Education for all, gender equality and building peace together focus of UN Day event in Lakes
In Lakes, South Sudan, some 400 people, including state authorities, local communities, civil society groups, women and youth representatives, plus UN personnel, came together to mark the 76th United Nations Day.
The event was collaboratively organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the state ministries of Education; Peacebuilding; Gender, Child and Social Welfare; and Youth, Culture and Sports.
Education for all children was a key topic of discussion since erstwhile civil wars, which led to massive displacement, have ensured that many young people were deprived of the chance to complete their learning.
“We have come a long way in Lakes state since then,” said Mapuor Manyang, Chair of the Parents’ Teachers Association in Rumbek. “We have managed to establish some stability and we must work with all partners, including the UN, to use this calm to ensure every young girl or boy goes to school regularly.”
For her part, Susan Philip Olang, headmistress of the Rumbek Primary Girl’s School, urged parents to forgo regressive cultural norms such as early or forced marriages. “Girls have every right to be as educated as their brothers. Send your daughters to school and watch them flower into the leaders of the future,” she averred.
Adama Njie, a Gender Affairs Officer with UNMISS, picked up the baton from Ms. Olang. “Girls are changemakers, influencers and peacebuilders. I urge the government and all stakeholders to prioritize education for girls in Lakes. If we want a sustained peace, we cannot leave behind 50 per cent of society. These are girls and women,” she stated eloquently.
For their part, both the Ministers of Youth, Culture and Sports, William Koji Kerjok, and Peacebuilding, Beny Matur Matiang, reiterated that peace is a collective effort and needs to be built from the ground up, highlighting the importance of any peace process being owned and nurtured by the South Sudanese themselves.
The final word at the event came from Kwame Dwamena Aboagye, the Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Rumbek. “The UN family is here for you—we are here to protect you from conflict, to ensure your human rights are upheld, to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable and to help you build an unshakeable peace so that all communities can look forward to a peaceful, prosperous future.”
United Nations Day is annually commemorated on 24 October.