Cablegate: Undp Conference for Sudanese Women in Politics in Juba

DE RUEHKH #0717 1291120
P 091120Z MAY 07




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: UNDP Conference for Sudanese Women in Politics in Juba

1. (U) Summary: The first annual National Conference on Sudanese
Women in Politics, held May 7 - 11, was convened at Juba University
under the sponsorship of the Government of Southern Sudan's (GOSS)
Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MPA) and the United Nations
Development Program (UNDP). GOSS President Salva Kiir and others
gathered to give opening remarks of support for the role of women in
the reconstruction and development of Sudan and called for increased
programming designed to address the marginalization of women,
particularly in the South. End Summary.

2. (U) The conference was the first of its kind held in Southern
Sudan since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)
and brought together over 600 diverse women from the north and
south, Muslim and Christian, urban and rural, to address the lack of
political participation by women in Sudan. First Lady of the
Government of National Unity Fatima Bahir, and First Lady of the
GOSS Mary Auen, wife of Salva Kiir, who seldom makes any public
appearances, both addressed the participants. Themes in the
conference's opening remarks included education for women and girls,
female leadership in business and politics, the role of women as
peacemakers, and addressing the female representation gap in the
GOSS. In addition to Kiir and the two first ladies, remarks were
made by the Dutch Minister of International Cooperation, Minister of
Transport and Roads Rebecca Garang, Presidential Advisor on Gender
and Human Rights Awut Deng, and Minister of Gender, Social Welfare
and Religious Affairs Mary Kiden. The First Lady of South Africa
was to have participated but sent her Gender Minister in her absence
who spoke on the commonality of the struggle in South Africa and
offered to share lessons learned. Throughout the four day
conferenc%, NGOs and civic lua$ers$will(hold sEmi~crs#/n em0owev}nTQQQad"afgit-itiz(acxiOl8vQe#So|ruhf qjP%Ic B_v%mmejt +cPQ0QQF[QjQuoe
number of and positions held by women currently serving in the GNU
and the GOSS, including three Sudan People's Liberation Movement
(SPLM) representatives in the GNU, four female GOSS advisors to the
President, three female GOSS commissioners, and 40 female GOSS
parliamentarians. Kiir emphasized a point he had made earlier in
the week to the GOSS Governors' Forum (septel) that women had to be
accommodated in the GOSS at all levels and that he was putting men
who were "sitting on women's seats" in government on notice that
"their days were numbered." Kiir also lauded the impact of Southern
Sudanese affirmative action on the rest of the nation, noting that
the South appointed the first woman Under Secretary (Parliamentary
Affairs) and was followed by the North. He also cited the lead of
the South in appointing the first woman Parliamentary Speaker in
Equatoria State.

4. (U) Much of the oratory at the conference addressed the need for
serious dialogue on how to tackle societal and cultural factors
weighing against the education and advancement of women. The
Gender Minister urged women to become involved in the discussions on
the electoral law to ensure their adequate representation in all
government institutions.

5. (SBU) Comment: The kick off of this Women's Empowerment
Conference was a mass celebration with dancing, singing, and fiery
speeches designed to galvanize the women as they begin the serious
deliberations on the need to quickly address ways to reach the
"marginalized of the marginalized" as Kiir stated. The topics they
hope to address - women's abject poverty and unemployment, the
excessive childbirth mortality rates, illiteracy, and political
exclusion of the over 60 percent of the population of Sudan who are
female, with most of it in the South, are critical to the success of
the CPA. The Conference also foreshadows the kind of alliances, or
at least networking, that may be formed across race, religion and
region in the run up to the 2009 elections. But we won't really
know until after the singing stops. End comment.


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