“The day is a celebration of women’s dignity”, says Dean Marshall Olal, College of Arts and Humanities, University of Juba. On 7 March 2019, the university and World Vision joined hands to hold a forum commemorating International Women’s Day attended by 70 students, faculty members and World Vision staff. The attendees were all in agreement that more needs to be done to improve the plight of women and girls in the country.
Dean Marshall Olal hailed the partnership as beneficial to women and children of South Sudan and hopes to keep working with World Vision on the campaign.
Out of South Sudan’s six million people in dire need, 56 percent are women and girls. An estimated 85 percent of the internally displaced are women and children. In 2018, 98 percent of the reported gender-based violence (GBV) survivors were women and girls and 42 percent of these are due to intimate partner violence. One major form of GBV is child marriage.
During the forum, interesting issues and solutions were raised by both women and men participating in the discussions. World Vision and the University of Juba plan to continue events like this in support of the campaign against GBV.
Senior Advisor, Protection and Gender, Vanessa Saraiva says, “There is a strong correlation between child marriage and the intimate partner violence a woman experiences as she grows older”. She adds, “Patriarchal norms are reinforced by traditional gender roles and negative masculinities.”
At the panel discussion, there were some of the questions and recommendations raised by women:
- “We need more women in politics if we want to see peace.”
- “Education is important. The more years of education a girl has, the less likely she is to experience violence.”
- “What happens when it is the educated who are committing GBV?”
- “We need to teach women about their rights.”
- “How do I overcome discrimination in my family?”
This the second year of World Vision’s partnership with the university. Last year, a similar forum was conducted focused on violence against children.
Last year's event launched the #ItTakesANation campaign on violence against children. It drew very active participation of the students all the way to social media.
In a related event, World Vision participated in a roundtable discussion organized by the Embassy of Canada, titled “Equality Matters”, on how to advance gender equality and women's empowerment in South Sudan. The gains made towards gender equality were shared, as well as, some of the very real challenges that still exist.
Vanessa Saraiva, Apiyo Kevin and Gabrielle Biron Hudon, Embassy of Canada's First Secretary of Development during the Equality Matters Forum on Women's Day in Juba, South Sudan.
Ms. Saraiva and a World Vision beneficiary Apiyo Kevin, a mother of four, attended the forum. Apiyo spoke boldly about the importance of tackling attitudes and behaviours that limit the realization of women's rights. She says, "Women must be reminded of their skills and trust in themselves; men must stop seeing their wives as a property."
Ms. Saraiva spoke of World Vision's work with faith groups to help change mindsets and behaviours, the importance of seeing GBV prevention and response programs as life-saving interventions, and the responsibility we all have to engage girls and boys as agents of change if we truly want to see gender equality.