Addressing gender issues and COVID-19, UNMISS distributes aprons and face masks to women in Yambio

unmiss south sudan yambio western equatoria gender covid-19 face masks political representation female participation women

Aprons and face masks en masse in Yambio when UNMISS discussed gender issues with a group of women.
Photo: Denis Louro Olivier/UNMISS

12 Mar 2021

Addressing gender issues and COVID-19, UNMISS distributes aprons and face masks to women in Yambio

Denis Louro Oliver

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, cultural gender roles and inequalities have become further cemented. To address both issues, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan gathered a group of women in Yambio to raise awareness on preventing the virus as well as increased levels of gender-based violence.

“We cannot let women stay isolated at home because of the pandemic, so we have come up with a business plan to make and sell bread. That way, they acquire skills, earn some money for themselves, stay busy and reduce the risk of being subject to gender-based violence,” said Victoria Yotoma, Executive Director of the community-based Nile Sister Development Organization. 

The aim of the organization is to teach women income-generating skills, thus making them less dependent on their men and placing them in a better position to advocate for their rights to participate in decision making, conflict resolution and nation building.

“We want to see more women engaged in politics, advocating for policy reforms, for example girls’ right to education,” said Ms. Yotoma, adding that eradicating the culturally induced stigmatization of girls and women who have survived domestic violence is another challenge and priority.

Margret Joshua, a Gender Affairs Officer serving with the UN peacekeeping mission, stressed the importance of South Sudan complying with the 35 per cent political representation of women, as stipulated in the revitalized peace agreement signed in 2018. To get there, she believes that women will need allies.

“We are calling on men, particularly young men, to support the agenda and rights of women. That is even more important with COVID-19 causing isolation,” said Ms. Joshua.

Participants at the event agreed that everyone stands to gain from increased female representation in the political life of South Sudan.

“With more of us in politics, there would be less corruption, tribalism and conflicts between communities, and all women, also in rural areas, would have access to adequate healthcare,” one of them concluded.

Christopher Murenga, head of the peacekeeping mission’s field office in Yambio, reiterated that the world body stands united behind them.

“You will need to do your part to make it happen, but I want you to rest assured that the UN family will help you advocate and will support your efforts in every way possible,” he said.

While discussing gender issues and presenting the mandate and role of the peacekeeping mission, face masks and aprons were also handed out to help participants maintain the high standards of personal hygiene necessary to keep the virus at bay.