June 4, 2013, 1:08 p.m.
Originally posted on IRI.org on May 29, 2013. Juba, South Sudan – Women legislators formed the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in 2007 to enhance women’s impact on political decision-making within the national assembly. Since it began, the caucus has advocated for greater inclusion of women in leadership positions in the national assembly. In South Sudan, women were largely kept out of the public domain of politics. As a result, many women leaders today possess little confidence or leadership skills in addressing national issues. In the young nation’s transitional constitution women are given opportunities to participate in all levels of government, setting a 25 percent requirement for women’s representation. However, a report published on February 3, 2013 by The New Nation, one of South Sudan’s weekly newspapers, found that women’s representation in the executive branch of the state and national governments fails to exceed 15 percent. Although the women’s caucus has tried to forge ahead with their programs, they are faced with a number of challenges, including: inadequate funds to facilitate activities, insufficient knowledge on legislative roles, high levels of illiteracy among caucus members and lack of strategic planning that outlines their work. “We do not have an action plan or set goals to guide our activities; as such, the speaker has not taken our requests seriously during the national budget reading,” lamented Vosca Martin, the deputy chairperson of the South Sudan National Legislative Assembly Women Parliamentarian’s Caucus. Through its legislative development program, IRI is partnering with the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus to strengthen the skills of women legislators so that decision-making can be shared among all legislators. Most recently, the Institute hosted a workshop for caucus members on strategic planning which was led by Tezira Jamwa and Benigna Mukiibi, former members of parliament from Uganda. The workshop aimed to equip women with the skills to plan and design objectives for their caucus activities and mechanisms for measuring achievements. Commenting on the workshop, Martin admitted that she had little knowledge about strategic planning and she did not know how important it was for the women’s caucus. However, she spoke confidently after the workshop about what she learned, “I can now plan myself and set goals and design a strategic plan for both myself and the women parliamentarian caucus. In addition to that I have learned how to measure my goals and how to monitor my achievements. This is a great achievement to me as an MP [member of parliament].” According to Martin and other participants, they felt they were now ready to design their caucus’s strategic plan. At the end of the workshop, the women’s caucus formed a committee comprising of 15 members to draft a five years strategic plan. In the coming weeks, the women’s caucus leadership will put the adoption of the plan up to a vote. As a leader of the caucus, Martin has seen tremendous change on legislation and policies affecting the political participation of women in decision making in the past few years. “Though women are still underrepresented at all levels of government, we have seen increased women participation in politics compared to the previous years, where women were not extensively involved neither were they actively contributing to national issues. Today we have female advisors, ministers, committee chair persons, etc. This is a positive move for us the women,” Martin noted. The workshop on strategic planning and IRI’s work with the Women Parliamentarian’s Caucus was funded through a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.