The United Nations Development Programme and UN Women jointly launched the Africa Development Report 2016 under the theme "Advancing Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Africa" in Juba on Monday. The event brought together government ministers, civil society, academia, and the private sector for an interactive panel discussion on the key findings of the report and how they apply to South Sudan.
"It is true that no nation can fully develop without harnessing the energies of its men and women. Indeed you cannot win a game with only half of your team playing," said UNDP Country Director Kamil Kamaluddeen in remarks delivered on behalf of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, and UNDP Resident Representative Eugene Owusu. "Our perspective is that gender inequality from the standpoint of human development is addressed by improving women's capabilities and opportunities and contributing to better outcomes for present and future generations."
The marquee panel to examine the Africa Human Development Report's findings in the context of South Sudan featured insights from Minister of Roads and Bridges Hon. Rebecca Joshua Okwachi, Minister of General Education and Instruction Hon. Deng Deng Hoc, Executive Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) Mr. Edmund Yakani, Director Operations of Equity Bank and author of "Impact of Political Stability on Economic Development: Case of South Sudan" Dr. Addis Ababa Othow, and the Director for the Institute for Transformational Leadership at the University of Juba Dr. Angelina Mattijo-Bazugba.
The panelists fielded questions and comments from university students, members of Parliament, and fellow academics and civil society leaders on implications of the report on the policies currently shaping the lives of women and girls in South Sudan.
"When you empower women, you empower women in all spheres of development," said Dr. Bazugba, underscoring that gender equality is a critical accelerator and enabler of all development, however, "In South Sudan, we have brilliant policies [to accelerate gender inequality] but we lack implementation."
The panellists supported the report's call for increased collection of gender disaggregated data for improved decision-making, informed policy change and mid-course correction.
"As civil society, we need to do more than just talk. We need to walk the walk," said Mr. Yakani, emphasizing the role of civil society to catalyze implementation of government policies, and specifically sited support for building critical infrastructure necessary for rural girls to attend and complete primary and secondary school education.
"Primary education should be compulsory and free, for boys and for girls. People who resist sending girls to school should be brought to justice according to the law," said Minister of General Education and Instruction Hon. Deng Deng Hoc, further stressing that education leads to a pathway of economic empowerment and allows South Sudanese citizens to move beyond a cycle of subsistence living.
Minister of Roads and Bridges Hon. Rebecca Joshua Okwachi declared participation, inclusion and ownership as keys to empowering women in South Sudan. Hon. Rebecca also seconded a proposal for a database of current and past female leaders in South Sudan.
"Don't dump your history," said Hon. Rebecca. "South Sudan did not start today. We have done a lot [in South Sudan] in terms of women leadership. Women sitting here will testify to what we have done. Where are these leaders who came before us? We need to have a database, so we can learn and have access to information about them."
"Supporting women in business and providing access to finance is an empowerment process which will lead to improvement of women's contributions in their own economic and social prosperity as well as of their country," said Dr. Othow. "Equity Bank has continued to innovatively develop entrepreneurial capacity aimed at empowering women businesses to grow to regional markets."
Deputy Country Representative of UN Women Lansana Wonneh grounded the discussion in an overview of the status of women's empowerment in South Sudan.
"South Sudan has made significant strides in creating a legal, policy and institutional frameworks promote gender equality," said Mr. Wonneh. "But, efforts to end the systematic discrimination against women and girls can only be fruitful when these frameworks are translated into concrete actions. The event to launch the 2016 African Human Development Report in South Sudan is therefore hoped to serve as a renewed call for a sustained positive action by both the duty bearers and rights holders"
The Africa Human Development Report 2016 finds gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average US$95 billion a year, peaking at US$105 billion in 2014 – or six percent of the region's GDP – jeopardizing the continent's efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth, according to the report.
The report proposes four strategic pathways to greater gender equality and women's empowerment – adopting legal reforms, building national capacity to accelerate women's involvement in decision-making, adopting multi-sectoral approaches in promoting gender equality and women's empowerment, and accelerating women's ownership of assets and management of resources.
"We need to commit to deliver gender-disaggregated data and gender analysis as an organizing principle to enhance human capabilities and create conditions for human development, including ending the conflict and revitalizing the different sectors of economy," said UNDP Senior Economic Advisor Mr. Frederick Mugisha, during a presentation of key findings of the report.
The launch of the Africa Human Development Report 2016 builds upon UNDP and the Government of South Sudan's unveiling of the first-ever National Human Development Report earlier this year. That report found gender inequality in South Sudan specifically contributes to a 19.5% loss in the country's overall human development index value.
Human development is about expanding human choices - the richness of human life, rather than simply the richness of economies. This idea focuses on people, and their capabilities and opportunities. UNDP's Human Development Reports use this approach to analyze some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity to achieve sustainable progress. This is the second-ever Africa Human Development Report, following the inaugural report in 2012.