The power of solidarity was demonstrated in the resolution of the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity that the independent states on the continent would support the liberation struggles across the continent until “all the people of Africa free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.”
Africa Day is commemorated annually on May 25 to mark the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union). To commemorate this year’s celebration, the South Sudan Women’s Coalition and its partners convened a Women’s Virtual Summit on South Sudan.
Notwithstanding concerted efforts to resolve the conflict in South Sudan, the war continues unabated. This war is waged with impunity, in blatant violation of internationally and regionally accepted norms on humanitarian and human-rights law.
The war has paralysed the economy of South Sudan and shattered the hopes and aspirations of its citizens. Its devastating impact on women and children is well documented.
Louder than the sound of gunshots are the cries of women who have borne the brunt of the war, with horrific violations including sexual abuse, abduction and loss of livelihoods being visited upon them.
There is a generation of South Sudanese that has not known peace. First, the liberation struggle and now the current civil war have wreaked havoc and resulted in a humanitarian crisis of gargantuan proportions.
South Sudan has the world’s fastest growing displaced population. According to data from Unicef, UNHCR and WHO, more than one million children are not in school and the few existing schools are unable to provide an environment conducive to learning.
There is limited access to health services owing to a lack of infrastructure and the poor state of existing health facilities. One in every three people in South Sudan is food-insecure. In this environment of lawlessness, women’s vulnerability to sexual violence is heightened.
Changing the tide
The intransigence of the protagonists threatens to abort the peace process. Increasingly, those who have supported the negotiations are expressing frustration and impatience. Some have even threatened to withdraw their support.
The women of South Sudan need to change the narrative that limits the image of women in the country to that of refugees and victims of conflict to one that portrays them as active agents of change and providers of solutions. After all, it is an acknowledged fact that women played a key role in the struggle for South Sudanese Independence, including fighting at the frontline.
We find motivation in the Ethiopian proverb that says "Where a woman rules, streams run uphill". The women of South Sudan have resolved to come together and act to change the tide for our country; in doing so, we are tapping into the resources and power of our sisters across the continent and the globe.
The SawaSouthSudan Summit seeks to chart a course towards peace. We seek to reclaim the vision of the Independence struggle by concerted efforts to break the cycle of violence.
The South Sudan National Action Plan on the implementation of the United Nations Security Resolution No. 1325 (2015), provided the overarching framework within which held this summit. We called for measures to prevent violations of women rights; support women’s participation in peace negotiations and in post-conflict reconstruction and to protect women and girls from gender-based violence.
We are optimistic that our internal efforts will be bolstered by the actions of our external friends. The spirit of solidarity is credited with securing the independence of African states from colonial rule. We turn to this same spirit in time of need.
Support us, amplify our voices as we tell our leaders, It is impossible to make peace with a sword.
Rita Lopidia is executive director and co-founder of the Eve Organisation for Women’s Development in Juba, South Sudan.