“Our hearts are bleeding”: S. Sudan women tell Pope

“Our hearts are bleeding”: S. Sudan women tell Pope
A section of women who attended the public mass at Dr John Garang Mausoleum.

The South Sudan women’s bloc has written to Pope Francis through his representative and Vatican Secretary of State, His Eminence Pietro Parolin, about the negative impact of the conflict on women in the country.

The women told the Vatican Secretary of State that the current conflict has been “politically motivated,” exacerbated by leaders’ lack of political will to bring it to an end.  

“We are suffering in different ways, and it could be the lack of will from our leaders.” [We are suffering] politically, socially, and economically,” a letter dated July 5, 2022, addressed to Parolin, partly read.

It added, “Our hearts are bleeding. We have lost our children, friends, and colleagues, and we travelled many miles looking for our country. Meanwhile, our husbands were in the war, and we were using field tactics while travelling on fuel tankers.”

They pointed out that the violence-related sexual and gender-based violence against women and young girls in the country has continued despite the 2018 revitalised peace deal yet to be fully implemented by partners.

“The conflict in our country is politically motivated,” the women said in the letter “This has led to ethnicity, nepotism, poverty, the large number of people living in the refugee camps, internally displaced persons (IDPs) within the country, poor infrastructure, mistreatment of people, gender-based violence and rape, sexual harassment.”

They further stated that women were yet to realise across all the reconstituted state and national seats of governance the 35 per cent of women’s affirmative action provided for in the deal.

Since the onset of the December 2013 war that claimed thousands of lives, and displaced millions both externally and internally, South Sudan’s record of sexual and gender-based violence has caught the attention of regional and international communities.

In April this year, the human rights department of the United Nations Missions in South Sudan (UNMISS) recorded at least 64 cases of sexual violence, and that two survivors were repeatedly gang-raped after they had come out of their hideout to buy food for their children, among them a lactating mother who had just given birth.

Cardinal Parolin who arrived in Juba on July 5 on a three-day visit was in the country to represent Pope Francis.