“Time is Now: press for Progress to Transform Women and Girls Living in Rural Areas’’
Under the esteemed patronage of the First Vice President of South Sudan, H.E. Taban Deng Gai, representing the President of the Republic of South Sudan, accompanied by Ministers, Special Advisers to His Excellency, the President, Members of Parliament, the UN SRSG, David Shearer, UN Women Country Representative and donors, the International Women Day celebrations in South Sudan on March 8, 2018 was marked with pomp and in colors green, purple and white by the Government of South Sudan, led by the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, with support from UN Women and other partners, including the UN Mission to South Sudan.
Women and men, including artistes, entrepreneurs, nurses, students from Midwifery Program, women and men living with disabilities, students and members of the organized forces (Army, Policy, Prisons) joined the rest of the country to mark the international women’s day, under the theme “Time is Now: press for Progress to Transform Women and Girls Living in Rural Areas’’
The First VP in his message acknowledged the contribution of UN Women in coming up with the 2018 theme is “Time is Now: Rural and Women’s Activists Transforming Women’s Lives.” He gave special appreciation to UN Women Executive Director Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka for her contribution in addressing the challenges faced by women globally, and to UN Women in alleviating the challenges often faced by women, most especially in conflict affected countries. He further stated that International Women Day should not be a one-day commemoration, but an ongoing one until women have equal opportunities with men and are out of poverty and insecurity The First Vice-President also called for the need to enhance women’s role in peace making, and that with the right support and partnerships, are best able to facilitate peace and bridge political and ethnic divides in the country.
In her speech commemorating the International Women Day, the Minister for Gender, Child and Social Welfare, Hon. Awut Deng Acuil, highlighted the persistent and emerging challenges which continue to face women and girls in South Sudan. She reiterated the need for government to increase resources to education, women’s economic activities, maternal health, and to the strengthening of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare to reduce inequalities and gender gaps faced by women and girls. The Minister for Agriculture & Food Security Hon. Onyoti Adigo Nyikwach expressed solidarity with the women and girls of South Sudan and emphasized the importance of women to national development, and promised to prioritize actions within the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development that will promote women’s access to assets and technology to transform their lives.
The UN SRSG, Mr. David Shearer celebrated the tremendous achievements of women in South Sudan, calling them the ‘backbone of society’. He noted that a lot still needs to be done to advance gender equality and called for action to ‘press for progress’ towards Gender Equality as women bear the most burden especially in sexual violence, displacements, forceful marriages and equally lack access to healthcare facilities. Citing Liberia as an example to draw lessons from, the UNSRG highlighted the significant role women played in peace negotiations and how this can be an inspiration for women of South Sudan.
Other Speakers with solidarity messages include: Dr. Martha Martin, Chair, Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Child, Youth and Culture, the Chairperson of South Sudan Women General Association Ms. Zainab Yassin. Other activities of the occasion included a procession by women/men from CSO, NGOs, women associations, female in uniforms the police including UNPOL and military, female in Prisons service and female in Wild life women peace mediator and school children and scouts. Cultural dances were performed by the South Sudanese as well as a Chinese cultural group. The First Vice President and guests used the opportunity of the commemoration to go around the ‘Women’s Exhibition’ where women from around the country organized an exhibition to display their goods and products, ranging from hand crafts, beads work, agricultural products and others.
The International Women Day was not only celebrated in Juba but in other parts of the country. UN Women in partnership with the International organization for migration (IOM), UNICEF, International Medical Corps and other commemorated the event in the Protection of Civilian Site (PoC) in Malakal and in partners in Malakal town.
In his speech governor of Central Upper Nile H.E James Tor urged the Organized Security Forces to respect women, follow the laws to protect women and girls. He reiterated the commitment of his government to continue to support initiatives for the empowerment of women and girls in the state. The State Minister of Gender, Ms. Elizabeth Choung, said she would love to see people of the state come together and not divided by some being in the POC site and others in town, because of the conflict. “I hope the coming years ahead there will be no separate celebration of the International Women Day, we should celebrate together as one people, living together in peace”.