Breaking Chains, Building Futures: Josephine Chandiru’s Decade-Long Journey to Maputo Protocol Ratification in South Sudan

In commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Maputo Protocol, through the YW4A Initiative, Equality Now facilitated a transformative mentorship dialogue. Among the distinguished voices contributing to this insightful dialogue was Josephine Chandiru, representing the Steward Women Organization, who was critical in advocating for the ratification of the Maputo Protocol in South Sudan.

Photo: Josephine Chandiru, from Steward Women in South Sudan.

Josephine Chandiru, a lawyer by profession, joined Steward Women in 2012, passionately advocating for access to justice, equal economic opportunities, and human rights for women and children. Reflecting on the challenging journey, Chandiru emphasized,

We didn’t have a law that protected women in abusive marriages. The strategies that we embraced were to raise awareness and ensure that the Protocol is popularized. We were creating an appetite amidst all the violations.

Caught between the civil war and the fight for equal opportunity and human rights, Chandiru challenged societal norms from a young age. She supported the prosecution of the first child marriage case in South Sudan and influenced the country’s line ministries to ratify the Maputo Protocol. 

As part of the YW4A South Sudan Coalition, they successfully championed the ratification, making South Sudan the 44th African country to do so in June 2023.

Photo: Josephine Chandiru (right) at the YW4A networking and coalition building workshop in Nairobi.

However, the path to ratification was long and arduous, marked by bureaucratic hurdles, changes in government, and funding challenges that persist post-ratification. Chandiru noted that access to justice receives only one percent of South Sudan’s funding. Despite countless violations, she and her allies employed strategic tactics to raise awareness and breathe life into the Protocol.

Recalling the year 2018, when the country signed a revitalized peace pact, Chandiru remarked,

The war scattered us.

The focus shifted away from women’s rights and gender-based violence towards peace, leaving these critical concerns ignored.

Her unwavering commitment to women’s rights and transformative efforts did not go unnoticed. Josephine Chandiru emerged as the Normative Change Category Award winner at the 20 for 20 Solidarity Awards in Nairobi on July 11, marking the 20th Anniversary of the Maputo Protocol. Her decade-long campaign for South Sudan to ratify the Protocol bore fruit, bringing the country to the forefront as the 44th African nation to embrace this transformative document.

Photo: Josephine Chandiru (second from right) sharing South Sudan’s journey to Maputo Protocol ratification at the YW4A mentorship dialogue side event at the MaputoAt20 anniversary in Nairobi.

By ratifying the Maputo Protocol, South Sudan has set the stage for positive change, offering a brighter future for its women and girls. Josephine Chandiru’s victory resonates throughout the entire nation, symbolizing the dedication and valor of those who fought for this crucial cause.