South Sudanese police officers, women’s representatives in Western Equatoria meet, discuss issues at an UNMISS workshop
YAMBIO - Listening. Asking questions. Robust discussions. And an informative quiz.
These were the highlights of a two-day workshop in Western Equatoria attended by 20 women’s representatives and members of the South Sudan National Police Service where they shared ideas, knowledge and challenges related to community policing, preventing gender-based violence and promoting human rights.
The sessions organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) brought together women from two counties—Nzara and Yambio.
“This workshop also falls under the umbrella of capacity building. We sensitized them on various police portfolios and their roles, so they are clear about where, when and to whom they can report specific crimes, thereby enhancing peace in their respective communities,” said William Zaza, a South Sudanese police officer from Yambio.
At the forum, officers from South Sudan Police Service took participants through topics related to community policing while United Nations Police (UNPOL) officers facilitated interactive modules on the UN Peacekeeping mission’s mandate, child protection, human rights and violence against women.
Participants had the opportunity to ask law enforcement personnel tough questions about the role played by local police and UNMISS in keeping conflict at bay and ensuring a peaceful environment in the conflict-beleaguered state.
“Nobody is above the law; whether they are rich or poor; politicians or farmers. The law treats everybody as equal. However, upholding the rule of law is a collective responsibility. The police cannot take action and bring perpetrators to justice if community members shield them or do not report any untoward occurrence in a timely manner,” stated Mr. Zaza in response.
For their part, UNMISS personnel explained the critical role played by the mission in preventing and mitigating conflict and protecting innocent civilians.
With their questions satisfactorily answered, participating women embarked on a brainstorming session on how they, as individuals and members of society, can do their part to ensure a peaceful environment prevails.
Discussions also highlighted various ways on combatting gender-based violence within communities.
“Traditionally, it is thought that a woman’s place is at home. But no country can develop and build durable peace if women aren’t involved in resolving issues that impact them directly,” averred Margret Modong Joshua, an UNMISS Gender Affairs Officer. “Women must participate equally in decision-making, be given opportunities to complete their education and be a part of the workforce in South Sudan,” she added. “When women are empowered, violence reduces and societies become more peaceful.”
UNPOL officer Ruth Mbabazi echoed Ms. Joshua’s statements. “For sexual and gender-based violence to stop, women must be trained and have good relationships with law enforcement so that any instance of violence against a woman can be reported promptly,” she stated.
Moses Bagari, an UNMISS Child Protection Officer highlighted that such trainings enable women to trickle down concepts of gender equality and peaceful coexistence to their children, thereby equipping potential future leaders of South Sudan with important tools to live prosperous, peaceful lives.
For those women who couldn’t attend, messages of peace, unity and social cohesion are on the ready.
“We are going to be ambassadors and advocate for durable peace and change our people’s mindset in our localities, state and country at large,” stated Yabang Emelia Moses, Executive Director, Anika Women Association, upon conclusion of the workshop.