From left to right: Musa Jacky, HI staff, Hon Anna, Hon Elias from Ministry of Gender Child and Social welfare, Augustino Wudu, Chairperson SSUPD, Stephen Dhieu, Director for Disability, office of vice President Gender and Youth cluster, Mauot and Christi | © HI
The long awaited signature of a ratified convention brings new hope for the rights of persons with disabilities in South Sudan.
South Sudan has become a party to four international covenants after President Salva Kiir acceded to the human rights laws on Friday 24 February 2023. This process of concerted efforts and advocacy actions on the ratification of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in South Sudan have finally paid off. According to a press statement from his office, The President ratified the UNCRPD and its Optional Protocol along 3 other human rights conventions/treaties.
Stephen Dhieu, Director for Disability from the office of vice President Gender and Youth cluster, giving a speech during the roundtable discussion on ratification of UNCRPD on 22 March 2022. © HI
This comes after renewed calls for the signing of the convention in various forums including an advocacy event organized by HI South Sudan in March 2022 supported by funding from Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) through the Humanitarian and Resilience in South Sudan (HARISS) project. During this roundtable event, Members of Parliament made a commitment to push for the ratification of this important convention, a commitment that they have followed through.
This and other advocacy efforts from the Organizations of Persons with Disabilities through their Umbrella Union: South Sudan Union of Persons with Disabilities (SSUPD) and other Civil Society organizations (CSOs) in South Sudan has also enabled visibility of persons with disabilities in advocating for Inclusive humanitarian action, equal rights to sexual and reproductive health and involvement in peace building efforts. This signing gives confidence and hope to persons with disabilities across South Sudan that the government is committed to promoting their rights and equal opportunities and their access to services and basic needs.
This also comes after two disability rights activists from the Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (Zekia Musa Ahmed, current HI staff, and Maout Louis, former HI Staff) were selected to participate in the constitutional review process to support development of inclusive policies and laws in the new constitution of South Sudan.
“To me as a woman with disability, I see this as a great step taken by our government. I see it as a great achievement for us to have the law in the country. As persons with disability, we really feel our rights are more protected now as we can raise our voice freely without restriction. The next step is to see how effectively it will be implemented. This is where we will be happier,” said Zekia Musa, HI Women Integrated Sexual Health (WISH) project Inclusion Officer.
“It is a step in the right direction: 5 steps in 100 million step journey. Now our focus as OPDs will not be on ratification but rather we will focus more on details and capacity building of the government to know how to implement it”, said Maout Louis, Chairperson of South Sudan Union of the Visually Impaired.
Participants brainstorming on way forward to push for the ratification of UNCRPD in South Sudan during a roundtable discussion organized by HI in collaboration with OPDs on 15 march 2022. © HI
With funding from FCDO through the HARISS project, which ran from August 2018 to March 2023, HI was able to support empowerment and advocacy programmes by persons with disabilities including through roundtable discussions, position papers, public awareness days, disability day advocacy events, national and State level workshops and awareness raising on rights-based approaches and equal rights for all.
HI is currently working with organisations of people with disabilities, government line ministries, local and international partners to have a joint event to mark this milestone achievement and have a road map on the next actions to domesticate in South Sudan the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.