from South Sudan, I understand what marginalized women go through in their daily lives. The majority of people living in poverty in Africa, particularly in South Sudan, are women.
Gertrude Chimbalanga, of traditional Authority in Zomba District in Malawi, clearly stated that “Most men rarely plan with their wives They say ‘I am the man in the house. Who is a woman to tell me something?’’’ These words ring true for many women, not only in Malawi, but in most African Countries, and South Sudan is not an exception. Women tend to have little or no access to resources, no rights to properties, often forced to waive their rights and have fewer opportunities than men, to make life-shaping decisions. Whenever disasters strike, they are the most affected in the society. There are many reasons why rural women are not reaching their full potential. Domestic violence, discrimination, and lack of education are among the major obstacles which hinder women from actualizing. Women’s skills, flexibility, determination, and creativity are treasured but significantly underused assets to overcome poverty.
Women in South Sudan, account for over 60% of the population and it is not by a force of nature rather a direct result of over 39 years of conflict since Sudan’s Independence. Years of conflict have not only deprived women of their husbands and sons, but the disturbing and conventional post-war society together with inequitable cultural customs and hopeless poverty, weaken the campaign for equal rights and the capability of women to actively contribute to development.
Here are some facts about inequality despite 25% of women’s participation approved in the transitional constitutions before independence (as an affirmative action to address the imbalance created by history and customs). In reality, this is rarely translated up the local levels (Source of information/Figures: www.genderconcerns.org
- At present 33% of women are in the South Sudan Legislative Assembly and 28% are in the State’s Legislative Assembly.
- However, looking down into local levels of government, 25% is not reflected: only 1 out of 10 Governors is female, In Western Equatoria, only 1 female county commissioner out of 82. And 19 female state ministers out of a possible 127 (constituting approximately nearly 15%). Women are rarely awarded high level positions and even in institutions whereby they exceed the 25% level, due to poor literacy levels, low education and lack of opportunities, many women still find themselves at the lower end of the job market
How do we address these inequalities and ensure women are part and parcel with economic development? Here are Eight Building Blocks for an integrated Approach to Sustainable, impactful Economic Empowerment for women
- Access to equitable and safe employment
- Education and training
- Access to and control over economic resources and opportunities
- Voice in Society and policy
- Freedom from the risk of violence
- Freedom of movement
- Access to and control over health and family formation
- Social protection and child care
Empowering women through affirmative actions and capacity building through strengthening their bargaining power and their voice, Out of which the following will be realized.
- With education under their belts, a whole generation of girls will have opportunities that their mothers never had. With literacy comes confidence and the chance to earn more money, become self-sufficient – and speak out against violence.
- With laws and systems that guarantee better health care, fewer women will die in childbirth, and fewer children will die from easily preventable diseases.
- With loans, seeds, tools, better farming techniques and business training, women will be able to grow more food, sew, produce craftwork, and make goods that they can market themselves.
- In emergencies, taking care of women’s specific needs is vital for ensuring survival, good health and dignity. Employing their skills and knowledge makes communities more effective in recovering from disasters.