Sovereignty is a concept that is relevant to all tiers of existence and identity. I am a sovereign as an individual. My power is my ability to freely exert my will towards a specific desired action/goal and refuse to direct my intention towards an undesired/compelled goal through inaction. My sovereignty is inherently tied to my interests and, more importantly, to submitting my energies and resources towards their achievement without interference from others. This definition extends toward a group’s, a community’s, a nation’s sovereignty.
Questions of sovereignty begin to arise as we subjugate our will to the interests of a group. Take the family, for example. To fulfill this filial group’s interests, everyone contributes, from child to adult, male and female. It is necessarily a socialist organ governed by the principle of “from each according to his ability to each according to their need.” However, we take for granted that everyone contributes. I recall the stories of my father’s generation recited regarding the advent of modernity in the form of mission schools. A change that dictated that they sent some to school, but not the strongest, for they have to protect the clan; not the weakest, for they need protection; not the just, for they would have to administer the tribe; and not the girl child, for she brings wealth that sustains the family.
A proper system of choice, what we would term now as discrimination. According to the dictionary, discrimination means “recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.” It is a sovereign choice we make throughout our daily lives. However, politically driven by the pursuit of interests, the political definition of discrimination is “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.” The issue is the intent and the result of such discrimination. Barring some from attaining education at that point was intended for the good of society. However, the product is that decades later, education became the key to success, and those discriminated against for good intentions then became severely disadvantaged by the choices of their fathers. There is also the issue of the responsibility of providing equal opportunities within a family, society, and nation. However, in the lower tiers of social organization, this is constantly subjected to the interest of the group at the expense of the individual’s interest.
There was a sound calculus for our grandfathers’ decisions based on their contexts and interests. If the calculus changes, cattle will not be the primary resource connected to wealth, and society or family will value education and appreciate the potential value of an educated girl. In all the stages of life, a girl child would gain a bit of sovereignty in formulating her interests, goals, and ambitions. As we speak, some add more cows to the bride-wealth of an educated girl. However, others are competing to marry a purportedly 17-year-old girl, bidding over 500 cows, for her potential in birthing seven-footers like herself. Is it a sound calculus? Others are beating girls to death for eloping or refusing marriage. What do you expect from a militarized society, in which the girl is wealth and consequently food, not to mention pride? The girl child is thoroughly objectified, considered a currency. What is right, and who says so? The wielders of power? The keepers of tradition and the mechanisms and means of cultural survival? Or change, which is a constant?
At this juncture of our development as a nation, we are still in-between tradition and modernity. The accumulation of wealth or the survival and sustainability of the family dictates our calculus. Since it is “from each according to his/her ability, and each according to the need.” The commodification of the girl child and the woman perpetually continues. I believe that society changes its decisions as circumstances change through a rational process, regardless of ideas of rights and whatnot, since the individual and group’s underlying interest is to sustain and perpetually exist. Change is the only mechanism available to us now. So the wielders of power must choose to legislate the necessary catalysts for this change, not through percentages and lip service to inclusion, but by going as far as legislating morality and desired behaviors without a severe encroachment on our favorite subject, sovereignty. Simple calculus would drive people towards the desired action by incentivizing change and disincentivizing rigidity.
Assuming that the state provides free primary education or subsidies, it should be criminal for the girl child to be left behind. It should be equally illegal for an underage girl child to be married. I understand that there would need to be tough negotiations on interests and benefits with the keepers of tradition. Still, I know that converting many towards valuing education is possible. The change that needs to happen is a change of attitudes and values; it is a rational process, a calculus of interests. Moreover, we shouldn’t underestimate the capability of our rural people and traditional leaders. They are sovereign and concerned with the successful and dignified perpetuation and survival of their family, clan, tribe, and society.
Marx, Karl (1875). “Part I.” Critique of the Gotha Program.
South Sudan: The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 [South Sudan]. 26 February 2013.
Sudan: Child Act, 2008 (Southern Sudan) [Sudan]. 13 October 2008.
South Sudan: National Education Statistics For The Republic of South Sudan, 2016. Ministry of Education & General Instruction, 2017.
© Apuk Ayuel Mayen 2018. All rights reserved.