South Sudan in focus as NAD opens

As women we don’t have a tribe, or you can say our tribe is women, says Honorable Susan Wasuk, South Sudanese parliamentarian. When The Nordic Africa Days 2016 started on Thursday with a roundtable discussion on women’s role in war-torn South Sudan, she was the center of attention.

Women’s role in the peace process actually started a long time ago, during the liberation struggle, explains Honorable Susan Wasuk, chairperson of the Women Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) of the South Sudan Transitional National Legislature.

She has led the WPC’s active involvement in the on-going peace process and related citizen’s consultations at local levels. In Uppsala, Sweden, she took part in a roundtable discussion on Thursday, which opened the Nordic Africa Days 2016.

“Women participated in the struggle, supporting the movement. They acted as head of families as all the men were in the war, remained behind as mothers taking care of all the responsibilities of the family and also helping by nursing wounded heroes and feeding them.”

Honorable Susan Wasuk explains why South Sudanese women will play a key role also in the future.  

“First of all, we are the majority, 55 per cent of the population, and in any conflict women and children are the greatest victims. Based on that we have a very big task to make sure peace comes back to South Sudan.”

When civil war broke out in 2013 women, once again, played a central part, calling for peace.

An agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) was signed in August 2015. The WPC outlined the key areas in the agreement:

“Humanitarian delivery to displaced families who lack food, shelter, and education for their children. Make sure women are part of reconciliation in South Sudan. A lot of mistrust has been built up between different tribes. But as women, we don’t have a tribe, or you can say our tribe is women.”

However, in July 2016 fighting broke out again, and the future of the country remains uncertain.

Izeduwa Derex-Briggs, UN Women’s country representative in South Sudan, was also part of the roundtable on Thursday, co-organized by CMI (The Martti Ahtisaari Centre) and The Nordic Africa Institute:

“The women of South Sudan are very versatile, resilient, engaged in the development of their country, and have continued to engage in peace-building on community level, national level and international level. If they continue to receive the support that they need, they will continue to engage in peace-building.”

”We recognize the importance of inclusion of all people – men, women, young and old -  in solving conflicts and building sustainable societies in Africa. It is not often we can consult with women from conflict-stricken areas and learn from their experiences first hand. That is why we are happy to collaborate with CMI in organizing this South Sudan roundtable”, says Iina Soiri, Director of The Nordic Africa Institute.

”The Nordic Africa Days 2016 provides a forum for scholars and experts on Africa for academic debate and policy dialogue on gender roles and analysis on women’s position in the changing realities of African societies”, says Iina Soiri.

With 31 academic panels, this year’s edition of NAD is the largest to-date since the first NAD conference was organized in 1999. A majority of the panels are organized by African scholars.

However, NAD is not only a forum for academic exchange, Iina Soiri points out.

“It serves as a platform for fruitful policy dialogue between scholars, policy-makers and practitioners from all over the world.”

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