An orange day at UNMISS as staff join global campaign to end violence against women
It was an orange day at the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), with orange balloons, orange t-shirts, and orange ribbons on display at an orange expo.
“You can see here, on the wall, what UNPOL [UN Police] is doing,” explains Veli Pekka Ylaetalo from Finland, at the UN Police stall. He is the team leader for the section's Gender-based Violence Unit. “It’s not only these 16 days that we’re doing this; we’re doing this every day. Police is doing this work 24/7,” he says, pointing at orange posters that carry different messages about their work.
‘WE RAISE THEIR AWARENESS ABOUT CONFLICT-RELATED SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT,’ one poster reads.
‘WE RAISE THEIR AWARENESS ABOUT GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE,’ reads another, on a tented wall that is decorated with a string of colourful posters.
A few metres from the UNPOL stall, is the Mission’s Staff Counselling Unit, a part of the Mission’s Medical Services Section.
“Obviously, the work that UNMISS does regarding sexual and gender-based violence has a huge component of psychosocial work,” says Nilusha Doranegama, a staff counsellor. “So, we’re trying to a draw the connection here,” she adds, pointing at a brochure of information – part of information booklets spread out on a desk.
“As you see this is the clinical management of rape survivors,” explains Doranegama, adding, “we provide technical advice, and training to Mission components on how to work with survivors of gender-based violence.”
Inside the ‘tukul’ (a grass-thatched hut where staff stream in and out for coffee, meals and other beverages), a television screen plays short video clips produced by the Mission’s Communications and Public Information Section. Orange banners and quotes in orange characters dominate the images on the screen. The Mission’s leaders and senior staff are taking a stand against sexual and gender-based violence, proclaiming the #HearMeToo hashtag.
“Here in South Sudan, women and girls have suffered immensely because of the ongoing conflict,” says the Head of UNMISS and Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer, who also visited the exhibition stalls after the Mission's official launch of the campaign. “I’ve spoken to many of them,” he goes on, “who have been subject to sexual violence including rape. This must stop,” he says. “We must respect and protect women and girls. We must hold perpetrators to account and end the silence and stigma that allows sexual and gender-based violence to flourish,” he adds, as he declares his commitment to the 16-day campaign, with a rallying call:
“I’m standing with you all during the 16 Days of Activism to take action. We can do better, to end violence against women.”
Organized by the UNMISS Gender Affairs Unit, the expo marked the highlight of the official launch of #16Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, an annual global campaign to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
Launched every year on the 25th of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the campaign runs until the 10th of December, which is the UN Human Rights Day. The global theme for this year is: My Body, Every Day and Everywhere! Safety and Respect for Girls and Women. The national theme in South Sudan is: Make Peace count for Women and Girls.