After the South Sudanese president caught citizens by surprise by sacking his cabinet and vice president, speculation was rife on who he would appoint in their place.
His reshuffle tilted the gender balance towards women. Now more than a quarter of the national ministries are headed by women, compared to a previous two out of 21 ministries.
I can see that our president is doing something good.”
In an interview published on the online news daily Sudan Tribune, Abuk Ayite, a representative in the legislative assembly congratulated the president for responding to women’s demands, calling his move a wise decision”.
South Sudan’s female ministers are Rebecca Joshua Okwaci as Minister for Telecommunication and Postal Services; Jemma Nunu Kumba, Minister for Electricity and Dams; Catherine Juan Bennia, Minister for Land, Housing and Physical Planning; Awut Deng Acuil, Minister for Gender and Social Development; and Nadia Arop Dudi as Minster for Youth, Culture and Sports.
South Sudan is still playing catch up with Rwanda which is ranked number one in Africa and worldwide for its number of women in government. According to data from the United Nations in 2013, women make up more than 51 percent of Rwanda’s parliament. South Africa also has a good track record, with women assuming more than 40 percent of the seats in government.
Maker Deng Nyag, who formerly worked as gender and child activist in the minister of social development in Lakes State, expressed his satisfaction with South Sudan’s improved gender balance. I can see that our president is doing something good, our women have been marginalised in education and governance for a long time but I am happy that he listens to people’s request,” Maker said.
I can now hope that I will be a minster for defence or interior.”
Women in South Sudan took heart at the news, saying it would inspire more girls to continue education, a measure where South Sudan lags the rest of the world.
Betty Joan, a South Sudanese woman who is completing a Masters in Security and Strategic Studies in Nkumba University, said the new ministers provided role models for young women. I can now hope that I will be a minster for defence or interior so that I can do something about the security in our country,” said Joan who is the only woman in her course.
But if South Sudan wants to propel women into politics it will need to remove a big hurdle blocking most women’s entrance to politics: A lack of education.
The culture of underage marriage makes it hard for women to attain a basic education. South Sudan has proportionally fewer girls attending school than anywhere else on the planet. UNICEF estimates that just one percent of girls finish primary school, meaning that very few will be educated enough to work in the top echelons of power.