The International Republican Institute (IRI) organized a training mission in Juba, Sudan July 4-7, 2009, conducted by former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson (NM).  Congresswoman Wilson brought her experience as a female candidate in a highly competitive congressional district to her training sessions for aspiring woman candidates working to overcome challenges in running for political office in Sudan.  

Women from six political parties, including five current members of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) and H.E. Teresa Sirisio Iro, Sudan’s Environment Minister, discussed how to conduct a door-to-door campaign, cultivate support within their party and create a communications plan.  Congresswoman Wilson was also able to work with woman political activists from the South Sudan Democratic Forum party to improve their public speaking and presentation skills.

Congresswoman Wilson shared her own campaign experience during a communications workshop for more than 30 public officials from five political parties, including ministers in the Government of Southern Sudan , and members of the National Assembly and SSLA.  She provided training to the participants on message development, using personal accomplishments to benefit one’s party and building positive relationships with the media.

Drawing on 10 years of experience in the United States Congress, Wilson worked with members and staff of the SSLA Committee on Regional and International Cooperation, and Committee on Security and Public Order to develop a strategy for legislating on international affairs and creating an international image of southern Sudan.  She also discussed the role of the legislature in providing oversight of the military.

In a meeting that brought together members of the SSLA Women’s Forum and the Committee on Gender, Social Welfare, Youth and Sport, Congresswoman Wilson led a discussion on legislating effectively and building consensus on gender-related issues.  As a result of the meeting, the participants identified education to be the most important issue and requested IRI’s support to develop a legislative platform on education and create a public awareness campaign.

At the conclusion of her training mission, Congresswoman Wilson commented that the Sudanese public officials and party leaders she met are “clearly committed to building their own government and building their own institutions, and I think they’re aware of how far they have to go.”  Sudan’s national elections are scheduled for April of 2010.  

Congresswoman Heather Wilson represented New Mexico’s first congressional district from 1998-2008 and was the second female veteran to serve in the U.S. Congress.  She is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and former Cabinet Secretary for New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department.

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