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Statement by Rebecca Joshua Okwaci,

Secretary General, Women Action for Development (WAD) and

Executive Producer, Sudan Radio Service

“UN Security Council Resolution 1325: Recognizing Women’s Vital Contributions in Achieving Peace and Stability”

House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight

May 15, 2008

Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me today. I thank the US for your contributions to ending Sudan’s conflicts. 

 

Women have been most severely affected by Sudan’s conflicts and underdevelopment, but we are not passive victims. I have traveled from Africa to tell you about the vital contributions Sudanese women have made to peace building and negotiations, which culminated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

 

I was, with other women colleagues, extensively involved in the process leading to the CPA. I can tell you firsthand how critical women were to ending the war and how we have not stopped there. We continue to call for the speedy implementation of the CPA as the people remain desperate to see peace dividends.

 

Let me start by saying that during the conflict, thousands of women joined the political struggle for peace with justice. We formed networks and NGOs, and repeatedly called for peace. As negotiations dragged on, we became determined to participate directly in peace talks. We developed the Sudanese women’s minimum agenda in which we called for one-third women’s representation in decision-making bodies.

 

Despite our having shaped the negotiations, only a handful of women were formally included. We all continued, however, to raise our voices. When the talks grew tense, women pressed men to keep negotiating. We worked across party lines to find points of compromise. We organized visits to the talks and sent strong messages to the mediator. It was difficult, but over time, our impact grew. 

 

I recall a reception one evening when I approached Chief Negotiator Sumbeyiwo – an imposing Kenyan general. I said to him, “I am Rebecca.” He said, “Which Rebecca?” For months, we had been sending messages calling for the men to stay at the peace table and to bring in women.  So I replied, “I am one of those small Sudanese women.” He immediately said, “Oh! So you are one of those women who have been making so much noise about peace!” I knew then that we were being heard.  

 

The CPA created new democratic, political space for women. Across the country we have pressed for fair representation and I am proud to tell you that the current draft electoral law includes a 25 percent quota for women in the national assembly.

 

Despite our efforts, there are pockets of tensions and instability. Not forgetting, of course, the conflict in Darfur.

 

There has been slow progress in the reconstruction of our economy and the development of basic infrastructure, health, education, and other programs.

 

We must dramatically increase women and girls’ literacy, reduce the number of women who die during childbirth, ensure women’s economic and political empowerment, and eliminate gender-based violence. We must do this throughout the country. And don’t forget Eastern Sudan. 

 

Let me turn now for a moment to Darfur. Women there are often portrayed merely as victims, with no ability to influence peace. These portrayals could not be further from the truth. Late last year, I witnessed Darfurian women coming together to identify common priorities and speak with one voice. I admired them very much and hope our experiences in South Sudan can inspire and inform them. Women should be included in negotiating teams, as mediators, and as participants in the negotiations.

 

Mr. Chairman, two dates loom large in Sudan’s future: national elections in 2009 and a referendum in 2011 on unity or secession of the South. Women are looking ahead to elections, preparing to participate as voters, as organizers, and as candidates.

 

We will need assistance to achieve these goals. Specifically, the US Congress can:

·       Appropriate funding for Sudanese women-led NGOs to provide health, education, and legal services;

·       Require USAID contractors to ensure a minimum of 50 percent women as beneficiaries and implementers of projects.

·       Appropriate funding for programs that strengthen women as candidates and voters. As a journalist, I use the radio to bring news to people in even the most remote villages. As a peacebuilder, I train women on peace making through my organization, Women Action for Development. Often, I combine my roles, hosting radio programs about women and peacebuilding. I cannot over emphasize the important role the media play in sensitizing women and helping them participation fully in nation-building.  

 

I applaud the US Government and USAID for recognizing the key role women play in Sudan’s recovery and reconstruction, and for calling for gender to be a primary crosscutting theme in all programs.

 

Peace throughout Sudan is possible, but not without the full participation of women. We must keep up our momentum. The moment to invest in women as drivers of reconstruction and stability in Sudan is NOW. Thank you.

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People in this conversation

  • Guest - James Okuk

    This is a strong message from Madam Rebecca Okwaci. We want strong women leaders in the Sudan since many men leaders are proving to be incompetent in leadership qualities. Congratulations Becky as you keep the torch for women rights in the Sudan.

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  • Guest - Aban John

    Congratulation on job well done sister Rebacca Joshua .you have been a heroine since day one. you are a true freedom fighter who has never turn her back to her people even at the worst time when Riech Macher, and your husband surrendered to the Arabs with huge sum of money. But you know what Dr Lam Akol , has humble himself these days and I am very proud of him I wish him a good second chance

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  • Guest - Tipo Wiliam Mel

    thanks Madam/ Rebacca for your initiative and being a voice for voiceless. When God said, " It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him", it indicated that without woman life is meaningless and choas for a man. women, who as mothers are the first teacher of childern, seek the interest of their communities as they would do to their families. I think if the Goss increase the representation of women, and they are elected into decision-making, they will make decisions that can move mountians, minimize conflicts and help to reduce the burden of women such as maternal, infant mortality and improve education for women.

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  • Guest - Othom Ariel Temrial

    John Aban This language is not of collo norms ,the issue of Lam and Riak surrendering to Arabs or not is uncalled for in this area
    of concern. We all Know Mijwok with her sharp brain that is Known by her male colleagues,she is now an international figure a source of pride for collo community as a whole. But brother Aban you need to be diplomatic and respectful ,if you really honour our elder sister you can't thank her and abuse her husband at the same time , in collo ( Gwok dhanho ba Gwok gon) .Every body is free to criticise but being objective is very important , some of us come to this web site to share Ideas and not to get embarrassed
    by some writers.

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  • I think Collo Community and political activist need to work on distingtion between Arab and Government in Collo Land.So we can be in same page with other ethnics group in Sudan as a whole or South as particular.

    During years of wars between South and Arab,Georage Kongor Moses Macher were vices Presidents for Al Bashir while Collo were engaged in confrontation with what we called Arab.Do Coll know what offer thise have given to get their position? what is the motive? and do their communities rate them as a betrayers?

    Come back to DK era after redivison, while we are opposing the government because we think it an Arab DK was collobrating with them and taking advantage over Collo till now a day the equation of power in Upper Nile State stemmed from DK never balanced . May be it takes some years to balance that.

    We need to learn from history so that we make a god judgment for the welfare of our community. Collo community can't survive by words,speeches,or wishing. It survive by services, good economic,and security etc. In order to get these items we need to be in good terms with head of executive branch of govenment whether Sudan is separated or united.Because the executive appoint the your cabinet from govenor through ministers and other branches legislative and judiciary are functionless.

    We need to play the game according to its current rules. And we played to win not to lose. So wake up . The time has over for sitting dwon waiting outsiders to take a lead so that you will awarded something at their choice regardless of your education,experiences, or sSkills. That situation does not represent Collo and it demonstrates inferier status and is not accetable for us or for Collo kids.

    You don't want to leave somebody sitting on your kids when you leave this world. You get do something to leave them in better situation and that what our forefathers did always to ensure that we are protected in our kingdom. Now th legacy Collo has is not from nothing people pay for it with what they can afford.

    Learn to support your leaders and criticise them in constructive manner. That how we can walk and achieve goals and in order to have a good walking someone must be first and other line up. So if some think that we can walk together in the same line in the same time that is unrealistic and will take us no feed distant to the goal.

    Again thank every body

    Reminder Government is not Arab . Because those leaders your leaders: Abel Alier, Jospgh Lago, James Tombora, George Knogor, Moses Machar, Daniel K Mathew, Gatlouk Deng, Duck Bishop, Manasa Magok, etc dealt with them. why you think collo should be exception of the rule ???????? question for every Ocollo and NyaCollo.

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  • Guest - Yout J

    Madam Rebecca, you have done outstanding job, and as Shullu I am looking forward to seeing you acheiving the potentials for the community and whole south. keep the good work!!!!

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