By: Paul Jimbo
The SPLM Manifesto, 1994 outlined 25 per cent Affirmative Action after realization that women were left behind in almost all spheres of life. This policy decision was made during the liberation struggle.
The Interim Constitution of South Sudan 2005, TCRSS 2011 (as amended) now 35 per cent R-ARCSS) sought to enhance representation and participation of women – required robust strategies for its realization
Affirmative action is a policy decision made in an effort to include or boost participation and representation of a group of persons who have suffered historical injustices. The situation of women in South Sudan especially when it comes to representation made it necessary to ensure the country adopts the “Affirmative Action for Women”
Affirmative Action for women simply seeks to create an opportunity to boost women representation and participation in public life including governance, service delivery and in the economy of the country.
It further creates and opportunity for women to join the national human resource by exploring special consideration for women to access opportunities such as entry to universities, recruitment, increased opportunity for women to actualize their dreams and meaningfully participate in public life but of-course through competence.
This should be made clear that women will not get these positions based on gender affiliations but competence and so the need for women to pursue academic qualifications to aspire for all positions of governance.
Despite the steps made in realizing Affirmative Action in South Sudan, several issues continue dogging its successful implementation.
Some of the factors negating gains made in the realization of the Affirmative Action include misperception about the “Affirmative Action” among most women and men leading to inadequate information and knowledge on how to meaningfully implement the affirmative action.
Implementation of the Affirmative Action requires development of sector specific policies and review of existent law but this was never adequately done, robust monitoring mechanism, but this idea if at all was raised at some point, was not implemented and Involvement of different sectors such as media and male champions in the advocacy for increasing women participation in public life still remain minimal
To ensure successful implementation of the Affirmative Action, there is need to re-establish the correct understanding of the Affirmative Action which now has been increased from 25% to 35%.
It is also important to monitor the implementation including other mechanisms or institutions to take up the monitoring and further produce periodic report on status of women participation and implementation of the Affirmative Action.
The conversation should focus on the importance of women participation in education curriculum and all learning institutions since the 35% Affirmative Action for women is a policy decision to increase women representation and participation in public life but not the “the only quota women’s representation and participation in public life” .
It is important to note that women have the right to fight for their democratic space but at the same time they should realize that this battle will not be easy.
African societies are so rigid when it comes to freedoms and moreso if it touches on empowerment and sharing resources and positions.
Women should not take this battle lying down but ensure massive lobbying from all fronts because these positions will not be dished out.
There are constitutional thresh holds that require women to belong to certain political parties before they ae nominated or qualify for the 35% affirmative action.
In other words, women must understand and properly interpret the constitutional provision of the Affirmative Action.
Several questions, must also linger in the minds of those lobbying to fill the 35% affirmative action positions, there is need for stock taking t understand the missteps that bedeviled the implementation of the previous 25% affirmative action provision in the SPLM constitution.
Success stories need to be drawn from neighboring countries such as Rwanda that today boast of higher women representations in most institutions including the National Assembly.
There is need for massive mobilization and sensitization and possibly awareness creation among women on the 35% affirmative action provision.
This sensitization should be rolled down to the village levels so that rural women too understand their space and position in representation.
They should full understand that there are procedures and rules to be followed to realize the affirmative action.
Some times last year, I heard a senior government official say the 35% Affirmative positions are not reserved for women and they should not sit back and wait for the positions to be dished out.
In my interpretations, the official was very right; he simply meant to say that women should realize that nothing comes easy and that there is nothing for free.
The statement also opened the floor for women to look beyond the 35% affirmative action’s provision in the Interim constitution.
Women should be comfortable that they already have the 35%, instead they should struggle and fight for the other 65% that is not talked about.
It is also an opportunity for women to ensure they produce their best in terms of competence and qualifications to prove their worth for the provision.