Progress made in fighting gender-based violence in Jonglei as some men join the cause
Anyone familiar with South Sudan’s patriarchal traditions may find it hard to imagine that some men are now part of leading the charge against gender-based violence. Yet this is exactly what is happening in Bor in the greater Jonglei region.
Here, a total of 23 men have formed a group intent on being part of the solution rather than the problem.
“We work with women to help men understand gender-based violence,” says 25-year-old Madol Mamer. “We help women’s groups and humanitarian agencies to preach against sexual and other gender-based sexual violence in our schools and communities,” the male activist explains at the Bor launch of the 16 days of activism campaign against such abominations.
Leading up to the event, Madol and his peers participated in a procession walking through Bor town, carrying banners with messages such as “Join hands against rape”, “End gender violence” and “Rape kills”.
Slogans, however, won’t be enough to successfully tackle the age-old South Sudanese plague of violence against women. Already all too common in the country, incidents of such repulsive acts increased dramatically in December 2013, when South Sudan plunged into what was to become a five-year-long, brutal civil war.
Some progress has, however, been made, with last year’s signing of a revitalized peace agreement being one crucial step. With the peace deal, incidents of both political and gender-based violence have dropped dramatically. In 2018, 238 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence were reported, with the equivalent number eleven months into 2019 is 79. Although the cases that are actually being reported are likely to be “the tip of the iceberg”, as David Shearer, head of the peacekeeping mission, recently said, at least that tip is becoming smaller.
Perhaps equally important is the fact that some men seem to have become aware of the gravity of the problem posed by violence targeting girls and women.
“Slowly some of our men are beginning to understand these issues, and unity to contribute to the cause is growing,” Madol Mamer says.
Susan Sesay, a gender affairs officer serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, agrees that male participation is crucial to eradicate culturally ingrained, violent behaviour towards women. She also takes courage in recent support received from local authorities.
“The fact that the state government now admits that rape is a problem is a small victory in our quest to raise awareness about all kinds of gender-based violence,” she says, adding that having South Sudanese authorities on their side means that achieving some results should be possible.