Kuajok women pledge to seek financial empowerment to close gender equality gap in the country
WARRAP STATE - What are some of the factors that hold women back in South Sudan, what would it take empower them instead and why would doing so benefit the country as a whole?
These are questions worth pondering, not just as part of the commemoration of International Women’s Day, and pondered they recently were by some 60 local businesswomen gathered in Kuajok for a one-day conversation on these topics.
Answers were plentiful, with one provided by entrepreneur Rose Anyang.
“Providing equal access to credits to start up small businesses or farming, giving women more power over income and assets like land, and professionalizing the caregiving sector are all feasible measures that would accelerate women’s economic empowerment,” she said, appealing to the government and other partners alike to act on her suggestions. Enabling women by teaching them both necessary and income-generating skills, she added, could also be a game-changer.
Elizabeth Awal, speaking on behalf of Warrap State’s Women’s Association, had many thoughts on the reasons females lag behind their men in terms of de facto rights, and therefore end up being taken advantage of in different ways, including by means of physical and sexual violence.
“How can girls and women, or a society as a whole for that matter, prosper in a culture where men still pay huge dowries to marry us, virtually turning us into assets and belongings? How can we avoid gender-based violence when customary laws don’t allow us to inherit and own land and other property? How can we even talk about gender equality as long as our girls are often forced to drop out of school and then married to the highest bidder,” Ms. Awal questioned.
“Harmful customs and traditions should never serve as excuses for discrimination or violence against women,” she affirmed.
Anastasie Nyirigira Mukangarambe, head of the UN peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in Kuajok, surely agreed, but said women will also need to show more initiative for meaningful changes to take place. An economically productive woman, she explained, is a universally respected woman.
“The key to attaining gender equality is hard work. When women improve the quality of life of their families and communities, they gain respect,” she said.
Ms. Mukangarambe and representatives of local authorities, UN agencies and civil society organizations attending the event, jointly organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and the Warrap State Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, may have different views on the way forward. Their goal, gender equality, remains the same, however.