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By Arol Dut Jok - 31 Dec 2024

Opinion | Time for women to lead is now

File photo: Women’s leaders at a training by the Committee for Healing, Peace and Reconciliation in Yei, South Sudan, October 2014
File photo: Women’s leaders at a training by the Committee for Healing, Peace and Reconciliation in Yei, South Sudan, October 2014

I proudly declare myself a feminist —a strong, confident South Sudanese man who fervently supports women. In my humble view, every individual, regardless of gender, should champion the cause of women. Women, indeed, form the backbone of a nation, and anyone who thinks otherwise is out of touch with reality.

From nurturing children from birth to selflessly caring for the men in their lives, enabling them to face the world confidently, women consistently serve as the foundation upon which robust societies are built. Despite this, the women of South Sudan have endured being treated as second-class citizens in their own land for far too long.

My support for women is not a result of mere lip service or jumping on populist bandwagons. It is grounded in the understanding that without empowered women, our society would crumble. Empowering our women is not just a choice; it is imperative for the realization of our development goals outlined in the South Sudan Vision 2040 and the 2021–2024 Revised National Development Strategy (R-NDS).

However, the critical perspective is not mine alone. South Sudanese women, as you read my words, what are your thoughts? Are you aware of your vital role in this country’s future, especially with our first-ever national elections on the horizon? Do you recognize the substantial impact you can have on shaping the trajectory of our nation? These are the essential questions we must consider, akin to the proverbial, million-dollar question tag!

I firmly believe that the upcoming 2024 elections in South Sudan hinge on the women’s vote, a demographic that holds the power to shape the nation’s future. A glance at our statistics underscores the pivotal position of women in the country, constituting 50.5% of the population according to the latest World Bank figures. As the majority of South Sudanese adults, women have the potential to wield significant influence if they unite and vote as a bloc. Imagine the impact of all women rallying behind visionary and ethical leaders, steering the nation forward.

Delving into the history of women’s political involvement in South Sudan reveals the profound impact women have had on political processes. Women’s political participation traces back to 1950 with the formation of the Sudanese Women’s Union (SWU). This movement advocated for positive changes, including reducing female illiteracy, combating pay and job discrimination, and securing women’s voting rights. However, the efforts of the SWU faced challenges in benefiting South Sudanese women due to urban-centric perceptions, British divisive tactics, and discriminatory educational policies from Khartoum-based regimes.

In acknowledging the role of South Sudanese women in our collective struggle, we must recognize unsung heroines like the late SPLM/SPLA Commander Ager Gum. Her contributions spanned both the Anyanya One Movement (1962-1972) and the SPLM/SPLA (1983-2005) armed revolutionary struggles against successive Khartoum regimes. Additionally, we honour the women who played vital roles in farming and providing sustenance to the soldiers of the Liberation Movement. Their contributions were indispensable, rendering the liberation efforts impossible without their support.

I want to recognize the remarkable Hon. Victoria Yar Arol, a trailblazing figure in our political arena. In 1972, she achieved the historic milestone of becoming the first Southern Sudanese woman to graduate from the University of Khartoum. Subsequently, Hon. Yar emerged as a vocal politician, winning an election to the Regional Assembly for the Bahr El Ghazal Province. Her tenure, marked by tough speeches and leadership of young MPs committed to oversight, unfolded during the challenging years following the Addis Ababa Agreement.

Over the last two decades, significant strides have been made for women’s rights. In 2004, a pivotal moment occurred when the Sudanese government adopted a new constitution, ensuring equal participation for men and women in civic and political life. The Supreme Court of Sudan also made a landmark ruling, denying political parties the right to operate in the country if they actively discriminated against women.

In independent South Sudan, the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) has allocated a 35% quota for women across all government institutions—an unparalleled political accomplishment. Subsequent legislative changes have positively impacted women throughout the country. States like Lakes State, led by Gen. Rin Tueny, have enacted laws at the local level to empower women. These laws focus on preventing forced and early marriages, promoting girl-child education, ensuring gender equality in public offices, and providing legal protection for women’s right to engage in politics. These legal reforms have created opportunities for women to hold public office and actively participate in the electoral process.

While progress has been made, challenges and cultural barriers persist, hindering women’s advancement. Despite existing legal frameworks, women’s political participation remains low. This stems from insufficient investment in women candidates by political parties, both financially and in terms of political efforts to reform internal regulations. Unfortunately, our culturally patriarchal society continues to undermine women.

Looking ahead, women must reclaim their power and assert their rightful place in South Sudan’s political sphere. While political parties should reform their internal policies, women cannot afford to wait. With less than a year until the 2024 National Elections, active participation must begin immediately. To make a tangible impact, here are three practical recommendations:

Peer Education: Educated women, especially, should take the initiative to educate their peers, particularly those facing illiteracy (71.14%). By closing the knowledge gap and informing women about their rights and relevant election issues, educated women can significantly empower others.

Community-based Cooperatives and Saccos: Women throughout the country already empower each other financially through cooperatives and Saccos. These platforms offer an excellent opportunity for women to unite, prioritize key issues, and leverage their collective strength.

Support Women Candidates: Contrary to the notion that women are their own worst enemies, supporting all women candidates is crucial. Women must use this election to demonstrate their unity and strength in numbers. Increased female representation enhances the likelihood of addressing women’s concerns effectively.

I urge Hon. Nyandeng Malek Dielic (South Sudan’s first elected female governor and current MP), Hon. Jemma Nunu Nkumba (Speaker of the Revitalised Transitional National Legislative Assembly), Hon. Awut Deng Achuil (Minister of General Education), and Hon. Aya Benjamin Warille (Minister of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare) to lead by example for women in the upcoming elections. Additionally, I encourage women-led groups such as the South Sudan Women Empowerment Network and Ma’Mara Sakit to engage in civic education.

The women’s vote in the 2024 South Sudan National Elections will be influential, yet I fear that many women are not aware of the significant impact they can have. As a man, I confidently assert that the future of our country rests in the hands of our women. Ladies, this is not the time to be spectators; it’s the time for you to shape the future of our beloved country. The empowering news is that the power is within your grasp, and the time to wield it is now.

Arol Dut Jok is a professional in organizational development and corporate administration. He holds B.A. in International Relations & Diplomacy. He can be reached at

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made is the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.