We officially launched our research on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women Peace and Security in South Sudan with support from the Forum for Women and Development (FOKUS) and in partnership with the Centre for Inclusive Governance Peace and Justice on 17th November 2021 in Juba, South Sudan.
The pandemic has intensified the already fragile humanitarian and human rights situation, including by further restricting fundamental rights and freedoms. COVID-19 thus poses a serious threat not only to public health, but also to governance, democracy, and peace and security. Systems characterized by weak constitutional orders, lack of accountability, entrenched impunity, and historical and structural inequalities have struggled to respond effectively to the pandemic in compliance with human rights and the rule of law.
Findings from the research sparked a conversation on the impact of COVID19 on Women Peace and Security in South Sudan.
- Despite women’s involvement in the international frameworks on UNSCR 1325 and the active role that they have played at various levels to bring peace to South Sudan, their role has been underestimated or ignored during political negotiations including in the ongoing COVID-19 situation. For example, the 15-member National Taskforce for COVID-19 reveals women’s under-representation and yet, this is the body that makes policies on COVID-19 in South Sudan that have a direct bearing on the lives of women as caregivers and peacemakers.
- Though women were appointed to the revitalized transitional government, their decision-making powers are limited. It was also noted that there were very few women in the task force when it was first established.
- Reduction of funding of women organizations which has crippled women’s ability to respond effectively.
- COVID-19 Emergency Legislation and Enforcement– In March 2020, The Government introduced restrictions including a partial lockdown. This affected the supply of food and other basic commodities from neighbouring Local markets women suffered the most.
- Access to health services– The lockdown also did not consider health issues that require emergency movement. Some women needed critical medical attention but could not access health services. Furthermore, the process to obtain clearance was long and often required incentives. Several women could not afford the cost of expediting the clearance process to enable travel.
- Violation of curfew– authorities used force to enforce curfews, which in some extreme cases resulted in the death of civilians.
“These research findings should be able to influence the work of the National Taskforce on COVID19 in South Sudan. Issues on healthcare, humanitarian response, unpaid care work, social protection, violence against women and girls, livelihood systems and others are highlighted in the report.”- Helen Kezie-Nwoha, Executive Director, The Peace Centre
- Restriction of movements limited access to livelihoods. Livelihood systems are heavily reliant on mobility and trade. This negatively affected the work of female entrepreneurs and informal sector workers. Additionally, several women who worked in formal employment were laid off to cut back institutional costs.
- Humanitarian Assistance– Flooding in Upper Nile increased the number of displaced persons, who could not access humanitarian assistance.
- Sexual violence against girls– Some girls dropped out of school and got pregnant. Some were forced into early marriage. Boys were also made to start families.
- Vaccinations– negative stereotypes on vaccination especially on the sexual reproductive health of women. It is believed that vaccination will make women barren and alter the genetic composition of children.
- Social protection has been minimized. Women cannot access the courts to report issues of sexual violence and there has been little to no access to justice on land issues ultimately affecting their economic viability.
H.E Hussein Abdelbagi Akol, Vice President in charge of the Service Cluster and Chair of the National Taskforce signs and officially launch the research report.
Recommendations from the research emphasized the need to;
- Conduct campaigns to raise awareness on COVID-19 in the rural areas
- More efforts need to be dedicated towards the inclusion of PWDs when it comes to COVID-19 response and the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Experts who have scientific knowledge should be engaged to provide accurate information on the COVID-19 vaccine and its potential side effects.
- Conduct further research on women’s perceptions of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Vaccinated people need to provide testimonies to encourage others to be vaccinated.
- Government and/or organization should make more information about the vaccine accessible to the public in general and women in particular
“As the Secretary to the National COVID19 taskforce, I’m committed to making sure we learn from this research to improve our programming for SouthSudan and include gender-responsive COVID 19 measures.”- Dr Victoria Arib Majur, Under Secretary, Minister of Health.