Less than two months away from South Sudan’s independence, women in the soon-to-be state have united together to ensure their rights and gendered concerns are incorporated into the new constitution. Over the weekend the South Sudan Women’s Coalition—made up of a number of women’s professional and civil society groups—held a two-day workshop in Juba to discuss the draft transitional constitution and the constitutional review process.
The consultative meeting brought together female lawyers, political and civil society leaders, and activists from all 10 South Sudan states. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an in-depth look into the state’s current constitutional review process, to recommend strategies toward developing a common agenda for the South Sudan Women’s Coalition, to educate participants about challenges in implementing women’s rights, and to analyze potential entry points for female rights and gender concerns into the permanent constitution of South Sudan.
"We just want to give women a platform where they can actually understand the constitution, and why it is important that they make sure that it is gender friendly,” Lillian Riziq, director of the South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network told Miraya FM.
Meeting participants collectively established The South Sudan Women’s Protocol to the Draft Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, which criticizes the current transitional constitution’s lack of female-specific clauses, and notes that its “provisions are quite silent in reflecting concerns of the women and girls of South Sudan.”
The protocol emphasizes that gender inclusion in the new constitution is critical for the stability, peace, reconciliation, and development of South Sudan. Moreover, it offers 14 proposals to the transitional constitution that would further ensure female rights and gender concerns are incorporated into the new state. One of its proposals is to increase the proposed 25 percent female quota in executive and legislative organs to 30 percent. Additionally, the protocol suggests that this quota should be extended to all public sectors, including education and the Constitutional Court or Supreme Court—whichever is adopted.
The protocol calls for the Government of South Sudan to adopt relevant international human rights instruments that the Republic of Sudan had acceded to or ratified. It also requests immediate simplification and translation of the draft transitional constitution into local languages, along with a widespread civic education campaign that could help inform women and other citizens of their constitutional rights and the importance of the review process.
The South Sudanese government and Parliament have until July 9 to adopt the interim constitution; the gendered concerns outlined in the South Sudan Women’s Coalition Protocol must be addressed immediately.
In its current form, the transitional constitution also outlines what the consultation process for the writing of South Sudan’s permanent constitution would look like. Included is a national constitutional conference to bring together delegates from multiple civil society groups, including women’s organizations, who will approve and pass draft language for the permanent constitution. Even as the review of the transitional constitution is underway, it is imperative that the South Sudanese government has an eye toward a more gender-inclusive review process for the permanent constitution. How these uniquely important processes are managed will play a key role in determining whether South Sudan’s hard-earned independence leads to peace and stability.
Photo: After voting in South Sudan's referendum, a woman shows her registration card and inked fingers (Laura Heaton/ Enough Project)