The Health Pooled Fund (HPF) in South Sudan recently participated in the 16 days of activism campaign – a global campaign against gender-based violence (GBV) and provided medical services along with South Sudan Red Cross at the launch event.
According to UNICEF’s publication, ‘Protecting the World’s Children’, 65% of women and girls in South Sudan have reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence. GBV in its different forms, physical, sexual, and psychosocial affects women’s physical and mental health and the children under their care. GBV is prevalent in South Sudan with conflict and cultural practices perpetuating gender inequality. For example, UNICEF (2020) reported 52% of girls in South Sudan are married by the age of 18 and 1 in 3 are pregnant before 15 years.
Gender inequality and cultural practices like early marriages make women and girls vulnerable to GBV and its impact on their health. Violence against women and girls could lead to permanent injuries including physical and psychological disability. Experiencing violence during pregnancy could affect both mother and child, and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) increases the risk of spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
HPF ensures that the 577 health facilities the programme supports have trained staff to identify, respond, manage, and support victims of SGBV. The clinical management of rape includes pathways to psychological support for survivors. HPF health care facilities try to create a survivor centred approach towards ending GBV, through the Women and Girl Safe Spaces. During these sessions, women are empowered with preventative and responsive information to protect themselves and others from GBV.
Empowering women to make critical health decisions through family planning and health training sessions can reduce the risk of death associated with early pregnancy and GBV.
Empowering women and girls to be leaders in their communities, means they contribute to creating community and nation-wide solutions to end GBV. This year during the launch of the 16 days of activism campaign, the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs on Gender and Youth in South Sudan Hon. Mary Nawai was the guest of honour, together with other women leaders, she addressed the issue of GBV in South Sudan.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) Country Director Caroline Sekyewa, representing development partners, thanked everyone for responding to GBV prevention and response, and the government for providing an enabling environment to protect women and girls. She urged that we invest in capacity building for women and girls at all levels to improve women’s socio-economic status. She called for active participation for all during the 16 days of activism to create awareness on GBV to reduce stigma and improve on reporting of cases for immediate attention.
(Article originally published on the Health Pooled Fund website)