SOURCE: Sudan Tribune
March 9, 2011 (BOR) - While celebrating International Women’s Day on March 9, a day late due to logistical problems, Jonglei governor Kuol Manyang Juuk strongly condemned the abuse and mistreatment of women in his state.
The governor said that incidents, such as the killing of a girl killed by parents for eloping with a man against the will of her family, must be stopped.
Following an agreement in Copenhagen in 1911, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 each year. The theme of the days 100th anniversary was ‘Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women’.
The celebrations in Bor were attended by government ministers, members of parliament, women’s associations, and women from the South Sudan army and police, as well as civilians.
Addressing the gathering in Bor’s Freedom Square, Manyang acknowledged that women are the most marginalized group in Sudan but have enormous responsibilities in the household and beyond.
“Women have been marginalized by men ever since. They have heavy duties to accomplish at home from morning till late night. If you count the step taken by women while working at home, they could go for more than 50km a day”, he said.
The governor said that as women are seen as the weaker sex by some men they are taken advantage of and denied their rights.
“Being weak physically, men have taken that advantage to beat their women. We should treat them as human beings. They have now proven to serve like men even during the struggle for South Sudan and some of them died in the war”, he added.
Governor Manyang noted that since the South Sudan government was formed in 2005, following a peace deal with Khartoum, 25 percent of government posts have been put aside for women.
This act of positive discrimination was incorporated into the Interim Constitution of South Sudan (ICSS) and the constitutions of Southern state like Jonglei have adopted the quota into their constitutions. Kuol pledged to increase the number of women in key positions in his government.
“We have appointed one woman as minister of public service, one as director general in the ministry of Animal Resource and Fisheries and one as advisor on gender. And we will do more when we obtain full independence”, said Manyang.
As part of the 2005 peace deal the South was granted the right to secede from North Sudan. In January this year the South voted overwhelmingly to separate from Khartoum, and will achieve official independence in July when the peace deal concludes.
Ahead of the celebrations Lise Grande, the UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for South said that more emphasis is need on girls education to counteract traditional beliefs related to early marriages.
“We need to abolish the practice of paying dowries during marriage. If too much attachment is placed in bride prices, then little focus will be on the importance of education,” Grande said. On March 7 while closing a gender-based violence workshop held in South Sudan’s capital Juba. However, the UN official said that the abolition of dowry payments will depend on what communities want and would not necessarily occur through the intervention of development partners.
Nearly 60 percent of Southern Sudanese are women according to the results of the 2008 Sudan Housing and Population Census. However, the majority of the 90 percent of illiterate people in South Sudan are believed to be women.
The Jonglei governor said he was furious that the practice of early and forced marriages continues in the state. Girls in South Sudan are sometimes killed by their families if they refuse to marry.
Governor Manyang promised to build more boarding schools for both boys and girls to combat early and forced marriages.
“We will open schools next year for girls and boys that will change our culture. If a girl can study up to high school at the age of 18, she may support her family. Why do we give them burden?” he said. Manyang urged the public to stop forced marriages that are arranged in order for the family to gain financially through dowries.
He urged women to pursue their rights through the state’s court, saying women’s rights were enshrined in the state constitution. He also noted that citizens had the right to appeal once against the judgements of the state court.
Manyang also called upon United Nations agencies to provide women advocates and lawyers to protect the rights of women and help in cases involving women in the courts.