Survivors of gender-based violence: Hope at long last

unmiss south sudan 16 days of activism juba gbv stakeholders grant empowerment stigma vocational trainings

The recent forum in Juba on gender-based violence was focused on the needs and rights of survivors. Photos: James Sokiri/UNMISS

13 Dec 2022

Survivors of gender-based violence: Hope at long last

James Sokiri

As this year's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence concluded, relevant stakeholders made a clarion call: To end stigma, gender discrimination, and all stereotypes against survivors of violence against women and girls. They also recommitted themselves to helping them gain access to training opportunities, health facilities and other services.

"Streamlining endeavors to help survivors of violence recover from trauma and build social and economic livelihoods is the cornerstone of achieving that target," said Jacquiline Natepi, Executive Director of the Rural Women Empowerment Organization.

Indeed, the government of South Sudan, the World Bank, the United Nations and other partners are working tooth and nail to synchronize their response strategies to that effect.

A glimmer of hope translated into reality last July, when the World Bank approved a $70-million grant to support a project to boost women's social and economic empowerment, not least by assisting female entrepreneurs in formalizing and scaling up their business activities.

In South Sudan, violence of difference kinds, targeting primarily women and children, are common. Sexual assaults, rapes included, domestic violence and early and/or forced marriages are three main categories of violent crimes often committed, with rape, according to Ms. Natepi, frequently used as a weapon of war.

 "Survivors of gender-based violence require substantial support to recover from the physical and psychological trauma that they are suffering from," said Firas Raad, World Bank Country Manager for South Sudan in a recent press release, adding that giving them opportunities to learn new and income-generating skills could also significantly improve their lives.

To Gladys Jambi, a Gender Affairs Officer serving with the peacekeeping mission, women's dreams are being constrained by harmful and deeply ingrained cultural practices, including the stigma and discrimination endured by survivors of gender-based violence.

"UNMISS is working with line ministries and other partners to respond to and prevent rapes and related acts of violence," she said. "We do our best to provide prevention and response mechanisms, and accord the protection survivors need, while working to hold perpetrators accountable."

Helping survivors recover and participate fully in civic and economic spheres of life would not only give women a meaningful boost, but the country as a whole as well, believes Aya Benjamin, South Sudan’s Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare.

"Empowering women will no doubt make our nation more prosperous and peaceful," she said, adding that improving their financial situation is a key area to address.

"As they reach basic financial security, they are more likely to afford vital health services, send their children to school, and better serve in more leadership positions at all levels of government. In other words, they become agents of change in their communities."

Gladys Jambi eloquently summed up the aspirations of all and sundry.

"I have only one wish, and that is to see a South Sudan where peace and security prevail and where women, girls, men and boys are given equal opportunities, without fear and favour."