Campaign against gender-based violence kicks off across South Sudan
28 November 2011 – In combating violence against women, several South Sudanese towns began "16 days of activism" over the past few days to help eradicate and raise awareness of the crime.
Running from 25 November, International Day Against Violence Against Women, to Human Rights day on 10 December, the 16 days are an international campaign begun last year by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership.
Launching its campaign today, the Warrap State capital of Kuajok screened videos, carried out school awareness activities, and broadcast a women's-led community show on Kuajok Radio and UN Radio Miraya with the theme "Promoting Non-Violence".
"Although Warrap State is leading by example in terms of gender promotion -- our state governor, after all, is the only woman governor in the republic -- violence against women is still a common occurrence rather than a rarity," noted UNMISS Warrap State Coordinator Fergus Boyle.
Asunta Mario Wol, field coordinator of the local Yar Arol Foundation, observed that gender violence in Warrap was high. "You can see it in the face of the women, in their eyes, in their characters. And the violence is both moral and physical."
She added that the situation was different before the war. "Now we are kind of used to the violence. Men beat women to death and people around don't intervene ... Eventually, the woman's family will take revenge, but this increases violence in the country."
Alawia El Nur, Warrap Ministry of Education Deputy Director of Gender, said poverty and cattle dowries were the main reasons for earlier and forced marriages for girls. "The family of the woman accepts the man with more cows ... ... But then the husband thinks that he has bought the woman and consequently that she has no rights."
In Upper Nile State, the 16-day campaign kicked off on 25 November by Minister for Gender, Social and Religious Affairs Martha Nyamal Choat in the capital Malakal.
Awareness activities in the town are being conducted in schools and door-to-door to sensitize the public on gender violence, women and human rights.
Ms. Choat said women in the state were deprived access to education, subjected to early marriages, and suffered from sexual violence, adding that most women were vulnerable because they were not the breadwinners in their homes.
She noted that seven cases of rape had been reported last month and that a young girl from Baliet County had sought police help after her family tried to marry her off for 45 heads of cattle.
Launching the 16 days in the Lakes State capital of Rumbek, State Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agencies Mabor Meen Wuol promised that state authorities would try to convict perpetrators of violence against women.
"The government has worked hard to see to it that those who have committed atrocities are all brought to the law and they will be tried before the course of law," the minister said.
Adak Costa Mapuor, Advisor for Gender and Human Rights to Lakes State Governor Chol Tong Mayay, called on women suffering violence in silence to let their voices be heard. They had been raped, murdered and subjected to arbitrary arrests by law enforcement agencies.
Ms. Mapuor urged the government and entire community to value the rights of women. "South Sudan cannot develop without the participation of women."