International Women Day, March 8,2020
Statement by: Alain Noudéhou Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator
It is a great pleasure for me to join you for International Women’s Day 2020.
I am excited to be celebrating this day at this timely moment in the history of South Sudan. I would first like to congratulate the leaders of South Sudan for the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU). The establishment of the R-TGoNU is a significant progress. It offers great hope for the recovery of the country and its people.
It is important to maintain this momentum, continue to find common grounds and ensure continued stability.
The women of South Sudan have been the most affected by the crisis and their meaningful participation in the implementation of the agreement will be critical to rebuilding this nation.
Globally, 2020 is a massive year for gender equality. And the benefits of gender equality are not just for women and girls, but for everyone whose lives will be changed in a world that leaves no one behind.
For 2020, the United Nations is calling for “Generation Equality.” Through this UN Women-led campaign, the intention is to tackle issues of women across generations, from early to late years, with young women and girls at the center.
This year, the global theme for International Women’s Day is: #EachforEqual. Through this theme, we want to emphasize the individual responsibility we all have for the promotion of gender equality in our societies.
South Sudan’s National theme #Each for equal: Implement the 35% Affirmative Action for Peace and Development further highlights the need for women’s representation and participation at all levels.
At this moment, we do not live in a world where women have equal access to opportunities and resources as men. UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres described achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as “the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge.”
Women are indeed concerned about the future. They are impatient for change. And we all need to do our part to ensure they can contribute fully to their communities and their countries.
Despite the many challenges, there are some positive changes to celebrate. For example:
- globally, there has been a 38 per cent drop in the ratio of maternal deaths since 2000.
- 131 countries have made legal reforms to support gender equality and address discrimination. Today, more than three-quarters of countries have laws against domestic violence in place.
- And more girls are in school than ever before, with more women in tertiary education than men globally.
South Sudan has also made some positive strides. For the first time in its history, South Sudan has a female Vice-President, Her Excellency Rebecca Nyandeng Garang. This is something that the country should be proud of on this International Women’s Day.
In 2011, South Sudan had only about 8 professionally qualified midwives. As of 2019 there were about 800 professionally qualified midwives, positively impacting access to quality reproductive health services. In December 2018, leaders from the Government including Ministers, State Governors, traditional and religious leaders, civil society organizations and the United Nations made a collective commitment to eliminate child marriage. These are just some of the commendable efforts being undertaken to promote gender equality in South Sudan.
But much more need to be done!
Globally, no country has achieved gender equality. Our best efforts so far have not been good enough.
In South Sudan, women and girls continue to be victims of different kinds of violence including sexual and gender-based violence. They continue to be marginalized from decision making and struggle to achieve economic equality. As of 2018, only 28% of females aged 15 and above were considered literate in South Sudan as compared to 40% of men. Maternal mortality rates in South Sudan remain one of the highest at 789 deaths per 100,000 live births. Child marriage continues to be a serious concern which affects young girls and deprived them of the opportunity to go to school. Women continue to face patriarchal and negative attitudes that hinder their social, economic and political progress.
These challenges are not insurmountable.
They need to be systematically addressed for the women of South Sudan to take their rightful place and play their vital role in promoting a peaceful and prosperous country.
One critical way to achieve that is to ensure that women are present at decision making tables. Today, three-quarters of all parliamentarians in the world are men. A proven solution is to introduce legally binding quotas for women’s representation. Nearly 80 countries have already successfully done so, including South Sudan where the Revitalized Agreement secured a provision for 35% women’s representation at all levels. This was a welcome gender provision, but its implementation continues to falter. Research has proven that women’s involvement brings more lasting peace agreements. None of the Pre-transitional institutions met the 35% affirmative action provision for women’s representation. With the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity, we call for the 35% quota to be honoured in all key institutions of the government including in the Revitalized Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the Judicial sector.
In South Sudan, as the implementation of the peace agreement moves forward, the specific needs of women and girls should be carefully considered. Women should be engaged in the development of community recovery projects. Good policies that promote more equality in childcare responsibilities and that provide state support to families, and those who work in the informal economy should be pursued in the ongoing law review process and eventually during the development of the Permanent Constitution of South Sudan.
At the United Nations, we stand committed to support South Sudan and the women of South Sudan in their search for a more gender equal society. Our UN Cooperation Framework with South Sudan has empowerment of women and youth as one of its key priorities. We will continue working with all partners, many of whom are present here to commit resources – financial and technical - to the promotion of a gender equal South Sudan. Almost 25 years since the World Conference on Women that took place in Beijing, we reaffirm our commitment for a more equitable world that protects and prioritizes the needs and the rights of every woman and girl. The assertion made in Beijing that “women’s rights are human rights” continues to hold true for all of us today.
Happy International Women’s Day to you all.