Only 1 in 10 women are able to read and write in South Sudan.
According to the UN: South Sudan became the world’s newest country on 9 July 2011 after decades of civil war and conflict. Women played a strong role in the popular referendum that resulted in the nation’s independence from Sudan. The consequences of war – which disproportionately affected South Sudan’s women – has left many of them illiterate, impoverished and widowed.
Women’s Pressing Needs
- – Illiteracy is a top problem for the women of South Sudan. Statistics show that almost 3/4s of adults in South Sudan are unable to read or write, most of them are women. Less than 2% of the population has completed a primary school (i.e. elementary school level) education. South Sudan suffers from the world’s worst illiteracy rates only preceded by Burkina Faso.
- – Childbirth Mortality: Childbirth and pregnancy, rather than conflict, are the nation’s biggest killers of girls and women. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) reports that South Sudan has the worst reported maternal mortality rates in the world. “More women die in child birth, per capita, in South Sudan, than in any country in the world,” says Caroline Delany, a health specialist.
“1 in 7 South Sudanese women will die in pregnancy or childbirth, often because of infections, hemorrhaging, or obstructed births, with a lack of access to healthcare facilities playing a large role in their deaths.” – Geneva-based Small Arms Survey.
- – Child Marriages: Recent statistics by South Sudan’s Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare show that nearly half of South Sudanese girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are married, many of them against their will. Girls as young as 12 are married off sometimes, in exchange for a dowry.
“Many South Sudanese communities see child marriage as being in the best interests of girls and their families. It is seen as an important way for families to access wealth via the traditional practice of transferring cattle, money, and other gifts through the payment of dowries. It is also viewed as a way to protect girls from pre-marital sex and unwanted pregnancy. For some girls, marriage may also be the only way to escape poverty or violence in the home,” writes Agnes Odhiambo for Human Rights Watch.
Girls who resist marriage are often beaten, threatened, verbally abused, ostracized or taken to police stations to be to be coerced into marriage.
For more on the women of South Sudan, read: Women of South Sudan: THE Unifying Force for Development
On September 20, 2014, we ran for the 9 out of 10 women in South Sudan who are unable to read and write. The 3K Run in the morning was followed by an evening of discussions and cultural activities graced by members of the South Sudanese community in Atlanta.
Thank you for joining us