Women in Bentiu come up with action points to present to UNMISS leadership
A joint open women’s peace forum was held in Bentiu on Wednesday to discuss peace and security concerns in the region. Following deliberations, the group of female participants from the Bentiu Protection of Civilian (PoC) site, as well as from Bentiu and Rubkona, agreed on action points to be presented to the UNMISS leadership in Juba.
Among the points discussed were the economic empowerment of women through livelihood projects, women’s capacity building, and the creation of alternative education opportunites for both women and girls.
The women hope to create a platform where they can actively be involved in conflict mitigation as well as strengthen their response mechanisms toward victims of sexual and gender-based violence through peer counseling.
The participants voiced their concerns and listed challenges faced by many members of the female community. One area of particular concern is women’s limited access to justice. This issue, they say, is a result of stereotyping, a lack of representation in the traditional justice system, and women’s lack of equal access to resources.
Additionally, they highlighted illiteracy as an issue faced by both women and girls, and the effects that the ongoing conflict and continued insecurity have on the women’s ability to actively take part in public activities.
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UNMISS gender affairs officer, Tigist Melka, noted that a similar forum held last year had encouraging results.
“There has been positive steps taken (since then), such as the slow but increasing sensitization regarding issues of sexual and gender-based violence,” she said.
Two representatives from the forum were nominated to present the action points at a national forum to be organized later this year.
Fatima Bashere, a nominee to the national forum and resident of the Bentiu PoC site, commented on the outcome of the forum.
“The challenges and concerns of women both in the PoC as well as those living outside are similar in nature. What we can do is make every effort to make sure to claim our rights as women,” she said.
Mary Nyakuon Diu, living in Bentiu, said that UNMISS has sensitized them regarding peace building and the role of women.
“Now, we know our rights. We say that we have to want to participate in the peace process if the people really want to achieve peace,” she said.
The forum was organized by UNMISS Civil Affairs Division and Gender Affairs Unit in line with the provision of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325.
“The forum also presented an opportunity for women from the PoC site as well as from Bentiu and Rubkona to interact and exchange experiences, thus further easing tensions and enhancing collaboration,” said Victor Fasama, an UNMISS civil affairs officer in Bentiu.
UNSCR 1325 is the legal framework that addresses not only the excessive impact of war on women, but also the pivotal role women should and do play in conflict management, conflict resolution and sustainable peace.