At 32, Susan Sebit is an accomplished lawyer and advocate from South Sudan. She works to protect women and children from violence and to ensure the implementation of existing women, peace and security global frameworks.
”South Sudan, like many other countries in the world and in Africa, has been overwhelmed by conflict.
It’s crucial that women participate in the peace process and peacebuilding, because they are affected by conflict. They are sexually abused and displaced.They bear the burden of taking care of their families, they lose husbands and sons. But when you bring together the parties of the conflict, women are not on their minds. Women and gender issues are the last things brought to the table.
And when the issues of women are brought up, it’s always older women who occupy the space. Young women are also going through a lot, but they get dismissed. They get told “you’re young, what do you know?” But then the youth peace and security agenda doesn’t always include women, so [young women] are not being seen. The youth agenda is being taken over by men, they’re not giving space to young women.
In the case of South Sudan, women's voices including young women’s voices were heard.. A Coalition of 40 women’s organizations [The South Sudan Women Coalition for Peace and Development], was formed and UN Women contributed to supporting its engagement at the peace talks.Through this coalition, women were given space, and the financial support to get to the peace talks. The women were there to represent women's issues. They were not just women of the opposition or women from the government, they are all women of South Sudan.
It is through these women that the peace agreement ended up with gender-responsive provisions [such as 35 per cent quota for women’s representation in the transitional government and funding to support rehabilitation of women survivors of conflict-related sexual violence].
The Women Coalition is being headed by young women, They were the first to think and understand the context of the current conflict; they were innovative. When the young women sat down [at the peace table], [some] older women thought that was a space for men and not safe for them. Their participation challenged the traditional norms.
I believe young women's inclusion in peacebuilding will create sustainable peace, because they know how to address these issues.”
As Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow with the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and co-founder of the National Alliance of Women Lawyers in South Sudan, Susan Sebit is a passionate advocate of the access to justice for women and children’s rightsand women’s participation in all areas of governance and leadership. In October 2018, Sebit participated in a UN Women-organized event on the sidelines of the annual UN Security Council Open Debate on women, peace and security, where she and other young women activists shared their stories.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Women.