On the 31 May 2014; with tears in their eyes, broken hearts, and hope of restoring peace, women of South Sudan ahead of the impending IGAD mediated peace negotiations scheduled on 09 June 2014; came together to call for peace through prayers under the theme from the bible; the book of 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says “If my people which are call by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land”. Funded by UN Women, a national day of prayer was organized by South Sudan Women Platform for peace which consist of different women groups, organizations and individual activists to dedicate the nation to God and ask for a divine intervention to give guidance and wisdom to the leaders as they engage in the peace process and also heal the land and families that had been affected by the crisis.
EVE Organization for Women Development in collaboration with the Global Network of Women Peace-builders – GNWP launched the localization project of the UNSCR 1325 in South Sudan. The localization will be implemented in five states in South Sudan namely Eastern Equatoria, Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, Western Bahr El Ghazal (WBGS) and Jongolei state.
The project commenced in May 2015 with the Train the trainer (TTT) workshop in Juba with participants drawn from the five states including civil society Organizations and government officials. Two other localization consultative workshops were conducted in Yei in Central Equatoria and Torit in Eastern Equatoria state. Similar consultative workshops will be conducted in WBGS –Wau, Western Equatoria – Yambio and Jongolei state – Bor.
A conference, organized by EVE Organization for Women Development, to develop National Strategic Priorities for women issues based for the transitional period and beyond took place in Kigali, Rwanda from 23rd to 27th February 2015.
The conference was attended by South Sudan women activists, government officials living in the country and in the diaspora and was graced by the presence of many Rwandan high government ranking officials and academia. Five South Sudanese men joined the women in developing the requisite road-map for engendered peace and development in the country.
This was on the realization that South Sudanese women are able to participate in direct peace negotiation reflecting the impact of women’s advocacy for participation in peace processes borrowing from a few successes where they have had significant influence on the processes.
The workshop relied heavily on the experiences and lessons learned from the Rwanda genocide, how they have been able to come out and forge ahead for social economic development, the experiences of other distinguished participants and aspirations of the South Sudan populace.
The desired future is a united women voice significantly influencing peace, political and socio-economic development in the country. Given the lessons learned from the briefing on the peace process, two scenarios arose. The first one is that the peace process has failed and the situation is characterized by fighting necessitating more negotiations. The second scenario is that the peace process has been completed and a transition government is formed.
For each of the scenarios the necessary changes to lead to the desired future were identified. The results were divided into short and long term and into those that require direct intervention of women CSOs and those that require lobbying and advocacy. Herewith a few highlights on some of the conclusions.
- Enhancing women political participation in South Sudan
- Conducting trainings for men & women leaders on the importance of gender equity at all levels;
- Lobby for increased women empowerment allocation on the National budget;
- Massive economic empowerment for women in South Sudan
- Enhancing the capacity of women in agriculture by conducting specialized trainings and mechanized trainings;
- Lobbying for the codification of customary law and its harmonization with statutory law for improved access to justice;
- Advocate for the enactment of the Family Laws;
- Lobby for the creation of Commission for Truth, Healing and Reconciliation
- Lobby for an increased Budget for the Ministry of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare.
For more details; refer to the full report of the conference.
“I’ve never discerned that early and forced marriages was this serious in my country until I met these young girls from Eastern Equatoria, my own state and my heart sung”…. Rita M. Lopidia the Executive Director of EVE Organization.The Girl Ambassadors for peace program; an initiative of GNWP was launched in collaboration with EVE Organization and Generation in Action (GIA) in South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria state in May 2015. As part of EVE’s youth leadership program, the Girl Ambassadors for Peace program enhances the potential of young women and girls in conflict-affected countries and has a catalytic effect on local communities.
It aims to: develop leadership skills among young women and girls; raise awareness of young women and girls on their rights and enhance their abilities to assert such rights and contribute to peace building in local communities using UNSCR 1325, 1820 and the supporting Women and Peace and Security Resolutions as policy frameworks. The program entails a series of trainings for these young girls to become peace ambassadors. After the trainings, the girls then travel to villages to share with the young women and girls about the importance of women’s rights and participation in decision making at the communities level, peace building and dialogue.
In the context of South Sudan, Girls Education is hindered by a number of challenges including poverty, the long decades of war, cultural practices, family preference of boys to go to school and girls stay home to do house chores and babysit, early pregnancies, early and forced marriages, girl compensation among other factors. According to statistics only 16% of women over 15 years are literate.
During the launch in Torit – Eastern Equatoria, the girls shared their stories and the challenges they face daily. One participant shared her story and said, “I got pregnant when I was 15yrs old and by the time I turned 18yrs, I already had three kids. It is tough and I am struggling to bring them up; if only we had this kind of training earlier, I wouldn't have gotten into what I am in today; but now that I know, I will dedicate my time to speak to the younger girls not to follow my footsteps”. Another 18yrs old participant who has completed high school and aspiring to join the University said, “when I go to my village; I am being mocked and ridiculed by my age mates, they call me barren because at my age I didn't have a baby while they do, there is a lot of peer pressure in the village. Now I avoid the village because of that”. Rita M. Lopidia; the Executive Director of EVE Organization also shared with the girls her struggle growing up in Khartoum during the civil war and how she persevered to hold on to school to succeed in life. She encouraged the girls to speak out and seek support to ensure they finish school.
For change to happen and to see more women in different levels of decision making in this country; a lot of efforts need to be exerted at different levels. Education coupled with awareness raising on the importance of the girl Education, improving livelihood and addressing cultural practices that discriminate against women by implementation of legislations is crucial. These issues need serious attention especially of the state authorities, community leaders, religious leaders, parents and CSOs.