7 March 2016 - It is imperative to have lasting peace in South Sudan to enable girls in the country to reach their full potential and exercise their rights as children and women, the top UNMISS official said in Juba today.
UNMISS chief Ellen Loej was speaking at a roundtable discussion held as part of activities to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day and attended by senior government officials, and representatives of diplomatic missions.
“Conflict-related sexual violence, displacement, food insecurity and lack of access to schools and hospitals have had a drastic impact on the lives of South Sudanese and in particular, the women and children,” said Ms. Loej. “It is time for a change and that change must start with having peace in bomas and payams across South Sudan.”
Noting that despite injustice and violations of their rights, South Sudanese women have continued to protect their children and communities, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) stressed that it was now time for them to be part of the peace process and peacebuilding.
“Female peacebuilders are needed to ensure the women’s voice in rebuilding the social fabric of the society, in establishing new institutions and in restructuring the old,” she said.
Calling for all partners to work together to close the gender gap and ensure that girls have access to education, the SRSG added that only by addressing these issues with determination would individual girls be able to get a better future, from which the whole society would benefit.
This year, the day will be celebrated globally under the theme, “Pledge for Parity”, aiming to encourage everybody to take action which will help to achieve gender parity from the grassroots level to the highest offices.
In South Sudan, where early marriage effects millions of girls and impacts their development prospects and access to education, the national theme will be “Pledge to End Early Marriage”.
“Education and literacy are proven to be powerful tools in improving girls’ and women’s positions in traditionally male-dominated societies,” said Ms. Loej. “Access to education is also a key to erase the practice of early marriage.”
Reiterating the need to give women and girls equal opportunities to men, South Sudan’s Minister of Justice, Paulino Wanawilla, urged women to take an active role in stopping child marriage.
“We have to bring up our children on equal footing,” he said. “If the father insists on giving up his daughter for marriage, it will amount to abuse and violation of the penal code and necessary action can be taken. When such a report is brought to the knowledge of the Ministry of Justice, a case will be opened and that person will be prosecuted.”
There will be various activities to commemorate International Women’s Day across South Sudan tomorrow.