More sensitization needed to tackle spike in violence against women, interlocuters tell UNMISS

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In Mundri west, teachers, students, parents and members of the South Sudan National Police Service came together at an UNMISS-facilitated workshop on human rights. Photo by Phillip Mbugo/UNMISS

26 Feb 2024

More sensitization needed to tackle spike in violence against women, interlocuters tell UNMISS

Phillip Mbugo

WESTERN EQUATORIA: “Even if perpetrators are penalized in court, we expect our partner in peace, UNMISS, to continue raising awareness among our communities on the need to uphold human rights, especially women’s rights,” said Flora Wilson Kenyi, a teacher from Mundri west, a county in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state.

Flora was speaking on the margins of a two-day workshop facilitated by the UN Peacekeeping mission.

The aim of the forum: To enhance understanding of the overall concept of human rights as well as help galvanize participants to be actively involved in country-wide efforts to end gender-based violence.

Teachers, women’s representatives, and the South Sudan National Police Service from the county came together in spirited discussions.

A key point of consensus was the need for lawmakers and leaders to strengthen the legal framework on human rights violations, specially those related to women and children, as the latter has spiked alarmingly in Mundri west.  

“We are seeing a distinct rise in violence against our women and children,” revealed Flora. “And there is the issue of impunity. I believe that it’s because many community members are still in the dark about the legal recourses available to them. Also, perpetrators aren’t aware of the law,” she added.

But there are deeper reasons, some of which are entrenched in South Sudan’s cultural fabric.

“Traditionally, women and girls have been impacted by patriarchal beliefs,” recounts Warikunzi Moses, a parent to four children.

“But, as our country approaches its first elections, and thanks to the work that UNMISS has been doing all these years, spreading the importance of equal rights among the grassroots, I think we are all becoming much more cogniscent that women can be decision-makers and leaders,” she stated with a smile.

Warikunzi’s views were echoed by Chance Lari Stephine, a student attending the forum.

“It’s been eye-opening to speak about our rights and responsibilities as citizens and as human beings. I have heard a lot of mis- and disinformation among young people as well as children which tells us that human rights are inconsequential but thanks to these two days, I am now much more aware of their importance,” she said passionately.  

For Justin Rotto, a workshop facilitator from the UNMISS Human Rights Division, these interactions are of incredible importance, especially at this pivotal time in South Sudan’s history.

“With elections approaching, there is a massive need for all citizens to be involved in this young nation’s democratic transition. The right to cast your vote is a fundamental human right. But vitally, they must make informed choices. We designed this workshop for teachers, students, parents and security actors in Mundri west because we expect them to function as a multiplier effect, trickling down what they have absorbed to their families, neighbourhoods, professional colleagues and communities at large,” he averred.

A similar workshop was held in Ibba county.