South Sudanese and Sudanese Women Advocate to Opposition Leaders, Government

   •    February 15, 2016

I recently joined fellow members of the Taskforce on the Engagement of Women in Sudan and South Sudan to meet with government officials, opposition leaders, international policymakers, and other advocacy groups to push for women’s inclusion in peace processes in both countries. This is the third year we have advocated to leaders at the African Union Summit; each year our reputation as an impartial mediation body has grown, resulting in more high-profile meetings.

The Taskforce—supported by Inclusive Security—is a small group of leaders who have mobilized women for peace on both sides of the border since 2013. We advocate to key decision makers about women’s priorities, and act as a conduit between senior officials and communities.

Inside the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, leaders discussed implementation of South Sudan’s peace agreement, signed in August 2015, but failed to agree on next steps. Outside the walls of the AU, we were developing and presenting specific and concrete policy recommendations on how to move forward in the midst of political deadlocks and shrinking space for civil society engagement. Our recommendations focused on relevant and actionable ideas to break the impasses. These included the idea that warring parties in South Sudan start a joint public outreach campaign expressing their commitment to peace. We also called for the appointment of two female mediators to the AU High Level Implementation Panel , the body responsible for mediating the conflicts in Sudan. (Sudan Recommendations, South Sudan Recommendations for International Policymakers, South Sudan Recommendations for Government and Opposition)

After three years of persistence, we are gaining access at the highest levels and our message about the need for more women in the peace process is being heard. We are hopeful that this tireless advocacy will result in enduring peace for both countries.

Here are some highlights from our advocacy in Addis:

  • The South Sudanese group met with the chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission; he oversees implementation of the peace agreement in South Sudan. He affirmed his support for women’s inclusion, and asked the Taskforce to meet with him again in Juba to advise on how best to engage civil society, particularly women, in the process.
  • The Sudanese Taskforce members met with two opposition leaders regarding the country’s national dialogue process. The opposition leaders asked us to suggest to the AU that it add more seats specifically designated for women to the preparatory talks (no seats have been designated for women up to this point). The opposition leaders also said they’d be willing to give civil society groups observer status and the ability to act as an advisory body to the dialogue.
  • We reconnected with US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Ambassador Donald Booth, who lauded the role of women in building and maintaining peace and promised to continue to push for women’s inclusion in security processes in both countries.
  • The Taskforce members also presented our recommendations to officials from the European Union; the AU Gender Directorate; the Chief of Staff to the Women, Peace, and Security Special Envoy to the AU; and the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Watch a video of South Sudanese women advocating during the AU Summit last year:

Huda Shafig is a member of the Taskforce for the Engagement of Women in Sudan, where she advises the government on how to make the country’s national dialogue process more transparent, accountable, and inclusive—increasing the positions reserved for women from 10 to 200 seats (29 percent of the total). She is currently interning at Inclusive Security.

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