South Sudanese girls searching for empowerment in implementing peace deal

JUBA, March 8 (Xinhua) — South Sudanese women are aiming to use their power ratio within the recently signed revitalized peace deal to push for empowerment and political representation in leadership.

Awut Deng Acuil, minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, said on Friday during celebration to mark the International Women’s Day that the time is now for equality, opportunity and equal representation of women in the country.

“Gender equality for women of South Sudan is unfinished business overtime, the time is now to change and demand for equality,” she said in Juba.

Acuil who played active role during negotiation of the revitalized peace agreement in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, said women and girls have borne the brunt of the five-year-old conflict since outbreak in December 2013.

“As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, let us also remember our fellow women and girls in internally displaced and refugee camps who continue to suffer the threat of displacement, economic hardship and diseases,” she said.

Acuil disclosed that ongoing economic hardship due to conflict has mostly affected women and girls depriving them of their rights to education and participation in economic activities and nation building.

“Inside the country women struggle with rising prices of essential basic commodities, making them more vulnerable, depressed and poorer,” she said.

With the signing of the revitalized peace agreement, people hope that the conflict will finally end and the permanent peace will allow the displaced people to return to their homes, said Acuil.

The South Sudan government and partners should create opportunities for women and girls to play active roles in building more inclusive system, efficient services and sustainable infrastructure, she added.

Several UN reports have blamed government soldiers and rebels of committing conflict- related sexual violence including rape, with over 2,000 cases reported in 2017 alone.

Funmi Balogun, UN women country representative, said the current peace deal will help more women participate in peace process, governance and development in the East African country.

The revitalized peace agreement provides some 35 percent representation for women in the transitional unity government which is to be formed in May 2019.

“It’s a very positive message that has come out of our peace agreement, and we want to make sure that it happens.The 35 percent for women is not just about having women sit in these positions but that women will bring different perspective to leadership,” she said.

“We did not ask for 35 percent (representation) just to give positions to some women, that’s what a lot of people think. There is nothing wrong in having positions for women,” said Balogun, adding the aim is to change the narrative of leadership.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The United Nations estimates that about four million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

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