By Denis Elamu
JUBA (Xinhua) -- Despite bearing the brunt of more
than three years of violent conflict, South Sudanese women have
vowed to be on the frontline and champion peace and
reconciliation in the world’s youngest nation.
Sarah James Ajith, who heads the
support for women in governance organization, is one of the
female activists in the country’s peace cause.
In a recent interview with Xinhua,
Ajith said they were participating in stakeholders meetings in
the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa with peace mediators,
government and SPLA-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) to help end the
“We have been doing a lot of advocacy
in Addis Ababa, meeting with government, opposition and
peace mediators,” Ajith said.
Ajith is also part of a peace advocacy
task force comprising ten women from various groups promoting
awareness and disseminating peace messages in remote parts of
“Last month we had a peace building
conference in Bor, capital of Jonglei state, supported by
international partners. We have been doing awareness and
some women are involved in expanding the task force,” she
South Sudan has been beset by civil
strife since December 2013 that has caused tens of thousands of
deaths and massive displacement of civilians.
Despite a peace agreement signed in
2015, conflict erupted again in July 2016 and spread to once
peaceful Equatorial region.
The United Nations in late February
declared famine in some parts of the country, including in Unity
state’s Mayendit and Leer counties where 100,000 people are
starving, with over 1 million on the brink of starvation.
It remains to be seen whether the
national dialogue, initiated in late December 2016, will end the
conflict. Meanwhile, the UN has expressed fear of ethnic
cleansing that would lead to genocide as fighting intensifies in
some parts of the country.
The warring factions have been accused
of rapes, looting and killings in Yei town South West of the
capital and Kajo Keji border town, where majority of those
fleeing to Uganda are coming from.
Elizabeth Amer Manyok, head of the
South Sudan Women Block, a loose coalition of local women
groups, told Xinhua that they are advocating for political,
economic and social empowerment of women through lobbying the UN
and aid groups to reach out to internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“Our focus is humanitarian support to
those in need because the country has been hit by economic
crisis due to conflict. Without food our country is in
crisis. You cannot make peace when somebody is hungry, and
IDPs want to go back home,” Manyok said.
Meanwhile, Festus Mogae, head of the
Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), a peace
monitoring body, said women have suffered injustices and borne
the brunt of the conflict but they continue to protect and
provide for South Sudan’s families and communities “with
unfailing courage and commitment.”
“The women of South Sudan are strong
and capable and we would wish to see their contribution
increase across all aspects of national life,” Mogae said.
“Peace processes are inevitably more
successful with strong female involvement and I firmly
believe that there can be no sustainable peace in South
Sudan without the full participation and leadership of
women,” Mogae added.
South Sudanese women have been calling
for adequate political representation from 25 to 35 percent to
enhance their clout in political, social and economic spheres.