South Sudan Context
Women make more than 60% of the population in South Sudan, and that they should not be left out from the decision-making process if any meaningful development has to occur. However, in the past engagement with the communities, LCED has realized that women participation in development programs and in decision-making has been very low due to various reasons including lack of education and traditional beliefs and customs, among others. Additionally, cases of sexual gender-based violence and discrimination have been increasing at an alarming rate.
“In most societies there are differences and inequalities between women and men in responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities” (UN Women, 2001). As in many other societies, in South Sudan discrimination against women it is perpetuated through birth rituals and naming systems (patriarchal linage), division of labor, male-dominant right to property, income-expenditure patterns, patriarchal systems, verbal instructions and forms of reward, and women definition in terms of kinship (sister of/mother of/wife of a male subject), among others.
In the South Sudanese society, gender roles are reinforced and explained, and violence against women often perpetuated and justified by the education system, workplace, religion and judiciary system. The construction of gender and definition of gender roles are also perpetuated through rites of passage to the adult age. Such ceremonies are used to instill in the notion of male supremacy and socialize boys and girls on how to behave as men and women and interact with the opposite gender. In the case of boys this may include license to sexual promiscuity, and exclusion from sleeping in certain areas of their city/village. Girls are instructed on the virtues of a good wife (submission, servitude, suppressed sexuality).
Furthermore, female and male circumcisions are practices both finalized to maintain these gender roles: while male circumcision is done to facilitate penetration, female circumcision has the finality of eliminating the libido, to ensure wives’ faithfulness and avoid women’s sexual promiscuity and premarital sex.
Virginity is an important value in the South Sudanese society, also associated with a higher dowry paid by the family of the groom. Arranged marriages and early marriages are not uncommon in the South Sudanese society, and they are some of the causes of female school dropout in South Sudan, together with their overloading with domestic responsibility, leading to poor school attendance and performance. Additionally, the perception of boys as the family assets and the girls’ vocation as marriage and motherhood justifies early marriages and less effort put into girls’ education.
The marital role and domestic responsibilities of South Sudanese women often lead them to sacrifice their careers for the sake of their family. This dynamic, in addition to inheritance and ownership patterns which privileges men, disenfranchise women and make them economically vulnerable. Economic vulnerability, but also the submissive gender role itself and the stigma deriving from divorce or separation lead South Sudanese women to stay in a violent household or a marriage that is not working for other reasons. Many women tolerates domestic violence because considered part of the marriage, while the public, police, administration, religion and the judiciary system often justify it as a domestic matter.
Still in the family context, the high value of a male heir to his father’s property essentially leads women to bear frequent pregnancies in search of a male heir, while in some communities this leads to female infanticide.
Main Aim and Objectives
LCED’s aim is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls (Sustainable Development Goal No 5). In order to achieve such goal, the LCED initiatives in the operative area of “gender, gender equality and GBV” have the following objectives:
- Raise awareness of communities, authorities and leaders on the importance of gender equality in the process of development, and share information on violence and discrimination towards women in South Sudan.
- Enable men and women to report GBV cases, and sensitize the community and the responsible authorities on the matter.
Since 2008, LCED has been operating in Western Equatoria State, South Sudan, for empowering and strengthening the capacity of rural communities –composed by men and women - to improve their livelihood and allow their active participation in sustainable development.
LCED recognizes the importance of promoting gender equality and women empowerment, and to fight violence against women in order to promote sustainable peace and development in its area of operation, as well as guarantee the success of all its projects.
3. Advocate and take meaningful actions to promote female participation in the decision-making process at all levels
4. Promote gender equality through fighting harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, which discriminate girls and women, and trigger abuses.
5. Promote female education and female employment, especially in higher positions.
6. Empower women in the local community to be economically independent.
7. Build capacity of local actors to implement gender-sensitive programmes, and projects promoting gender equality.
These objectives are also taken into consideration during the implementation of projects which do not specifically focus on gender equality, for instance including a gender perspective and ensuring female representation.