Picture this: International Women’s Day in South Sudan
In South Sudan, years of conflict have subjected women to some of the worst crimes and deprivation imaginable. The conflict has decimated their livelihoods, stalled efforts to empower them, and denied them the ability to effectively participate in the development of their young nation.
In pictures, some of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) field offices present a roundup of some of the initiatives being undertaken to empower and improve the lives of women in the country by UN peacekeepers and local activists, in line with the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day: “Time is Now: Press for progress to transform rural women’s lives”. To read the explanatory photo captions, let your cursor hoover over the photos.
Cases of sexual and gender-based violence in South Sudan are often meted out on women while they collect firewood. The UN Mission’s field office in the country’s Upper Nile region aims to reduce these cases by decreasing the frequency with which women go out to collect firewood. Increased use of the Rondereza stoves will also help reduce the environmental degradation brought about by extensive tree cutting for firewood and charcoal use. The word Rondereza means “to economize” in Rwanda.
The vast majority of women and girls in South Sudan have survived at least one form or other of gender-based violence. In spite of a relatively stable security situation in most parts of the country, the incidents of gender-based violence are still prevalent.
Gender-based violence in South Sudan is a pervasive issue that negatively impacts the lives of women and girls, who have been forced to endure abhorrent practices such as rape, sexual assault, forced/early marriage, and/or physical/emotional abuse.
From rape to other forms of sexual and physical assault, women and girls in South Sudan have been forced to endure abhorrent practices such as forced/ early marriage, denial of resources/ opportunities, or psychological/ emotional abuse, which negatively impact their lives.
The nearly five-year-long conflict in South Sudan has made women more vulnerable despite the United Nations interventions in protecting hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons living in and around the numerous protection sites across the country. There are isolated incidents of rape and sexual harassment of women and girls.
“South Sudan’s conflict, with widespread human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties, has inflicted untold suffering on millions,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in a recent report on human rights in the country.
Grave violations of women’s rights have been documented since the start of the conflict in South Sudan. The peacekeeping mission’s ‘Stand Up For Your Rights’ campaign is one of the ways to educate women returning to their villages on their rights.
Sports and performance arts have a unique ability to attract, mobilize and inspire, and are powerful tools to strengthen social ties and networks. Both the UN Mission’s Civil Affairs Division and its Communications and Public Information Section organize and support such activities from time to time, in recognition of the significant role they play in promoting the ideals of peace, fraternity, solidarity, non-violence, and tolerance.
The conflict in South Sudan has negatively impacted livelihoods, forcing millions to depend on aid for survival. The Relief, Reintegration and Protection Section is the UN Mission’s focal point for the management of protection sites within the peacekeeping mission’s bases and supports the work of humanitarian organizations in South Sudan. The section’s small-scale community projects contribute to critical infrastructure in host communities around protection sites and in potential areas of return for those internally displaced persons who have felt obliged to seek shelter.
Through targeted quick impact infrastructure projects, the UN Mission’s Relief, Reintegration and Protection Section has partnered with local populations and delivered tangible results throughout South Sudan in the areas of community-level education and health infrastructure improvements.
Local organizations like the Women Development Group also assist displaced women who are in dire need of services such as food and non-food items, while they wait to be granted shelter in the UN Mission’s protection sites. Every day, the Women Development Group receives and helps about 10 women to find a place where they can receive more protection and support.