As South Sudan approaches its first post-independence elections, ensuring widespread civic engagement, especially for those community members who typically do not often get equal chances to be involved in this young nation’s political landscape—women, youth, the elderly and the disabled.
Women and girls, in particular, have been disproportionately affected by ongoing conflict.
To build confidence among women, an all-female team of peacekeepers—military, police and civilians—joined forces with the Malakal Women’s Union to hold an outreach campaign.
The focus: building confidence and giving women space to voice their concerns.
Patrolling peacekeepers first assessed the security situation, before doctors from India and Rwanda held informative health and hygiene sessions at the Upper Nile Women’s Union Center.
Participants also discussed vital issues such as measures to protect women from all forms of violence and the need for peaceful coexistence.
Another key discussion point: The reduction of women’s groups and support networks across the state, plus the need to economically empower them.
Mary Nyonlong, Director of Gender, State Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare appreciated the UN Peacekeeping mission’s efforts.
“Such interventions by UNMISS benefit all women not merely those who are participating in today’s event,” stated Ms. Nyonlong. “Women talk to other women—in their families, in their neighbourhoods and in their communities. I am confident that all the important topics we have covered today, including women’s health and protection, will definitely trickle down into our society,” she added.
Additionally, Ms. Nyonlong requested UNMISS’ support for medical treatment.
“Many of the women in communities have medical needs but there is no nearby specialist qualified to treat them. We hope UNMISS and humanitarian partners will find a way to help us deal with this major problem,” she averred.
For her part, Captain Grace Kadzo Dieka, a Kenyan peacekeeper and lead organizer of the event was heartened by the response to this first ever women-led interaction by UNMISS.
“This event is the first of its kind and we have been gladdened by the candid conversations that took place. We hope to make this a regular feature and, in the process, really strengthen the role of women as peacemakers at the grassroots. I encourage everybody here to continue to share their views, thoughts and opinions, especially as South Sudan heads towards its first national elections. The voices and concerns of women must be taken into account to ensure that there is sustainable peace not just in Upper Nile but across the country,” she opined passionately.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).