The text of the following statement was issued jointly by the Heads of Mission of Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, the French Republic, Japan, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Kingdom of Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
Today, on International Women’s Day, we join with women and girls across South Sudan to #PressforProgress in ending discrimination and violence against women and to support women’s vital role in promoting peace and fostering reconciliation in their homes, communities, and nationwide.
South Sudanese women and girls make extraordinary contributions every day in all fields – from business to sports, from science to governance. As the conflict in South Sudan enters its fifth year, women are increasingly serving as peacemakers, channeling their strengths to focus on reconciliation, economic development, education, and transitional justice. We acknowledge the tireless work among women’s groups in South Sudan to press for progress and provide services for women across the country. Women’s voices need to be heard at the highest levels in peacemaking, including at the High-Level Revitalization Forum.
In South Sudan women and girls – who make up over 60 percent of the population – are disproportionately affected by violence from armed actors from all sides of the conflict. Eighty-five percent of South Sudanese refugees are women and children. According to the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) and human rights bodies, cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) have reached alarming rates throughout the country. Too many South Sudanese women experience rape, gang rape, sexual assault, physical assault, forced or early marriage, abductions, or trafficking in persons in their lifetime. Most cases go unreported. We must also challenge the stigma of being a victim of SGBV, which can be equally traumatizing and carry long lasting consequences for women and girls.
In order to make progress on ending the conflict across the country, and to end violence and discrimination against women, girls must be properly educated. Unfortunately, female literacy rates in South Sudan are less than 20 percent and nearly 3 quarters of girls aged 6 to 11 are not in school. Extreme poverty, hunger, insecurity, and gender inequality have prevented girls from joining the classroom. We must all come together to deliver an education for all girls so that they can make their full contribution to South Sudanese society and to garner a lasting peace.
We must not and will not stop advocating to keep women and girls safe, to ensure their critical role in peacemaking processes, and to empower them to realize their full potential. Together we can all #PressforProgress.