Saturday, 6 December 2014

South Sudan Launches 16-Day Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence

To achieve stability in South Sudan, peace must begin in homes and then spread to different levels of communities and states, an UNMISS official said in the Western Equatoria State capital Yambio today.

South Sudan launches 16-day campaign against gender-based violence
School children in Lakes State capital Rumbek at launch of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence from 25 November to 10 December. Photo: UNMISS/Evelien Vleeshouwers
26 November 2014 - “We cannot expect peace in a country if people don’t have peace in homes,” said UNMISS Civil Affairs Officer Samuel Surpong, as the state’s citizens commemorated International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (officially celebrated on 25 November).

He added that fighting gender-based violence required collective efforts by the government, communities and non-governmental organizations to create awareness of the importance of living in peace.

The event, which also marked the launch of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, was held under the theme, “Stop sexual and gender based violence and promote peace and co-existence in the state. Let us challenge militarism”.

Attended by officials from the government, UNMISS and UN agencies, the launch came amidst reports of serious gender-based violence in the state, which has resulted in some men and women losing their lives.

Director of Religious Affairs in the State Ministry of Gender Mark Kumbonyaki there was no use in commemorating the day every year without having statistics about victims or an assessment on why it was happening.

He urged the government and partners to come up with a strategy to address the root causes, adding that commemorations alone had little impact on ending violence.

In Juba, a senior official in the national Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare noted yesterday that at least 70 per cent of women in South Sudan had experienced some form of domestic violence.

Speaking to Radio Miraya as part of activities to launch 16 Days of Activism, the ministry’s Director General, Regina Ossa Lulo, said the statistics were based on a 2010 assessment report.

Different reports by humanitarian partners since the South Sudan conflict began in December 2013 have noted that conflict had worsened sexual and gender-based violence, although it might not be a new phenomenon in the country.

In Lakes State, which has been ridden with inter-communal violence in recent months, Acting Governor Jok Ayom Majak acknowledged that the state was one of those most affected by gender-based violence.

Speaking during an event in the state capital Rumbek yesterday, Mr. Majak said there were many records of women and children affected by inter-communal violence in the state.

“It is a day to tell the men to stop violence against women, to stop the killing of women and children and change our bad culture,” he said, as he appealed to communities to change their attitude towards women and children.

Mr. Majak, who is also State Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agencies, urged communities to refrain from forced marriages and domestic violence.

Lakes State Ministry of Social Development, in collaboration with UNMISS, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations, organized the launch yesterday under the theme, “Stop violence against women at home and conflict setting”.

UNMISS State Coordinator Kwame Dwamena-Aboagye said sexual violence was a sign of extreme and systematic inequality. He urged the government to implement relevant laws to prevent discrimination and abuse.

In the Jonglei State capital Bor, the launch was marked yesterday with drama, music and poetry presentations from various groups.

Acting State Governor Baba Medan Konyi stressed that it was vital for both men and women to work together to fight gender-based violence.

“We all need to stand firm to support and encourage good family relationships,” he said. Gender-based violence (affects both) women and men, but we have to eliminate it in Jonglei State … Men should show love and respect to their women and women should love and respect their husbands as well.”

During a ceremony yesterday in the Warrap capital Kuajok, UNMISS Acting State Coordinator Leda Limann urged the state government to lead in protecting women’s rights, noting that it was already playing a key role in empowering women.

“This is the only state in South Sudan with a female governor. This speaks volumes,” she said.

The government could also build up its institutions and educate girls, Ms. Leda added.

“This is the time to establish a strong justice system that will prosecute perpetrators and abandon harmful traditional practices that suppress women’s rights.”

But she said the government would need assistance from community-based and civil society organizations. “The CBOs must advocate for the rights of the voiceless.”

Earlier, Warrap State Minister for Social Development Victoria Tito said the launch was part of a sensitization campaign to take place across the state on gender-based violence. “We need to educate and provide information about gender-based violence at the grassroots level.

”Warrap State Deputy Governor Akech Ting Aleu said the state was committed to end violence against women. But he cautioned women from hiding behind the international community and/or human rights groups when they committed crimes. "Today, there are hundreds of women languishing behind bars for murders,” he said. “Women must respect the rights of others if their rights must be respected.”

The day’s programme was held under theme “Promote Peace at home and stop violence against women”.

Different activities to mark the 16 Days of Activism, including marches, group discussions and awareness raising sessions, will continue to take place in all 10 South Sudanese states until 10 December.


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