Promoting gender equality focus of UNMISS workshop with young students

UNMISS South Sudan Gender Equality Juba UNPOL Youth Peace Women Security

100 students and teachers participated in an interactive workshop in Juba supported by UNMISS UNPOL on challenging gender stereotypes and promoting the rights of girls to education as well as economic empowerment. Photo by James Sokiri/UNMISS

16 Feb 2022

Promoting gender equality focus of UNMISS workshop with young students

James Sokiri

An innovative workshop led by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had an important focus—to reduce violence among communities by building capacities among young students.

The UN Peacekeeping mission brought together 100 students and teachers together in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, to work in separate groups and explore the ways in which entrenched gender inequalities can be addressed across all walks of life to build a more peaceful, progressive and inclusive social fabric.

Young participants were engaged and forthright in voicing their opinions.

Peter Anthony, a student at Juba Day Secondary School, spoke about rape and conflict-related sexual violence openly. “We have grown up hearing stories about young girls and women being victims of sexual violence. For survivors of such crimes, the trauma doesn’t end with the incident. Often, communities and their own families shun them and stigmatize them,” he said.

“However, today I have learnt how important it is for us as boys to uphold the rights of our sisters, classmates and relatives whether at home, at school or in the larger community. We all have a responsibility to build a society where no woman, no girl has to live in fear.”

Joyce Iyom, an 18-year-old participant, had a special appeal for all girls.

“I come from a background where a lot of my friends became pregnant before they were 18. Their education was completely disrupted, they had to drop out of school and their lives never went beyond domestic drudgery,” she revealed.

“I want to use this platform to tell all girls across the country—please don’t make marriage your priority. There will be plenty of time for you to get married but there is finite time for a girl to complete her education. Once we are educated, we will be economically empowered and able to make our own life choices,” added Joyce passionately.

Joyce’s dream is to become a doctor and improve emergency medical responses to outbreaks of diseases in the country.

“I fall sick very often and, sadly, I seem to never receive the right medication. When I become a doctor, I will ensure every patient gets the correct treatment,” she emphasized.

For Joyce to fulfil her aspirations, though, there has to be positive change in the country. “Without peace, without silencing the guns, none of our dreams matter. All we can do is remain optimistic.”

These heartfelt opinions were underpinned by Victoria Yamoah, a Capacity Building and Development Adviser working with the UN Peacekeeping mission who urged girls to continue learning against all odds.

 “Your womanhood or girlhood is your power,” she said. “Do not allow your emotions or your bodies to be violated in any way; follow your dreams and make higher education a priority. You are all changemakers and are responsible for building a bright future not merely for yourselves but for the entire country,” she averred.

For his part, Brigadier General Salah Selim Khamis from the Directorate of Community Policing, South Sudan National Police Service, said that law enforcement personnel are doing their best across South Sudan to put an end to sexual violence.

“We are working around the clock to ensure that every woman, every girl is safe so that they can freely and equally participate in governance, decision-making, politics and have an equal say in the issues that impact them directly,” stated Brigadier General Khamis.

“Women’s rights are human rights and it is only if we empower our women shall we be able to establish a sustainable peace.”

The workshop was supported by United Nations Police (UNPOL).