Sustaining peace: Harnessing the power of South Sudanese women

South Sudanese women have always participated in peace processes but usually not at the front lines of negotiations. Despite considerable challenges, their bottom-up approach and collective action at grassroots level have led to greater representation in the formal peace processes and the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity. However, to achieve positive peace in South Sudan, women must have access to justice, resources and meaningful representation in positions of power.

About the authors

Liezelle Kumalo is a researcher in the Peace Operations and Peacebuilding Division of the Institute for Security Studies. Her work experience includes gender, peace and security, and peacebuilding. She has an MA in International Relations from the University of the Witwatersrand.

Cassie Roddy Mullineaux is a lawyer, currently undertaking her Masters in International Human Rights Law at NUI Galway, Ireland. Her work with ISS was part of her Diploma in Development Practice at Trinity College Dublin. She previously completed research for Oxfam Ireland on women’s political participation and representation in various sub-Saharan African contexts.

Key findings

National and political trends exacerbate communal violence.

Domestic violence is widely accepted by both men and women.

Legislative reforms aimed at eradicating gender inequality have not improved the lives of South Sudanese women and girls.

While the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan process allowed for women’s participation, the quality of their involvement was insufficient.

South Sudanese women are linked to many of the drivers of communal conflict.

Women can be antagonists as much as protagonists. They can also be vigilantes instead of vigilant, and exclusionary rather than inclusive.

They are however uniquely placed to organise across ethnic lines to de-escalate ethnic tensions.

In terms of gender-responsive budgeting, defence and security still take the bulk of government spending, while health and social services are severely underfunded.

Technical committees require a level of capacity that most South Sudanese women can’t provide due to lack of literacy and other skills.

While the 35% representation of women in transitional justice processes bodes well for women’s ability to shape these processes in a gender-sensitive manner, the delay in establishing relevant mechanisms is worrying.

Local-level monitoring allows grassroots women to offer local knowledge, access to communities, and capacity and expertise.

Source: Institute for Security Studies