By Rita Kasana, Yambio
Suzan Thomas Perembata, a 35 year old woman legislator at the State Assembly in western Equatoria state has spearheaded the drive against the gender based violence in the state and has stood out as the female legislature that has advocated for girls education in the state.
The last born in a family of six children, Hon. Perembata graduated from Nkumba University with BBA (accountant) in 2004 and became the first elected female MP in her constituency of Ezo in 2011, an event that marked the beginning of her political career.
Perembata said she was inspired to join politics after visiting her home County Ezo in 2006 when she learnt about the plight of women and children in addition to working with politicians.
After the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, Perembata, like many South Sudanese in exile, came back to serve her country where she got her first job in 2006 as private Secretary for the Minister of Animal resource and fisheries before being promoted as an Executive Director where she worked for five years.
“It was during this time that I got a chance to visit my home county after staying for a long while away then I discovered that many women in my county were not educated and they were unable to voice out other issues, they were generally being oppressed by the male-centered community.”
Early 2014, Perembata was appointed as the chairperson of Peace, Human right and Humanitarian Affairs which gave her a chance to enroll for more training in women’s right advocacy and also lobby for partners to train other women.
However all has not been rosy for the female legislator especially due to the fact that she works in patriarchal society.
“There is always strong opposition from the men whereas others tend to undermine you. Even getting position on the committee as a woman was not easy as many allegations were being leveled to bring women down,” Perembata said.
Also being a leader at the time when the LRA operations were very intense in Ezo County and the state at large, was quite a challenge for her and still is a big challenge as women remain the big targets for the abduction, rape or worse being killed.
“I am happy because at least now people can sleep or cultivate their gardens because the abduction cases have reduced, save for the last week’s incident when the rebels reappeared and took with them a 13 years old girl,” she said.
She however counts her achievements as being able to succeed in lobbying with the Norwegian government, which responded by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the state government to send three Gynecologists who are already on the ground. “I have also lobbied for scholarships for children in my constituency but to my disappointment most girls drop out due to pregnancy cases,” she lamented.
Besides being a politician, Perembata is a farmer and a committed housewife who got married in 2010 with a one-year-old girl. As a politician, she attributes her success in marriage life to commitment, faithfulness, trust and love from her husband.
“Married women who are engaged in politics should put God and marriage before their jobs so as to earn respect and they should share the money earned selflessly with their families,” she sermonized.
She also warned in-laws and community members to desist from spreading rumors that mostly spoil families because at the end of the day it’s children who suffer the most.
Perembata hopes that in 2015, over 200 women will enroll in the adult school she has started in her county and everlasting peace in South Sudan for development and progress to be achieved especially in rural areas.