9 March 2011 - The hundredth anniversary of International Women's Day was celebrated across Sudan on 8 (actual day) and 9 March with ethnic singing and dancing, marches, ceremonies, craft displays and clean-up campaigns.
"On this centenary, we celebrate the significant progress that has been achieved (for women) through determined advocacy, practical action and enlightened policy making," said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message read today at UNMIS headquarters in Khartoum by HIV/AIDS Chief Michael Munywoki.
But the Secretary-General also noted that women remained second class citizens in many countries, suffering from gender gaps in education, discrimination and sexual violence in conflict zones. He stressed that progress was urgently needed in women and children's health as well as decision-making.
"Fewer than 10 per cent of countries have female heads of state or government," Mr. Ban said. "Even where women are prominent in politics, they are often severely under-represented in other areas of decision-making, including at the highest levels of business and industry."
Noting that the theme for this year's Day was "Equal access to education, training and science and technology", the Secretary-General said, "Cell phones and the Internet, for example, can enable women to improve the health and well-being of their families, take advantage of income-earning opportunities, and protect themselves from exploitation and vulnerability."
The Day's progamme in Khartoum also included performances by singer Omer Ihsas and a dancing band, art exhibitions, folklore and bazaars.
In Torit, Eastern Equatoria State, hundreds of singing and ululating women, led by a band of female only police, prison, wildlife and fire brigade officers, gathered at the Catholic Diocese of Torit and marched to Freedom Square in an event hosted on 8 March by the state government and UNMIS Gender Affairs section.
"Such a celebration reminds us of how far we have come from and how far we will go in the years to come," said resident Esther Jua.
The women carried banners with different slogans, including "Improve women's access to education, training science and technology", "No woman should die while giving birth", and "Government should observe equal participation of women in government offices".
State Deputy Governor Nartisio Loluke Manir said his government was committed to improving the lives of women in the state and urged all stakeholders to support their activities.
Celebrating the Day in the Western Bahr El-Ghazal State capital of Wau on 8 March, women carrying and pounding different utensils together gathered at Peace Square for a procession to the State Government Secretariat.
The utensils symbolized the various roles women play in society. "In today's celebration, we express our love as women and acknowledge our role in all walks of life," said Mary Emilio Bafuka, member of the State Legislative Assembly and chair of the state's International Women's Day celebrations organizing committee.
Western Bahr El-Ghazal State Governor Brig. Rizik Zakaria Hassan congratulated women for participating in the development by cleaning up garbage in market places and digging canals.
"I would like to see that women liberate themselves from dependence on men and be productive," the governor said. He encouraged them to participate in income-generating activities like agriculture and donated three tractors to women at the celebrations in support of their agricultural projects.
Despite a tense security situation in Upper Nile State, women from the capital Malakal gathered at Malakal Stadium to mark the day on 8 March in a small but colourful ceremony. State Governor Lt. Gen. Simon Kuon Pouch confirmed his commitment to women's empowerment in education and health.
"I urge the minister of gender, social welfare and religious affairs to work in close coordination with the minister of education, science and technology to set up adult education for women," said Lt. Gen. Pouch.
Representing the non-governmental sector, American Refugee Committee representatives stressed their commitment towards improving reproductive health and creating awareness of HIV/AIDS and hygiene-related issues in the state.