Towards Ratification of CEDAW for South Sudan

Towards Ratification of CEDAW for South Sudan

February 2, 2013; Juba Regency Hotel – Juba, South Sudan

By Selamawit Tesfaye

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) in collaboration with EVE Organization for Women Development organized a consultation session among civil society organizations at the Juba Regency Hotel on February 2, 2013. The consultation had the objective of raising awareness on CEDAW as well as to identify advocacy strategies around the ratification of the Convention. The training started with a presentation on the introduction and background of CEDAW. Participants were able to gain an understanding of the basic elements of the CEDAW – rights and freedoms enshrined, the role of the Committee, the use of General Recommendations, the Optional Protocol among others. The presentation also included best practices in the use of CEDAW in stopping violence against women, promoting girls’ education, improving health care for women, improving women’s lives at work, and protecting women’s legal rights.

It was startling to note that only 4 women out of the 15 CSO participants have heard of the CEDAW in their line of work and noted that they are engaged in most of the activities related to the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Convention but are not aware of the instrument itself. They cited that previously the Operation Lifeline, the UN-SPLM aid cooperation for South Sudan, had provided some rules of procedure such as the Geneva Convention and some other human rights instruments making a link to the respect of human rights especially rights of civilians. They also noted that since South Sudan at the moment is drafting its Constitution, now is the time to break the silence and start awareness creation and popularization of the instrument.

Furthermore, during the referendum, one of the government’s promises was to protect and promote women’s rights and also ratify the CEDAW, which in turn galvanized a lot of women’s votes in favor of separation. It was noted that the South Sudanese government wanted to distinguish itself from the North, which is not friendly towards the ratification of CEDAW and thus should be held accountable to its promises.

Another important development that came out of this is the need for enhanced exchange of information that is lacking at the moment in South Sudan. There is also a huge capacity gap that needs to be addressed within the government and other relevant stakeholders, as there are some CSOs who have already initiated advocacy strategies on the CEDAW. Thus, instead of reinventing the wheel, the need for tapping into these kinds of initiatives was acknowledged.

All of the participants agreed on the importance of having the CEDAW ratified to alleviate the promotion and protection of women’s rights in South Sudan.  Even though there are a lot of competing interests at the moment, participants identified two entry points in kicking off their activities towards the ratification of CEDAW. The first is integrating CEDAW education in all their current work while the second is identifying relevant stakeholders that needs to be targeted for advocacy strategies on the CEDAW – the Ministry of Gender Child and Social Welfare; Constitutional Review Commission, Parliament, Women’s Parliamentary Caucus; Ministry of Justice; and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For now all the parties have identified the steps and are willing to work together on pushing for the ratification of CEDAW for South Sudan. Let’s hope that a the relevant Ministries and other stakeholders are committed to ratify the CEDAW and enhance the promotion and protection of women’s rights in South Sudan.