Hundreds of women from rural villages in Tonj have gathered together to call for better education for girls and the opening up of adult training and learning opportunities for South Sudanese women.
The women took part in a training session about gender-based violence, facilitated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s Gender Unit, as part of the international campaign of 16 days of activism to eliminate violence against women.
UNMISS’ Gender Unit Officer, Roda Sube, said that the theme of the campaign this year was to stop gender-based violence against women and girls and to end child marriage.
An administrator in the community of Agogo, Mary Michael Khardhith, said women were negatively affected by some traditional and cultural practices that contradicted the laws of South Sudan and international norms, including early and forced marriage and the denial of education to girls.
“Our ladies never go to school because when a girl is about ten years old, her family starts the process of engaging her to a man,” she said. “They say we want to marry her because, if she goes to school, she will only drop out anyway when she reaches the age of 17 or 18 and becomes pregnant to her husband.”
Mary Michael Khardthith called upon the government and families to promote education for girls as well as increasing opportunities for adult education. She also called on men to respect and cherish the role of women in South Sudanese society.
The Governor of Tonj, Major-General Akec Tong Aleu, said he appreciated the work of UNMISS in promoting the role of women in the community. He said local authorities were focused on increasing the participation of women in the political process, pointing to the appointment of a female commissioner and two female ministers in the Cabinet in Tonj.