SPLA women gender-trained by UNMISS: “We need to unite and support each other”

7 May 2018

SPLA women gender-trained by UNMISS: “We need to unite and support each other”

Filip Andersson

Under the theme “Military women contributing to peace and Security”, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan today initiated a 3-day-long workshop targeting 120 female members of South Sudan’s armed forces, SPLA.

“We do not get the respect we deserve from our male colleagues. We need to create a women’s network within SPLA to become united and be able to support each other. I think we can learn how to do that here,” says 31-year-old Sergeant Major Regina Simon, one of the participants and with 19 years of service already under her belt.

Like her peers gathered at the Juba Grand Hotel in the capital, she has never before received any gender-oriented training. She does, however, plan to make the most of this opportunity, presented to  the uniformed women by the peacekeeping mission’s military gender advisor, Lieutenant Colonel Robyn Fellowes, as a result of a request for such training made by the SPLA.

In a demonstration of gratitude, attendees greeted the first speakers at the event with the festive, soul-lifting, trademark ululations of South Sudanese women.

“The overall objective is to proactively train and empower military women to progress and contribute to the security of South Sudan, without discrimination,” Robyn Fellowes explains.

The robust training schedule encompasses a wide range of topics. Among the subjects to be addressed are issues related human rights and South Sudanese and international laws, sexual gender-based violence, sexual harassment in the workplace and discussions on particular challenges faced by military women both in South Sudan and in countries contributing troops to the UN Mission in the country.

The workshop is similar in style to the ones that UN Police have been delivering to their South Sudanese police colleagues. A similar event for female soldiers belonging to opposition forces is also scheduled to take place. If these pilot experiences are positive, trainings of the same kind may be replicated in other parts of South Sudan.

Apart from the UNMISS Military Gender Advisor, a number of other sections of the peacekeeping mission have important roles to play at the workshop. The other UNMISS actors include its Rule of Law Section, Gender Unit and Senior Women’s Protection Advisor, as well as its Human Rights Division, Conduct and Discipline Team, Security Department, Communications and Public Information Section and Human Resources officers.

Other members of the United Nations family is represented by UN Women and the UN’s Population Fund (UNFPA), with the Women’s Lawyers Association and the South Sudan Women’s Block also scheduled to make vital contributions. With such a prominent line-up, rejoicing is guaranteed.