UNMISS organizes radio debates to commemorate International Women’s Day

International Women's Day UNMISS South Sudan Radio Miraya

Despite COVID-19 lockdowns, women across South Sudan came together to discuss the importance of including women in politics, peacebuilding and post-pandemic recovery efforts through talk shows held on Radio Miraya during the month of March. These radio shows were held to commemorate International Women's Day.

16 Mar 2021

UNMISS organizes radio debates to commemorate International Women’s Day

Priyanka Chowdhury

“The ongoing pandemic has exacerbated issues faced by women and young girls across South Sudan,” says Kasumi Nishigaya, Head of the UNMISS Gender Unit. “This year’s theme for Women's Day—Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world genuinely resonated with all of us in the mission,” she continues.

“We had to find a way to reach women across the country and hear their views on how COVID-19 has affected them and why they need to continue to fight for their voices to be heard, included in decisions that impact them every day.”

Kasumi and her team, therefore, decided to partner with colleagues from Radio Miraya and the Community Outreach unit to bring a cross-section of South Sudanese women together for a series of radio talk shows on the need for full and equal participation of women in leadership roles.

On 6 March, Radio Miraya hosted a roundtable discussion featuring activists and women leaders together. Guests on the show explored challenges and opportunities for South Sudanese women in politics, as community leaders and equal participants in this young nation’s public life.

A similar show was broadcast on 8 March where Angelina Teny, the South Sudanese Minister of Defense, together with panelists addressed issues related to how the ongoing pandemic has disproportionately affected women, how to place them in the center of recovery efforts as South Sudan rallies to build back better post-COVID and breaking down systemic barriers when it comes to true inclusion of women in all walks of life.

“Normally, we would be travelling across all 10 states with our humanitarian partners, reaching out to large numbers on the key issue of gender equality,” reveals Kasumi. “However, with lockdowns in place, Radio Miraya with its tremendous reach even in remote locations was the logical choice for us. We could still listen to and hear from South Sudanese women while making sure we were staying as safe as possible.”

Reuben Inaju, the head of the mission’s Community Outreach team agrees with Kasumi. “Radio Miraya is considered an accurate, impartial source of news in South Sudan. So, when in-person outreach became impossible due to COVID-19, it was almost a natural segue for us to use Miraya as a platform to reach out to the communities we are here to serve on critical issues. When it comes to women’s rights, it’s vital that we continue discussions by any means possible.”

For its part, Radio Miraya has built synergies with other local radio stations to ensure that the overall Women, Peace and Security agenda within the South Sudanese context reaches the widest possible audience. “All our programming around International Women’s Day has been broadcast by three national radios,” states Ratomir Petrovic, Head of the UN radio station.

“We’ve always tried to reach as many people we can without resorting to propaganda. A woman in Eastern Equatoria faces the same problems as her counterpart in Wau. As a radio station, it’s incumbent upon us to amplify that message, amplify their concerns and, also their achievements nationwide and we forge necessary partnerships with others when needed.”

While much remains to be done to ensure that women and young girls have the same opportunities as men, every step counts according to David Shearer, the UN’s top envoy in the world’s newest country.

Political participation of women, access to justice and education for girls are key issues that UNMISS is working on with national partners,” states SRSG Shearer.

“Like everybody else, we have faced difficulties in meeting communities face-to-face last year. However, the conversation on women reaching their full potential, being safe from all forms of violence and being considered as equal voices in the political push for peace must continue.”

Similar radio shows are being hosted by UNMISS in all 10 states here.