Executive Director calls for ending gender-based violence and women’s inclusion in the peace process in South Sudan
During a two-day solidarity mission to South Sudan from 7-8 July, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called for the inclusion of women at all levels in the South Sudanese peace process. This newest UN Member State – which gained independence on 9 July 2011 – has been fraught by deadly clashes that have displaced more than 500,000 people since December 2013.
Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka met with key government officials including Vice-President James Wani Igga, various cabinet ministers including the Minister for Cabinet Affairs Martin Elia Lomuro, the Inspector General of Police General Pieng Deng Koul, as well as UN Police Commissioner Fred Yiga, the First Lady Mary Ayen Mayardit, and several women leaders in South Sudan. In all her meetings, the Executive Director stressed that it is not possible to attain sustainable peace without including women in the peace process.
She urged all parties involved to ensure women’s participation in the peace negotiations in accordance with the South Sudan National Action Plan for United Nations Security Council resolution 1325.
She applauded the women of South Sudan who she said had crossed political, ethnic and religious boundaries to come together with one agenda – that of peace.
“I am encouraged by the resilience of the women of South Sudan and their determination to push for peace through their engagement in the peace talks; their advocacy using the comprehensive Agenda for Peace which outlines their concerns and their continued determination to promote social cohesion in their communities,” she said in a press statement.
Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka also strongly urged for the protection of the internally displaced and other civilians and the promotion of zero tolerance for gender-based violence, saying it was not optional but a necessity, a prerequisite for sustainable peace. She said UN Women is concerned that women and children are bearing the brunt of the conflict in South Sudan and that reports of rising sexual and gender-based violence are very disturbing.
The Executive Director visited the Protection of Civilian Site (POCS) where internally displaced persons are living under the protection of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), where she interacted with women who are receiving support from UN Women through economic empowerment programmes.
Many of the women expressed thanks for such programmes, which include computer training, soap-making, and embroidery and beading techniques. “These are skills that will help us in earning some money,” one woman said, through an interpreter. “We thank you for visiting us here and we are all calling for peace so that we can go back to our homes.”
The women also exhibited some of the products that they have made with the skills they have learned. Since one of these skills is computing, the Executive Director awarded laptops to the top two students in the course, both of them girls.
Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka also met with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRGS) and Head of UNMISS, Ellen Margarethe Loej, the Deputy SRSG Moustapha Soumaré, as well as with the donor community in South Sudan, to discuss how to best support the country and how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment within humanitarian and development contexts.
Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka underlined that while humanitarian response is important, especially during this conflict in South Sudan, it is also important not to lose sight of development issues by strengthening services at the local level to build community resilience.
She called for increased efforts to end early marriages, noting that contradictions between constitutional and customary laws need to be addressed so that the latter are not used to undermine women’s rights and gender equality. She also encouraged more investment in education for all, and especially for adolescent girls, saying: “Children in South Sudan need to be empowered through literacy for the future of the country.”
Mr. Soumaré launched the HeForShe campaign at UNMISS and committed to pushing for gender equality and women’s empowerment. “Everyone has a role to play in pushing for gender equality and everyone benefits when there is gender equality,” he said.