Local authorities have joined forces with the United Nations in the Bahr el Ghazal region to combat violence against women during a 16-day international campaign dedicated to eliminating gender-based violence.
Many women in communities like Tonj, Gogrial and Twic in the north-west of the country are suffering from physical and sexual violence because of the ongoing conflict.
In Tonj, women have been restricted by authorities from moving around at night as a precautionary measure against harassment. Tonj Governor, Akec Tong Aleu, said this decision was made after a number of cases of sexual assault.
“There was no quick solution that could be found to save women from harassment at night,” he said. “The quickest solution was to impose a ban on women and girls walking at night.”
The head of the UN Mission’s field office in Kuajok, Anastasie Nyirigira, is urging political, community and youth leaders to come together to prevent and eliminate violence against women in their homes and in their communities more broadly.
“We need to stop impunity. We need to stop what I would call being insensitive to all the violation we see around us. I am looking at cases of rapes. I am looking at limited enrolment of girls in school. I am looking at limited participation of women in positions of leadership, decision-making, and, worst of all, I am looking at early and forced marriage as practices that we need to end,” said Anastasie Nyirigira.
Gogrial Legislative Assembly Speaker, Atong Manyual Lual, called for greater respect for the law relating to issues like marriage to underage girls, which is banned in South Sudan. She also appealed for greater awareness about violence against women and respect for their rights, including to education.
“We have duty whether in government decision-making positions or as traditional leaders to protect women and girls in our societies so that we achieve a better South Sudan that is free from violence,” she said. “Peace that starts from your house is a peace that spreads to everyone in the family and then to nation.”
Gogrial Governor Victor Atem Atem, pledged to work closely with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan to prevent the escalation of conflict in the area so that women and girls will no longer be exposed to violence