Gender sensitivity crucial element to secure efficient prisoner reintegration in South Sudan

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UNMISS Rule of Law helps build capacities and gender awareness for 30 officers from the National Prisons Service in Juba. Photo by Gregorio Cunha/UNMISS

11 May 2023

Gender sensitivity crucial element to secure efficient prisoner reintegration in South Sudan

Carole Abou Farah

CENTRAL EQUATORIA - As South Sudan’s partner for peace, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), is helping supplement efforts towards this young nation’s democratic transition by building capacities among local law enforcement interlocuters, encouraging equal opportunities for career development and lobbying to include women in decision-making.

Gender sensitivity, thus, remains critical for upholding rule of law—this was the focus of a three-day training by the UN Peacekeeping mission in the country’s capital, Juba, for 30 officers from the National Prisons Service.

Interactive sessions revolved around sharing best practices to ensure that officers in charge of prisoner welfare know how to implement international standards and rules, starting with the need to have separate facilities for men, women, and juvenile offenders.

“South Sudan is not isolated; we are part of the world. This capacity-building exercise, therefore, aims at equipping you with knowledge on international standards in managing prisoners, especially women. It is very important to understand the inmate needs, how to meet these needs and help them reintegrate into society once they finish their sentences,” said Aya Warille Benjamin, Minister of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare.

Of the 30 participants, 19 were women who spoke candidly about a lack of opportunity to further their careers and advocated for a merit-based, professional prisons system, as well as the need to provide female prisoners with the facilities they need, a gap that UNMISS sought to help redress.

“The training is geared to raise awareness among prison staff and communities about specific needs of women detainees. Capacity development is a continuous process and with time and perseverance, we hope that gender responsiveness will become an integral part of the way detainees and prison officers function,” said Abdul Arshad, Head of the UNMISS Corrections Unit.

For his part, General Henry Kuany Aguar, Director of South Sudan’s National Prisons Service urged participants to benefit from this learning opportunity and trickle down the knowledge they have gained to colleagues who couldn’t attend.

“Gender equality is a precondition for meeting the challenges of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development, and building good governance. Therefore, gender friendly prisons or gender responsive prisons must be constructed to ensure that, ultimately, our society is stable,” he stated.

An understanding of human rights is key to give offenders a second chance in life.

“I believe that the workshop gives us the opportunity to learn how to work with prisoners, treat them with compassion and help them overcome circumstances that led them to being incarcerated in the first place,” averred Lieutenant-Colonel Atong Joh Kuon, Director of Juba Central Women’s Prison.

Such workshops facilitated by the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Rule of Law Section are very important, according to Lieutenant-colonel Linda Gabriel, Training Officer at the Prison College.

“Such trainings empower us to improve our services and have a strong prison system in place after the United Nations leaves the country,” she said.

A justice system that relies on gender sensitivity, skill development, and reintegration of offenders will be key for South Sudan in coming years.