The deputy minister for Gender, Child and Social Welfare Dr. Priscilla Nyanyang Joseph has called on women to learn and claim their human rights as enshrined in the constitution.
“When women know they have rights in the constitution, they will be able to stand up and claim their rights; because rights are claimed, they are not given”, said Dr. Nyanyang.
Speaking at the Nyakuron Cultural Centre on Friday while officiating at the commemoration of the international day for eliminating violence against women, Dr Nyanyang said the new Republic of South Sudan, like any other nation in the world, has obligations to be fulfilled to its people and part of which is to protect, observe and fulfill the rights of every South Sudanese.
She noted that the history of South Sudan of war has diverse impacts on its population where some have developed a culture of violence. She also attributed the culture of gender-based discrimination to the long civil war in which some South Sudanese learnt the lesson that other people were less than others.
The deputy minister stressed that it is time for all South Sudanese to consider themselves as equals and that the opportunities that the new nation is to bring is for all.
Dr. Nyanyang reaffirmed the commitment of the government to protecting the rights of its people. “The government of the Republic of South Sudan is fully committed to protecting the rights of its people; that is why we are participating in any kind of campaigns geared towards protecting the rights of our people”, she said.
She announced that her ministry has launched 16 days of activism against gender-based violence and said the campaign will conclude on the 10th of December 2011. She added that the government is already developing some policies and laws that will allow women, girls and boys to access the right to protection.
She noted that there has been some legal vacuum in regard to this disadvantaged group hence denying them justice. He assured that her ministry and other government institutions will work hand in hand in ensuring that tangible measures are put in place in trying to protect the rights of women.
Dr. Nyanyang noted that women, to a larger extent, have been denied access to service, property and inheritance. The minister called for women empowerment in both the countryside and in the cities. She said if women are educated then they will be able learn more.
The deputy minister also decried the low number of women holding government offices. She explained that this scenario can be partly attributed to early marriage of girls before finishing school. She called on parents to value educating the girl-child adding that her ministry and Ministry of Education are in talks to see if more boarding schools can be constructed to keep girls in schools and limit their exposure to circumstances that lead to early marriages.
She further stressed that though the Child Act stipulates clearly that girls below the age of 18 should not be married cases of forced marriages are still going on unreported. She said girls are not coming forth to report their parents. “We also know that some of the girls open cases by committing suicide”, she noted. She said it is unfortunate that some young girls have lost their lives because of forced marriages by parents.
She assured that the government is aware of these and urged the law enforcers to make sure that the laws that are passed are respected by all the citizens of South Sudan.