There are few places on earth where the struggle for gender equality is as dramatic as it is in South Sudan. Just 16 per cent of the women in South Sudan can read and write -- a tragic illustration of how few girls ever attend school. The rate for men is also appallingly low, but it is nearly double that of women. Decades of conflict have left a disproportionate number of households headed by women. More than half of those households subsist on less than one dollar per day. And as the conflict drags on, Amnesty International continues to document horrific cases of rape used as a weapon of war.This is the backdrop against which Sarah Kiden conducts a daily struggle for gender equality. Sarah is from South Sudan, and she is working there as Gender Specialist with Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires sans frontières Canada. She will be celebrating International Women's Day working with the rural women of Kuac county in the former state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. What follows is her statement on the occasion of International Women's Day 2017.
Kiden Sarah Denis (left) with Rose Jura from VSF Suisse.
Be Bold For Change -- International Women's Day 2017
By Kiden Sarah Denis -- Gender Specialist, VWB/VSF Canada
On International Women’s Day we salute the achievements of women and girls, and the progress they have made towards a more just and equitable world. We also recognize the potential that is yet to be realized as women and girls continue to push for the rights and opportunities that they have been denied. This is a day to review past progress of women’s development and more importantly, look ahead to future opportunities for women around the globe.
The global theme for IWD 2017 is “Be Bold for Change”, a rallying cry to encourage women and men to work toward a more gender-inclusive world and to educate, enable, and empower women to take proactive actions to create positive change for themselves, their families, local communities, and the nation at large.
In spite of the achievements that women and girls globally are celebrating today, the women and girlsof South Sudan still have little to celebrate. The destabilizing effect of prolonged conflict means that women have not made the gains they have in other, more peaceful countries. Women and girls continue to suffer severe discrimination and marginalization, merely for being female. The majority of women and girls in South Sudan are denied basic rights -- to education, property ownership and inheritance, decision making, mobility, business opportunities, and even certain foods. They also suffer from widespread gender-based violence. There are few women in senior government positions and women cannot access capital to start their own businesses. Women are more prone to ill-health as a result of malnutrition and hunger, adding another significant impediment to success.
Despite these constrains women in South Sudan today are showing their solidarity with women around the globe to celebrate the social economic, cultural and political achievements of women. By so doing they are also declaring their readiness to take bold actions to change the cultural practices, societal norms, and discrimination which hinder women from moving forward.
By embracing the theme; BE BOLD FOR CHANGE, Women in South Sudan are boldly showing their readiness to take responsive actions that bring change to their lives. They are calling all women, men, girls and boys to stand up and advocate for women’s rights, respect and dignity. Women today are asking the international community, governments, local authorities and all actors to give them a chance for responsibility, a chance to lead, a chance to be educated, a chance to decide on their own life destiny, a chance to exploit their talents, a chance to tap the abundant resources that they see around them, a chance for peace, security and prosperity, a chance for freedom of choice, and a chance to participate in social, economic, political and cultural development.
More so, women are today calling for a stop to violence against women as well as increased economic and livelihood opportunities, and improved social cultural, political and educational opportunities. Put simply, women in South Sudan want recognition for the role they already play in the well-being of their families, society at large, and the nation, and they want the opportunity to expand that role.
Supporting women’s efforts to advance gender equality and improve life outcomes, VWB/VSF (Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires sans frontières) in South Sudan, in collaboration with the South Sudanese government, is working toward the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal Number 5 -- Gender Equality and empowerment for Women and Girls. VWB/VSF recognizes the achievements women in South Sudan have made, against considerable odds, and will continue to support them as they take practical action to change the cultural, social, and economic barriers that prevent them from moving forward.
If women and girls are able to pursue their education and gain skills and experience they will be able to compete for opportunities in the workforce, contributing to their own welfare, and to the well-being and success of families, society and nations. When women are empowered they will be able to manage their lives and enjoy their rights,
VWB/VSF and its partners call for an increase in progressive action to end child marriage and mitigate harmful practices affecting women’s participation and enjoyment of rights. That means better livelihood opportunities, access to education, information, and services, including comprehensive health care.
VWB/ VSF (Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires sans frontiers) is making a bold commitment to change through gender mainstreaming in all its programs. We call on all actors to support gender equality, and empowerment for women and girls. Every human being should have the opportunity to live a dignified life.
BE BOLD FOR CHANGE“Yes We Can Do It”