South Sudanese women urged to fight for their rights on International Women’s Day
“You should just stand up for your rights. It is something that is yours, so you have to go get them.”
This is the rallying cry of university student, Mary Faida, as she calls on fellow South Sudanese women to fight for gender equality on International Women’s Day.
Mary was speaking at an event, hosted by the Catholic University and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, to promote the role of women in the peace process as the country seeks an end to the five-year long civil war.
Her words were vehemently reinforced by the guest of honour, Jemma Nunu Kumba, Acting Secretary-General for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.
“When you know your right, don’t ask for it, take it! You go for it and take it!”
About 400 university students and guests gathered in the capital Juba to listen to a panel discussion about the importance of women in ensuring peace prevails in the world’s youngest nation.
“While we recognize all the work that has been done and how far we have gone, there is still a lot that has to be done to expedite the narrowing of the gender gap, because I believe women, as the majority of our society, have a lot to offer in order to accelerate our development processes,” said Jemma Nunu Kumba.
“To the women of South Sudan, I salute them and urge them to continue with their resilience and persistence in ensuring that they take their space of leadership in business and in the political arena.”
South Sudan’s women have suffered immensely from the violent conflict, with many trapped in cultural practices that perpetuate inequalities and violence used against them.
“Women are being violated. They are being robbed and we stand against this. We don’t want this to happen,” said Theresa Sirico, the chair of the Sudan African National Union. “Durable peace is when women and men are side by side.”
The signing of a new peace agreement in September has brought new hope as well as a requirement for women to take at least 35 per cent of leadership roles in the proposed new governance structure. This demand is echoed in the theme for International Women’s Day in South Sudan, which is to “Think Equal: Make 35 percent + Count for Women’s Participation’’.
While there are concerns about how to fund the implementation of the peace agreement, panelist Abraham Awolich had a rather blunt response.
“If we can finance war, we can finance peace,” he said, also suggesting a woman would be best qualified to take on the role of managing the country’s budget as Finance Minister.
UNMISS Police Commissioner, Unaisi Vuniwaqa, said the meaningful participation of women and their empowerment benefits, not only women and girls, but the whole community.
“This will ensure that peace and development is inclusive and diverse, catering to different needs and priorities.”
“Let us make every day Women’s Day, which means we make women’s day a lifestyle.”
As the melody of the world-favourite gospel song, “I know who I am”, rings out across the room, the women leap from their seats to sing and dance together as they look forward to peace becoming a reality so they finally get the brighter and equal future they deserve.