The International Republican Institute (IRI) hosted a seminar for members of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) Women’s League in Nairobi, Kenya from February 3-5, 2007. The trip enable the women to meet with female members of the Kenyan National Assembly and gain valuable comparative experiences.
Community leaders from southern Sudan, including members of the Women’s League, were prohibited from participating in Sudanese political life during the Sudanese Civil War. As a result, members of the league have been eager to develop their legislative advocacy skills as they begin their terms of office within the SSLA. To facilitate this process, IRI brought the Sudanese women to Kenya where local politicians shared their strategic planning and advocacy experience; seminar participants were divided into smaller groups to garner hands-on experience through strategic planning exercises. The culmination of the work of the participants from the Women’s League will be used to develop their official strategic plan, which will form the basis of their legislative agenda within the SSLA.
The members of the Women’s League were also provided an opportunity to practice bill drafting and develop strategies to push for enactment of the corresponding legislation. In order to help the SSLA members better connect with their constituents, IRI invited the Honorable Beth Mugo, the Kenyan Assistant Minister for Education and Member of Parliament to discuss effective public outreach strategies and the importance of message development. In addition to sharing her own personal experiences, the Hon. Mugo also led a practice session where Women’s League participants crafted party messages designed for their own constituencies in southern Sudan.
Additionally, the SSLA members had the opportunity to meet with the Kenyan Women’s Parliamentary Association to discuss the importance of women’s legislative caucuses in ensuring that women’s and children’s rights are protected and expanded. At the conclusion of the conference, the members of the Women’s League expressed their determination to involve more women in the political process by acting as mentors for other women seeking to enter politics. They also expressed their desire to move beyond violent politics, with one member stating that “[the civil war] is the past, and we need to begin again.”
This seminar is one of a number of activities that IRI has implemented as it works to support the national reconciliation process between northern and southern Sudan. By strengthening the capacity of politicians and political institutions alike, it is hoped that in post-civil war Sudan, conflicts will be resolved at the ballot box and not by force of arms. As with the members of the Women’s League, IRI will continue to focus its efforts on developing the ability of the members of the SSLA to become effective, responsive, and responsible lawmakers.Top