End child marriage and pledge for gender parity: Yes, You Can South Sudan!

Mar 10, 2016

A woman shouts out in a female parade at the Nyakuron Cultural Center in Juba.

Every 8th of March (#IWD2016), people from all around the world talk about women rights, equality, parity, and family conciliation. For one day, everybody seems to support women, but apart from celebrating and congratulating women on this day, what concrete actions we take the rest of the year to achieve gender parity?

Women contribute to social, economic, cultural and political achievement worldwide, but progress towards gender parity has slowed in many places. More than 63 million girls are excluded from school in more than 200 countries across the world. Almost 16 million girls between the ages of 6 and 11 — compared with about 8 million boys — will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school "if current trends continue," according to a report from UNESCO's Institute for Statistics. Women also account for 70 percent of the world's hungry, the U.N. reported, in part because longstanding discrimination has limited their access to food.

From United Nations this year’s theme is “Planet 50/50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”, and the campaign aims to make ‘gender a real agenda.’ UNDP is committed to implement its gender equality strategy and UNDP South Sudan has joined “UNDP Africa Pledge for Parity Campaign” to do its own work to promote UNDP’s commitment to achieve gender parity in the workplace.

Pledges from UNDP South Sudan staff participating in the Women’s day campaign 2016.Pledges from UNDP South Sudan staff participating in the Women’s day campaign 2016.

South Sudan joined the rest of the world to celebrate International Women’s Day in 2007. Since South Sudan’s independence in 2011, women have faced several challenges in the country. They have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of the conflict in South Sudan. Many women have been widowed, displaced, and victimized through Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). UNDP South Sudan is acting in alignment with UN Security Resolution 1325 in facilitating women’s inclusion in the peace process through supporting women’s organizations to participate in the peace process. UNDP also contributes to empowering women through its Access to Justice and Rule of Law programme. This year, women customary leaders were trained to sit within customary courts, and one was trained to be an adjudicator. Furthermore, female IDPs and their host communities in Mingkaman and Juba received livelihood opportunities and trainings to increase income.

The Government of the Republic of South Sudan has showed its commitment to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment by developing the National Gender Policy and as a member State to the African Union, ratified a number of regional conventions including the 2003 protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights to the Rights of Women and through the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) adopted in 2004.

Regina Lollu, Director of Gender and Child Welfare of South Sudan Government.Regina Lollu, Director of Gender and Child Welfare of South Sudan Government.

Organized by the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare in partnership with UN agencies, NGOs, private sector organizations and civil society stakeholders, the International Women’s Day national celebration in South Sudan took place at Nyakuron Cultural Center in Juba. The event focused on early and forced child marriages, as it is a widespread practice in South Sudan.

“The social and economic situation in our country requires us to try to achieve gender parity and end child marriage. How we want to celebrate Women’s Day in South Sudan? How we want to close the gap?” declared the Director of Gender and Child Welfare of South Sudan Government, Regina Lollu.

Even before the start of the civil war in December 2013, UNICEF reported that 52 percent of all girls in South Sudan were married under the age of 18. Now, after two years of persistent fighting and violent attacks, the situation is getting worse. The trends during the past two years show an increasing number of girls forced into early marriage, according to the organisation.

Women and men gathered at the Nyakuron Cultural Center in Juba pledged to end child marriage.

“Child marriage means no girl education, violence against girls, constrained health, security, and economics problems. Is that what we want for the future of our country? Every child should have the opportunity to reach her full potential. Sustainable development means partnership between men and women, girls and boys,” added the Program Coordinator for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), Edmund Yakani.

School’s girls in the female parade at the Nyakuron Cultural Center in Juba.School’s girls in the female parade at the Nyakuron Cultural Center in Juba.

The panellists asked government representatives to develop laws and take concrete steps to end child marriage in the country.

“We have to work and pledge. There must be laws that champion women protection and empowerment. We need the state government to puss to end child marriage,” expressed a civil society representative.

Edmund Yakani, CEPO.Program Coordinator for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), Edmund Yakani.

“It is time for our leaders to consider the role of men in gender equality. Gender equality is not about women taking men’s positions but about promoting equality,” affirmed another participant.

The Program Coordinator for CEPO, Edmon Yakani, also sent a message to the United Nations and the Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

 

“During 71 years, a man has satisficed the seat of the UN Secretary General, the next UN Director General should be a women,” he concluded.

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