Image Credit: South Sudan Art and Visual Culture group on Facebook. Woman Weaving a Granary, Sharon Hutchinson, 1981 University of Wisconsin-Madison collection
What makes the person feel important and concerned about having a role in their society? When they sense they’re the source of change and impact and not the one affected by it.
Women are known for their ability to shoulder responsibilities in their homes; those same traits that enable them to do so can be used to participate in nation building. I’m not going to list what makes women so resilient; instead, I’ll discuss how some traits can affect the community in both negative and positive ways.
Women are an integral part of society and governance, thus it’s necessary that their achievements and contributions are visible. Constitutional representation quotas are not that important, but what is important is that women know they are in leadership positions because they are skilled, competent and intelligence and can achieve success – not just to fill a predestined number of seats.
Women today enter the workforce because of the political and social failures that deemed it important to work to survive whether she is educated or not. In South Sudan, women toil away in all formal and informal professions to make ends meet for their families. Men do the same. Most men and women do not work in the fields they studied and excel in them, but they seek whatever opportunities they find due to the current stagnant situation. If the situation wasn’t dire, we would have seen men and women in leadership positions developing the country by setting goals and executing them with determination. This will not take place if the bureaucratic infrastructure lacks several units crucial to development. It starts with a planning unit to set goals and visions and determines the best methods to achieve these. Second, we need organization of financial and human resources. Third, recruitment and training of the right people in the right position and organization, which is non-existent right now in South Sudan. Fourth, mentoring and providing incentives to achieve goals. Fifth, we need accountability to monitor progress and whether goals have been achieved as planned. If the country does not follow internationally standardized administrative methods then it will not be able to control the failure that results. To succeed we have to plan and execute, which isn’t what my article is about – I want to speak about how our success as women is tied to the country’s own ability to fail or succeed.
Women’s empowerment does not come out of a void; it takes personal perseverance and development before any assistance is provided. If women did not realize the importance of education, then they shall not be able to shoulder their full roles in the community. Women in South Sudan constitute about 60%, while the education rates hover around 30% whereas some did not go beyond elementary school, forced out by financial and family strains. It’s not wrong to leave education, but it’s a mistake to not go back once our lives are back in order. It’s terribly unfortunate for women to put an education ceiling based on her age – which is just a meaningless number – and a shame that women call each other “old” and belittle late quests into education and pressure women into marriage and having children with a man who probably finished his education to better his career opportunities. Women who fear bring called “spinsters” will crack under the pressure of this uncertain spinsterhood.
For South Sudanese women to take responsibility in the community, uneducated women must be trained and educated in both the urban and rural setting so they can learn basic skills, for example; reading the expiry date on their child’s medicine. Women Associations must be build to continuously provide vocational trainings on tapestry, home décor, photography and other skills to enable women to enter the job market and lessen their unemployment rate by equipping them with practical skills. Women’s intellectual liberation is the product of her engagement with her own issues and developing herself individually and within a community, even with assistance. It’s also important to foster positive jealousy whereas a woman is ambitious to see her community reach levels of developed communities around the world. All these advancements will push our women towards innovation and development for betterment.
Men must assist women by creating smart initiatives that engage women and allow them to invest knowledge and ideas. A clear vision is needed, where women are integral in both rural and urban settings, and they are looked upon as active and effective in discussing all issues – since they make up half the population. Political rallies that tackle women’s issues are futile, as the discussions must target the average woman, and held in places these women venture, not in halls of fancy hotels where the average woman cannot be found. If real interest is invested in the advancement of women, the nation will benefit greatly from their intellectual acumen, but women must realize their roles and goals and the means to achieve these.