Women’s citizenship: implications of the Southern Sudan referendum

Leni Wild and Pilar Domingo – 50.50  Inclusive Democracy – Friday, 14 January, 2011 (originally published 10 Jan)

This week, South Sudan is again going to the polls, this time to vote in a referendum on secession from the North. The preliminary result should be known by 15th January, and will mark one of the final stages of the historic 2005 agreement to end the long-standing conflict between North and South Sudan. All eyes will be on this vote, which is widely seen as likely to result in the South’s separation from the North. How will this shape women’s lives in North and South Sudan? And how have they changed since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)?

How will the outcome of the South Sudan referendum affect the prospects for women’s participation and activism in the North and South?

On the one hand, this referendum represents the latest stage in a series of reforms since the signing of the CPA, including the development of new interim constitutions (which include Bills of Rights) and elections in which women can compete in far greater numbers than before. In this context, secession for the South could present additional opportunities to enhance and strengthen Southern Sudanese women’s ability to participate in public life. On the other hand, there appears to be a growing divergence in women’s experiences, between North and South, and between elite and grassroots women. There are real dangers that these divides will continue to grow, whatever the outcome of Sunday’s vote.

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