Source: Gurtong
On the celebration of International Women´s Day the Heads of Mission of the European Union Delegation and EU Member States in South Sudan continue to underscore the importance of including women in the country’s peace process.

As the world prepares to celebrate International Women´s Day on March 8, the EU Heads of Mission in South Sudan take this opportunity to again highlight the importance of United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, especially the involvement and active participation of women in the implementation of the South Sudan Peace Agreement. Women and children are hit hardest by the conflict and various and extreme forms of sexual and gender-based violence have been and continue to be perpetrated against women as weapons of war. Meanwhile forced marriage and abduction of children continues to be widespread throughout South Sudan and the education of girls still remains elusive for many.

In view of this, the European Union maintains its support of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in recognition of the serious impact that armed conflict has on women, and the potential of women to contribute to peacebuilding processes. UNSCR 1325 falls under four pillars: 1) Participation, 2) Protection, 3) Prevention, and 4) Relief and Recovery. Hence, the resolution is extremely relevant in the current context of South Sudan. We commend the Council of Ministers for having adopted a National Action Plan to operationalize this resolution and commit to its implementation.

In 2014, President Kiir and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Sexual Violence, Zainab Bangura, signed a joint communiqué committing South Sudan to develop an action plan to end the use of sexual and gender-based violence in South Sudan, and to tackle its effects. Such steps must be vigorously pursued, particularly as part of the country’s commitment to peace within the context of healing and reconciliation. 

As women and children have been and continue to be the most affected by the devastating consequences of South Sudan’s latest conflict, proactive and effective efforts must be made to increase female participation in the implementation of the Peace Agreement. We therefore call on the Government of South Sudan and other parties to the Agreement to ensure the meaningful inclusion of women in the implementation and monitoring of the Agreement. This will ensure that the specific issues affecting women will be raised and effectively addressed, thereby increasing the probability of a meaningful and lasting peace for South Sudan.

Research shows that societies that respect women´s rights enjoy greater equality, have strong institutions and greater stability and cohesion. Therefore, to achieve lasting peace and sustainable development in South Sudan, it is crucial we promote women´s rights and well-being, women’s equal participation in public decision-making, women´s access to essential services such as education and health, access to jobs and to property, and their participation in peace building and reconciliation. Research also shows that when women make up to 30 per cent or more of the labour force, countries are highly unlikely to experience internal conflict or conflict across borders. And similarly, when women are active in public life and when the number of women in political decision-making rises, there tends to be less corruption and less violence. 

In 2014 the EU Heads of Mission welcomed the Government of South Sudan’s ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).  This marked a great step for the empowerment of women in South Sudan. We look forward to the implementation of this instrument and urge the Government to take all measures available to achieve this.

We encourage the South Sudanese Government to implement Sustainable Development Goal number five, adopted by the UN Sustainable Development Summit in 2015, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Gender equality is important for the fulfilment of all Sustainable Development Goals.

EU Heads of Mission laud the important work done by women activists in South Sudan to lobby and advocate for sustainable peace. We applaud the two negotiating parties for having included women in the peace negotiations. However, this involvement must be meaningful and it must be sustained. The next critical steps are to ensure their continued inclusion and engagement as South Sudan forms the Transitional Government of National Unity and rebuilds the country. 

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day 2015 encourages a “Pledge for Parity”; that is a promise for a fairer, more equitable society in which men and women have equal value. As EU and EU Member States, we too make a pledge for parity as we continue to support South Sudan towards a fairer and more peaceful society for all.

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