African Women Leaders Kick Off Equality Campaign at Game-Changing Conference

Women leaders called for swift, concerted action to advance gender rights at the first International Conference on Women’s Transformational Leadership, in Juba, South Sudan on Tuesday.

Almost 400 women leaders from 15 African countries joined the UN-backed three-day conference, which opened on Monday, including former and current presidents.

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The goal is to advance progress, tackle pressing concerns and find sustainable solutions to issues affecting women and girls in South Sudan and across Africa.

The conference’s theme is GuwaTaMara, meaning the strength of women. During the meeting, speakers agreed that challenges persist in the areas of leadership and governance, climate change, economic challenges, access to education and gender-based violence.

“The protection of women’s rights is important to us in Government,” South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit said. “Our country cannot afford gender-based violence, as it hinders peace and development. Let us keep working towards a better day for women and girls.”

As the 2018 peace agreement enters its final phase, he said the Government will work hard to address challenges women face and to empower them across the country. Ongoing efforts include providing women with opportunities to develop their skills to better compete in the labour market.

The Government had already increased the percentage of women’s representation from 25 to 35 per cent, given the challenges of insecurity and lack of power they face.

“While we have not fully met this quota, we will work to fulfill it and allow women to compete for the remaining 65 per cent,” said President Kiir.

United Nations

400 women leaders from 15 African countries joined the UN-supported three-day conference in the South Sudanese capital Juba.

‘Good place to start’

Women’s participation in African parliaments has doubled in the last decades, but more must be done, said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, in a video statement to the conference.

“Many factors continue to impede women’s leadership and participation on an equal basis with their male counterparts,” she said, emphasizing a need to boost efforts to correct this.

“We need to build a movement for transformational leadership, and South Sudan is a good place to start,” she said, pledging UN support for South Sudan in its ongoing efforts and further achievements. “We need women to participate in finding solutions that work for all. Together, we can turn ambitions into action.”

The UN Deputy Special Representative Sara Beysolow Nyanti said the resilience and determination of South Sudanese women was an inspiration.

“It is my hope that South Sudan will transform to peace with women at the forefront,” she said, adding that without their full and equal participation and leadership, South Sudan will not move forward in its journey from conflict to peace and development.

Yet, the challenges in South Sudan remain daunting. A top priority is to increase women’s representation in political and security institutions to meet and exceed the 35 per cent target set in the 2018 peace agreement, which ended a five-year-long civil war that killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Discussions will also focus on preparations for the country’s first elections as a sovereign state, due to be held in December 2024.

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‘In Their Hands’

A new multimedia photo exhibit “In Their Hands” opened at the conference, shining a light on women taking ownership of peace. Reflecting the conference’s theme, the strength of women leaders abounds. African women paved the way for the Security Council’s adoption of the landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security and are increasingly playing key roles in fostering peace. The exhibit also highlights challenges they face.

“The war has killed hope and turned our lives into a tragedy, but my work pushes me to persevere and makes me hopeful about the future,” said Olla al Sakkaf, a 27-year-old youth activist from Yemen, which has seen a civil war wreak havoc on communities since 2014.

“Every small change I cause in my community gives me hope for a better future for me and for women and youth like me,” she said.

Alokiir Malual, the only woman to have signed the 2015 peace agreement in South Sudan, was also featured in the exhibit.

“We are growing,” she said. “We have smartly taken advantage of the peace process, making sure to gain more for women. We achieved a 35 per cent participation quota by uniting as women and as groups, and coming up with one position, one demand. A formidable achievement by the women of South Sudan.”



  1. How will the conference ensure that the proposed actions lead to tangible improvements in the lives of women and girls? Are there specific strategies in place to monitor progress and ensure accountability?

    1. The conference aims to implement concrete measures that will bring real change to the lives of women and girls. Monitoring mechanisms are being established to track progress and ensure accountability. Let’s work together towards a brighter future for all women and girls.

  2. It’s inspiring to see African women leaders coming together and pushing for gender equality initiatives at the Women’s Transformational Leadership conference in South Sudan. This is a crucial step in addressing the challenges women face and promoting their rights and empowerment.

  3. It’s inspiring to see African women leaders coming together to push for gender equality. The strength and determination of these women is truly commendable. I hope this conference leads to concrete actions that benefit women and girls across the continent.

  4. It’s inspiring to see African women leaders stepping up for gender equality at such a critical juncture. We must continue pushing for progress and solutions to uplift women and girls across the continent.

  5. As a woman, I strongly believe that it’s crucial to focus on advancing gender rights and empowering women across Africa. The conference’s emphasis on addressing leadership challenges, climate change impacts, economic issues, education access, and gender-based violence is commendable. President Salva Kiir’s commitment to protecting women’s rights and tackling gender-based violence is a positive step towards a better tomorrow for women and girls in South Sudan.

  6. Do the women leaders have specific action plans to address gender-based violence and promote women’s empowerment?

    1. Yes, the women leaders have outlined specific action plans to address gender-based violence and promote women’s empowerment. They are committed to implementing concrete steps to ensure the protection and advancement of women’s rights in South Sudan and throughout Africa. Together, they are striving to effect real change and make significant progress in achieving gender equality.

  7. How will the conference address the economic challenges that women face in South Sudan specifically?

    1. The conference aims to address the economic challenges faced by women in South Sudan by fostering discussions, proposing solutions, and creating actionable plans to improve economic opportunities and empowerment for women in the region.

  8. As a strong supporter of gender equality, I am inspired by the African women leaders’ commitment to advancing women’s rights and tackling pressing issues affecting them. It’s crucial that we all work together to create a better future for women and girls across Africa. #GuwaTaMara

  9. Do the speakers at the conference discuss specific strategies to address gender-based violence in South Sudan and other African countries?

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