Women in Torit continue struggle to end societal ills that affect them
“I cannot be the only one, surely there are other educated young women in Torit!” protested Flora Sebit, a representative of the youth wing in the women leaders’ association.
Ms. Sebit’s outburst came during a radio discussion on Radio Miraya, which focused on social exclusion issues faced by women in the Eastern Equatoria region of South Sudan. She explained that she is very often delegated as a spokesperson on women’s issues at functions because organizers know she is literate and can express herself well.
Fortunately, she does indeed have some eloquent peers and sisters.
“In this society, a (young) woman with children sees her children as a rope. She feels tethered and unable to continue with her education or seek a better life,” said Joyce Amito, secretary of the women leaders’ association.
Education for women and girls is often relegated to the background in this region. Women are frequently considered and treated as items to be bartered for more cattle to raise a family’s fortunes, and challenging this norm can be dangerous. Against this backdrop, many a young woman gives up her dreams even before trying to achieve them.
“When you come to Torit, you will find the streets teeming with young women selling tea. This is because they either did not go to school or dropped out of school, so they lack the necessary employable skills,” Ms. Sebit continued.
Ms. Sebit and Ms. Amito are two of the women leaders in the region who defy the status quo. Their association, Women Leaders’ Association in Torit, counsels young women who have been the victims of early or forced marriages, or sexual and gender-based violence, or both. Their organization raises awareness on the importance of girl child education. In addition, with the support of development partners, it also provides young girls and women with vocational trainings, like baking and dressmaking.
Under this year’s local theme for International Women’s Day, “Think Equal: Make 35% + Count for Women’s Participation’’, their association joined hands with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, the Ministry of Gender and other partners to increase the reach of their advocacy for women’s rights.
“Eastern Equatoria has made some strides in engaging women at all levels of government. However, in the spirit of reinforcing gains, the government has committed to further increasing female participation to exceed the 35 per cent rate,” said the Torit governor Tobiolo Alberio Oromo.
His words resonated with those used by the United Nation’s Secretary-General, António Guterres, in a speech read on his behalf at the launch:
“We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture. Only when we see women’s rights as our common objective, a route to change that benefits everyone, will we begin to shift the balance. … Increasing the number of women decision-makers is fundamental.”
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan continues to engage with the women leaders association and other gender based groups to build on and consolidate social integration efforts.
“We are ready, willing and committed to this process of working with state institutions to eradicate common social exclusion ills like early and forced marriages, sexual and gender-based violence and the neglect of girl child education in Eastern Equatoria,” assured Anthony Nwapa, a representative of the peacekeeping mission.