By Grace Akon
I believe that being a woman has value when it comes to women’s empowerment. We have the inside information that men could never have and that should be considered when we are advocating for policies that affect women. But this doesn’t mean that our position is not warranted to logical scrutiny.
We cannot win this fight against injustice by only approaching it from a personal point of view. The problem with radical feminists is that they have singled out an enemy; men. My opposition toward this approach is that it alienates men who are fighting for gender equality out there. This is why it’s critical that we examine our motive for joining the movement. If you were abused in a relationship or somehow discriminated against on the basis of your gender as a woman, that’s a starting point to fight for justice but it cannot be about anger or vengeance. It should be about protecting other women so they don’t go through what you went through. We can’t afford to make it solely personal, our mission is far gracious.
Change doesn’t operate in isolation. It is therefore important to factor in the cultural, legal, and economical context to which we hope to bring change to. South Sudan is a fairly young country considering the 21 years of war and its unstable childhood after independence. Because most of the country still functions on customary laws and culture in which girls are seen as a source of income in bride pride price, radical feminism could do more harm than good. Young girls in villages believe that their potential to help their families is tied to their bride price and because of this, they find honor in this system. This is why I think that the movement should start from the grassroots with advocacy for basic needs like educating girls, protection, advocating for laws against child/force marriages, etc. Educating women is a big part of equality, it creates room for information and financial independence for women.
With resources, we should provide young girls and women in villages with basic hygiene essentials needs
like sanitary pants, soaps. There is a reason why the Women Suffrage movement started with voting rights and economic
independence, once you have women who have well-paying jobs, you have removed the incentive for them to stay in an abusive relationship. Financial dependency influences a lot of decision-making in a household and it skews the power balance in favor of breadwinners in the house. This should be our first and maybe our most important mission.
Lastly, I think any equality movement cannot succeed by weighing a war against another entity. Women’s empowerment cannot be achieved by tearing down men. It should also not be forced, by means of persuasion or otherwise on anyone. There is no positive outcome in preaching to young women in villages to leave their homes in the name of women empowerment, being a single mother is not honorable, let’s fix that home, let’s teach values that make it possible for women to never have to leave
their children. Let’s fight against domestic abuse. But in doing all these, let’s be cautious as not to dismiss the few allays we have. We are on the same team, it’s a question of how we approach the fight.