Women and girls in crisis in DRC and South Sudan

Remarks at Side Event on “Sharing experiences in addressing gender-based violence: women and girls in crisis in DRC and South Sudan”

September 24, 2019


Distinguished guests,

Thank you for the opportunity to make a few remarks at this important event.

GBV remains an endemic problem in crisis contexts and like many such challenges requires a sustainable and multi-faceted response. The discussion around the humanitarian development nexus provides us with the framework wherein we can address some of these challenges, and more so in a manner that is aligned, coordinated and sustained. UNDP’s long-term development mandate, and our integrator function for the UN system allows us to work closely with our partners to create solutions that can cut across the humanitarian development divide for the long-term.

It is a well-known fact that conflict and crisis situations increase the vulnerability of women and children. At this year’s High-Level Political Forum, violence, inequality and exclusion - notably of women, youth and marginalized groups - were identified as a key hurdle to realizing the SDGs. It is also a well-known fact that GBV by itself can take an overwhelming toll on the development opportunities of women and girls, impacting all aspects of their social, economic, and personal lives. Addressing GBV in crisis contexts is therefore a critical pre-requisite to long-term sustainable development and peace.

Addressing such hurdles requires strengthening legislative frameworks that address GBV, including the establishment of effective criminal justice systems and the elimination of harmful traditional practices against women and girls. Equally important are policies and legal provisions that ensure that survivors of GBV are rehabilitated and their basic needs are met.  

As UNDP supports countries like DRC and South Sudan in their recovery from conflicts, we have found it imperative to invest in services and reforms that create enabling environments needed to build resilience and to allow for sustainable solutions for women and girls. An important example of this work is the partnership between UNHCR and UNDP in South Sudan where we support the Government to develop laws that ensure protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

In DRC, the establishment of a One Stop Health Centers (OSC) have significantly improved access of survivors of GBV to holistic care services, while avoiding the stigmatization of the victims. As a result of the successful pilot experience in the three eastern provinces of the DRC (South Kivu, North Kivu and Ituri), UN agencies in collaboration with civil society and the Ministry of Gender are advocating with the Government for the institutionalization of this approach throughout the country.  Strengthening the capacities of the actors involved in the fight against GBV, particularly community leaders and legal entities, has made it possible to ban some of these harmful practices.  It has also allowed the court to assist victims and to process their cases quickly. As a result of capacity building of legal actors in DRC, there has been an increase in the prosecution rates from 46.6% in 2016 to 88.7% in 2018.

A human rights approach is an essential element of all UNDP programmes, and much more so within crisis contexts. In contexts like South Sudan, we see this approach to be essential to avoid traditions, norms and practices that can perpetuate the exclusion of vulnerable groups, exposing them to insecurity and preventing them from being fully involved in the decisions that affect their lives. Consequently, supporting policy and advocacy to end child marriage and other harmful practices form a core element of UNDP’s programming in South Sudan. In 2018 alone, 1,118 survivors of GBV received support that included counselling and psychosocial support.  Survivors were also able to benefit from other GBV response mechanisms including skills training and livelihood development programmes.  UNDP supported the economic rehabilitation of vulnerable women and girls mostly survivors of sexual and GBC in Bor and Juba Protection of Civilian sites (PoCs).  518 women and 109 men in Bor and Juba received practical marketable skills training, the majority of whom have used their new skills to start small enterprises towards achieving economic independence.

Through the provision of legal aid, human rights awareness and constitutional litigation, UNDP supports the reduction of institutional obstacles that prevent women from accessing the same opportunities as men, including the ability to exercise equal decision-making power over financial resources. UNDP’s programmes in South Sudan address the needs of the most vulnerable communities, underpinned by human rights, human dignity and development solutions that are effective and sustainable.  

UNDP remains steadfast to using its vast skills and expertise towards the reduction and ultimate elimination of GBV.  Through its support to governments, and leveraging our partnerships with our UN sister agencies like UNFPA, UNDP is committed to using its integrator role to work across the humanitarian development divide, in a way that ensures effective and meaningful long term solutions, and that can have a positive impact on the lives of women and girls living in crisis.

Thank you.