South Sudan: Female Leadership as a Manifestation of Gender Equality


Tatiana Kochanova


In July 2011, as a result of a referendum in South Sudan, more than 10 million people gained independence by voting for the separation of South Sudan from the North and the establishment of the sovereign Republic of South Sudan. The majority of the socially active population in the voting period were women, mostly young women.

The article is devoted to the sociopolitical activity of women in South Sudan, which had manifested itself in the region long before the referendum of 2011.

The article covers the period from the very beginning of the post-colonial history of the Sudan to the current situation in South Sudan, which is a result of the military and political conflict.

During the 17-year-long First Sudanese (1955-1972) and the 22-year-long Second Sudanese (1983-2005) civil wars, that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives of the indigenous population, Sudanese women, mostly Christian, participated in the movement for the peace and independence of the South to the best of their abilities. They were helping the rebellious Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) resist the Khartoum regime that was based in the north of the country and established by the Arab and Muslim government. Many present-day female politicians, having become obsessed with the struggle for freedom at that time, embarked on the path towards change.

The article pays attention to the formation of characters, views, and opinions of young South Sudanese women with regard to their rights, place, and role in the sociopolitical life of the country. Special attention is paid to the importance of representatives of international actors in facilitating the promotion and development of democratic principles on the African continent.

The women of South Sudan gained confidence in their abilities owing to a great extent to their foreign supporters, who conducted training seminars, courses, and conferences. The role of international women’s organizations and female missionaries can hardly be overestimated. It was they who ensured a very high female voter turnout at the 2011 referendum (more than a half of the registered voters). Later on, they facilitated the involvement of representatives of the so-called weaker (in this case “weaker” in terms of education) sex in the social and political life of the country.

The period of the military and political crisis that lasted in South Sudan from 2013 until almost 2016 proved very difficult for women. The confrontation between the government and opposition forces led the country to chaos, banditry and violence, that is, to a humanitarian catastrophe. However, despite everything, their strong natural abilities, large numbers, and serious support from the international organizations working to achieve gender equality may let the South Sudanese women claim not only a greater quota in the legislative and executive branches, but also the right to nominate one of their own to the highest position in the state hierarchy. Judging by the current trends, these times are just around the corner.

Drawing attention to the demographic statistics and emphasizing the rapid pace of learning of South Sudanese women, the author predicts not only the attainment of gender equality in South Sudan, but also the ascension to power of new political leaders.


South Sudan, gender, women’s activity, female solidarity, women’s international agencies, national liberation movement, referendum, elections, democracy, power struggle, focus on development


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