On March 8th, International Women’s Day, South Sudanese women leaders took the opportunity to speak out and call for greater gender equality and women’s empowerment in their country.
South Sudan is a young nation, having gained independence from Sudan in 2011. However, it has faced numerous challenges in its short existence, including a civil war that began in 2013 and has left thousands dead and millions displaced. Women have been disproportionately affected by the conflict, facing sexual violence, forced marriage, and other forms of gender-based violence.
Despite these challenges, South Sudanese women have remained resilient and determined to make their voices heard. On International Women’s Day, several women leaders shared their thoughts on the state of gender equality in the country and the steps that need to be taken to empower women.
Dr. Anne Itto, a former Deputy Secretary General of the ruling party in South Sudan, emphasized the need for women’s representation in all aspects of decision-making. She stated, “We need women at the table when decisions are being made, whether it is in government or in peace negotiations. Women bring a different perspective, and their voices need to be heard.”
Itto also spoke about the importance of education for girls, noting that many girls in South Sudan do not have access to schooling. She emphasized that education is key to empowering women and giving them the skills and knowledge they need to be leaders in their communities.
Another prominent South Sudanese woman leader, Rebecca Garang, called for an end to violence against women in all its forms. Garang, who is the widow of the late South Sudanese leader John Garang, has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights in the country. She emphasized that violence against women is not just a women’s issue, but a societal issue that affects everyone.
Garang also spoke about the importance of economic empowerment for women. She noted that many women in South Sudan are engaged in informal sector work, but do not have access to the resources and support they need to succeed. She called on the government and other stakeholders to invest in women’s businesses and provide them with the tools they need to thrive.
Other women leaders, including Mary Ayen Mayardit, a member of the South Sudanese parliament, and Winnie Achieng, the chairperson of the South Sudan Women’s Parliamentary Association, also spoke out on International Women’s Day. They emphasized the need for greater political will to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment and called on all South Sudanese citizens to support women’s rights.
The women’s voices were not just heard within South Sudan. Several international organizations, including the United Nations and the African Union, also highlighted the need for greater gender equality in the country. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, stated, “South Sudanese women have been instrumental in the peace process, and it is time for their voices to be heard in all aspects of society. This International Women’s Day, we stand with the women of South Sudan and call for their full and equal participation in all aspects of life.”