Meet Apuk Mayen.
Apuk is a senior diplomat from South Sudan working to increase women’s participation in formal peace processes between Sudan and South Sudan. Yet, Apuk is an activist at heart.
For most of her youth, Apuk lived as a refugee during Sudan’s civil war—Africa’s longest internal conflict. She witnessed high levels of violence. Having been spared from most of the suffering and loss that others experienced within Sudan, Apuk felt compelled to work for peace and justice. She found herself drawn in particular to women’s rights.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in January 2011 following decades of civil war, making it the newest country in the world. Apuk’s passion for women’s rights has made her a leader within South Sudan’s initiative to create arrangements of cooperation with its neighbour.
Apuk advocates for the inclusion of women at the peace table and in ongoing peace efforts. As in so many other countries, women’s voices are marginalized in peace negotiations, with most or all of the business being conducted by male members of political parties or armed groups.
Apuk believes that women are important agents of peace at the local level because they promote nonviolent methods of dialogue. It is for this reason that women are also crucial for national and regional peace negotiations.
Like many South Sudanese, Apuk hoped that independence would bring peace. Sadly, however, community conflicts in South Sudan continue—and women remain disproportionately affected by violence. Apuk will not give up the struggle for peace, and for bringing the much-needed perspective of women into official efforts to build peace.