February 19, 2014 [UMISS, JUBA] — Women had suffered most during the South Sudan conflict, representatives of displaced women living in an UNMISS protection site in Juba said today while meeting UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka.
“When the fighting started, we thought it was a war between men but we have been the biggest victims,” said the women leaders.
They added that men had an option to run away or to join the fighting, but women as mothers had to stay with their children and find ways to fend for them.
“All we ask for is peace so that we can go back to our lives,” the representatives said. “We want our children to go home, to school and to get a variety of nutritious food and proper health services.”
The women said they had remained in displacement sites, despite inadequate basic services, because they feared for their safety if they returned to their homes.
“The women here have challenges in relation to health, food and some of the women do not even know where their children and partners are,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngucka. “It is really hard for the communities, for the women (and) the children. The sooner we find peace, the better it’s going to be for everybody.”
The UN Women chief said it was “important and possible for women to start the journey to peace” and encouraged them to do so.
“They must stay strong,” she said. “They must make sure that for them and for their children, they must continue to be the voice of peace and they must not lose hope.”
Ms. Mlambo-Ngucka said UN Women had also held discussions with negotiating parties in Addis Ababa about including women in the political talks.
“We are happy that women are now included,” she said. “We are now looking at finding ways of getting women … involved in economic (activities).”
Describing the situation for displaced women as “desperate”, Ms. Mlambo-Ngucka said her organization would work with women and support them in areas they identified as feasible where resources were available.
“They’ve asked for help in literacy and rebuilding their lives economically,” she said. “We are trying to understand what opportunities are there which cannot only give them sustenance here, but things that they can take back with them when they go back to their communities.”