“What a man can do a woman can do!”
Those are the inspirational words from Margaret Idwa, the Torit Minister of Information, speaking at a capacity building workshop for women leaders in the Eastern Equatorian town.
Many women in Torit feel marginalized by the peace process. They say their opinions often carry little weight and their contribution is not valued. They fear this is the case across South Sudan and want that to change.
“We were at the frontlines with our male counterparts during the civil war,” said Margaret Idwa. “We joined the army ranks and fought for our country. Women should also lay claim to today’s peace.”
The 3-day forum, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, was designed to build the capacity of women to engage in conflict management, mediation, social cohesion and confidence building so they can take on greater leadership roles at the community and national level.
“Continue to see UNMISS as your partner in peace, supporting your contributions to the new government coalition at all levels of national governance,” urged Bashir Aligelle, an UNMISS representative at the workshop.
Similar UNMISS-led capacity-building programs which commenced in 2015 have enabled women’s organizations such as ITWAK (morning star in the Lutoko language) to play a key role in coordinating peace talks across the eastern part of Torit and help broker peace in their communities – even during hostilities that broke out in 2016. Women’s groups are following ITWAK’s lead in building on the progress that has been made since that time and making a real difference in the peace process that is underway today.
“There is so much we need to do to support the peace process,” said Achomo Mary, the chairperson of the Good Shepherd Women’s Association in Torit. “We plan to carry out a needs assessment to streamline priorities and seek donor support to kickstart peace projects.”
Another community leader, Ihari Elizabeth, said that the capacity training helped equip women to participate in critical negotiations and have their voices heard.
“We want to be signatories to the peace process at the national level,” she said.