UN Deputy Secretary-General sends powerful message of hope and peace to women in war-torn South Sudan
Madiu John is a survivor.
She has survived despite having no food and no home.
She has survived brutal fighting all around her.
She has survived rape.
The South Sudanese woman and many others who have sought sanctuary in a United Nations site protected by peacekeepers shared their stories with the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, who is leading a high-powered delegation to the conflict-affected country.
“Since this conflict erupted, there have been cases of sexual and gender-based violence. Since the time that it happened through till today, the perpetrators have not been held accountable,” said Madiu John.
The Deputy Secretary-General, a mother of six children herself, shared her own powerful message of hope and peace.
“So far, we have failed, there is no peace in South Sudan,” said DSG Amina Mohammed. “But as mothers, because of the children, we will not give up, not on peace. You must not be tired. You must have hope. You must find ways to close the gap between the tragedy today and your dream of tomorrow.”
Speaking to women in the protection site, the African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security, Bineta Diop, committed to justice for those who have suffered sexual violence.
“You need to mobilise,” she said. “We are victims but we don’t want to be victims. We are survivors. All of us in Africa. Survivors, survivors, survivors and we are going to fight to bring peace to South Sudan together.”
“We will fight for peace, but we will also fight for justice and accountability. Those who are perpetrators, we have to hold them accountable,” said Bineta Diop.
The delegation’s visit to Wau also focused on building resilience in local communities and giving people the confidence to return to their homes.
At the Aweil Jedid Basic School, UN agencies, humanitarian partners and local authorities are working together to help children reach their full potential.
The UN Mission in South Sudan has built classrooms. It provides peacekeeping patrols and is leading local peace talks. UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, provides school books, teacher training, boreholes and toilets while the World Food Programme provides food so that children have the energy to study. The Government is paying teachers’ salaries through a grant from the European Union.
“It is wonderful to see children moving from the tree to the classroom,” said the DSG. “I think that is a really good day for education, which is so foundational to building our children’s lives so they can prosper, so they can be part of an economy one day that is peaceful and is inclusive.”
While the children are dreaming of a brighter future, many others say there have been lots of promises of peace but the reality on the ground is very different. People continue to suffer from a lack of food, displacement and the daily threat of violence.
The women of Wau, though, were inspired by the solidarity expressed by the joint UN and AU delegation who left them with the sense that lasting peace and prosperity across South Sudan is possible.