Almost 400 women leaders from 15 African countries gathered in Juba, South Sudan for the first International Conference on Women’s Transformational Leadership from February 13-15, 2023. The conference, supported by the United Nations, aimed to tackle pressing concerns and find sustainable solutions to issues affecting women and girls in South Sudan and across Africa. The theme of the conference, GuwaTaMara, meaning the strength of women, was used to highlight the challenges that persist in the areas of leadership and governance, climate change, economic challenges, access to education, and gender-based violence.
Women’s Participation in African Parliaments
Women’s participation in African parliaments has doubled in the last decade, but more must be done, said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, in a video statement to the conference. She emphasized the need to boost efforts to promote gender equality, stating that “many factors continue to impede women’s leadership and participation on an equal basis with their male counterparts.” To address this, she called for building a movement for transformational leadership, and South Sudan was identified as a good place to start.
Increasing Women’s Representation in Political and Security Institutions
One of the challenges in South Sudan is to increase women’s representation in political and security institutions to meet and exceed the 35% target set in the 2018 peace agreement, which ended a five-year-long civil war that killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people. President Salva Kiir Mayardit affirmed the government’s commitment to addressing these challenges and empowering women across the country. The government had already increased the percentage of women’s representation from 25% to 35% and pledged to allow women to compete for the remaining 65%.
Multimedia Photo Exhibit
A new multimedia photo exhibit called “In Their Hands” was launched at the conference, highlighting women taking ownership of peace. The exhibit also showcased the challenges women face in countries affected by conflict. “The war has killed hope and turned our lives into a tragedy, but my work pushes me to persevere and makes me hopeful about the future,” said Olla al Sakkaf, a 27-year-old youth activist from Yemen. Alokiir Malual, the only woman to have signed the 2015 peace agreement in South Sudan, was also featured in the exhibit, stating, “We achieved a 35% participation quota by uniting as women and as groups, and coming up with one position, one demand. A formidable achievement by the women of South Sudan.”
The International Conference on Women’s Transformational Leadership
The International Conference on Women’s Transformational Leadership in Juba, South Sudan, brought together women leaders from 15 African countries to discuss and address pressing concerns and find sustainable solutions to issues affecting women and girls in Africa. The conference aimed to promote gender equality, increase women’s representation in political and security institutions, and build a movement for transformational leadership. The conference also launched a multimedia photo exhibit called “In Their Hands” to highlight the challenges women face in countries affected by conflict and showcase their resilience and determination in promoting peace.