In societies like South Sudan, the issue of gender equality (or equity) will only be possible through political appointment. This is a society in which girls are married off at 14, 15, 16 and polygamy is a cultural phenomenon.
For some people, child marriage and polygamy have little to do with representation of women in government. However, one needs to realize that the more woman gain strong social and political views the more they are given power to stand up to some dangers in men’s fancies. Any political and social power given to women together with education of girls reduce child marriage and polygamy.
Men who fancy polygamy and child marriage will continue to make sure women don’t gain any sort of power in order for some society’s patriarchal cultural practices to be maintained. Essentially, these practices are meant to help men control women and keep them as objects of their fancies in whatever way they want.
In ‘western’ societies, women are still kept culturally controlled and subjugated, however, the manner in which such subjugation is exercised is hidden within institutional and cultural practices. In universities woman are the majority in enrollment, however, when one looks at senior positions in society, men are still dominant. Of all the S&P 500 companies, only 14.2% in senior executive positions are women according to CNN Money.
A woman would sacrifice her career to support her husband’s dream. This is seen as love but it helps keep the woman in her ‘traditional’ role, in other words, subjugated. So sometimes men exploit the natural position of women as child-bearers and mothers and keep her down.
Women who’ve made it to high corporate positions either have very supportive husbands or they sacrifice the mothering aspect of womanhood in order to compete with men. For these women, their children are raised basically by house helpers.
In some exceptional cases, we have stay-home dads. The number of stay-home days has been on the rise. While things are moving in the right direction in the west, the pace is depressingly low.
When the president of South Sudan decreed the creation of 28 states in South Sudan and the would-be state citizens were asked to table potential candidates for state governors, it didn’t occur to all of us that the constitutionally mandated 25% reserved for women should be respected. All the tabled candidates were men. In their boys’ club, as their wives cooked for them, they discussed it among themselves.
Unless we make sure that our wives and daughters eat at the same table with us to allow them to have opinions with us, woman will continue to lag behind. In South Sudanese communities, you hardly see woman and men sitting together in the living room or on the dining table unless there’s a special occasion. How do we expect woman to express interest when we confine them to the kitchen? How do we expect women to be represented if we only see them as objects to be married off at 14 and subjugated in polygamist marriages? Polygamy robs a woman of her voice as an equal as it equates one man to X number of women.
I sound naïve in this article but we ignore these things only to complain about them later. Of all the 28 states, perhaps each state assumed the 25% reserved for women would come from the other states or it just didn’t matter at all to them.
What gives me hope is that we are talking about the exclusion of woman in governorship positions. I know we only had one woman governor and none after Nyandeeng Malek of Warrap was removed by a presidential decree.
According Grant Thornton Report, women in senior management is at 37% in Eastern Europe, 35% in Southeast Asia, and 43% in Russia. Even the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries lead the developed: 32 % vs. 21%.
This shows that we can do better to change the position of women in South Sudan.