South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011. The fifty-year long war between North and South Sudan bred a culture of violence that still pervades. Even after the independence of South Sudan, the new nation has been confronted by internal conflicts that continue to create a humanitarian crisis with displacement of populations and reversal of development gains. These conflicts disproportionately affect women and girls who suffer hideous consequences of the violence, abuse, deprivation and loss of livelihoods. The responsibility for family wellbeing in these difficult circumstances places a phenomenal burden on women.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 716,508 civilians have been displaced by armed violence and insecurity. Of these, 75,308 have sought shelter and protection at bases of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). Women, girls and children make up the majority of those displaced and in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
The women of South Sudan are actively participating in the ongoing peace talks both as direct representatives of the two sides of the conflict, and as representative of neutral civil society organizations advocating for the concerns and interest of all the women of South Sudan and the South Sudanese population as a whole. The women have expressed, through various forums, their strong desire to find ways of ending hostilities and to focus national attention to social cohesion and nation building.
South Sudan's development indicators are amongst the poorest in the world and access to basic social services remains a key challenge across the country. The total population is very young, with 16 per cent under the age of five years and 51 per cent under the age of 18 years. The country will not achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
Illiteracy is extremely high, with a 27% literacy rate for people above 15 years of age. The literacy rate among males is more than double that of females. Many of the women engaged in business have great potential to succeed in their businesses but are constrained by lack of basic business skills, or finance training, as well as access to markets. High illiteracy also hampers the participation of women in governance at all levels.
Traditional practices such as early and forced marriages, child abductions and teenage pregnancies subordinate women and girls and disable their efforts to contribute to development. Sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent, with at least 4 out of 10 women reported to have experienced one or more forms of violence.
The general political and public attitude and indifference to gender issues, the low prioritization of gender issues, as well as the institutional and organizational weakness of the governance institutions continue to be a challenge.
Women's leadership and participation in gender responsive governance enhanced
UN Women South Sudan will support actions to enhance women’s effective leadership and participation at the national and state legislative assembly. We will also encourage gender equality advocates to influence and advocate for gender responsive law and policies to increase women’s leadership and participation.
Women in South Sudan, especially the poorest and most excluded are economically empowered and benefit from development
Economic empowerment of women is fundamental for growth, sustainable development, durable peace building and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Expanding women’s ownership and control also has benefits for their families, communities and country. UN Women South Sudan will work to provide technical assistance to key government institutions to develop gender responsive policies, strategies and services that will enhance the sustainable livelihoods of women, with particular focus on the agricultural sector. In partnership with others, we will deliver targeted livelihood assistance, social safety net and protection to women and girls who are displaced by the ongoing conflict and living in Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps. We will also enhance economic initiatives of women entrepreneurs by providing them with business development services and behavioral skills to promote growth of their businesses.
In addition, UN Women South Sudan will scale up the ongoing literacy and numeracy program at the community level to fight illiteracy among women.
Improved protection and security for women and girls.
UN Women South Sudan will support the government and other partners to respond effectively to gender-based violence including early marriage and to review, adopt and implement laws, policies and strategies to prevent and respond to violence against women. We will also build the capacity of justice and security sectors and civil society organizations in addressing violence against women and girls. We will support the establishment of safe spaces in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and multipurpose women’s centers in communities so that women and girls have increased access to and use prevention and response services addressing violence against women.
Peace and security and humanitarian actions in South Sudan are shaped by women’s leadership and participation
UN Women South Sudan will ensure that women’s and girls’ concerns and experiences are an integral dimension of design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs on peace and security commitments. We will ensure that gender equality advocates effectively include the peace and security needs of men, women and youth in peace building, and aim to have women participating in peace talks, conflict resolution, social cohesion and peace building initiatives. UN Women South Sudan will also provide technical support to government when creating the national emergency plan.