News

Women in South Sudan Face Repercussions of Violence

Women purchase grilled chicken from a street vendor in the main Konyo Konyo market in the Juba, South Sudan, July 2011. (file photo)
Women purchase grilled chicken from a street vendor in the main Konyo Konyo market in the Juba, South Sudan, July 2011. (file photo)
Hannah McNeish

“Free at last” after decades of civil war with the north, South Sudan is building a nation from scratch. As women flood to the world’s newest capital city, Juba, aid agencies say an effect of so many years of violence is that most women are unaware of their rights. One Israeli group, though, is battling to stamp out gender-based violence.

In a crowded and sweltering room in the capital, Israeli aid agency Israid has brought together social workers and police to discuss ways of reducing what the social workers consider widespread violence towards women in the capital.

As the social workers voice concerns about security, and talk of cases of rape and beatings that were never reported or addressed, their fears and frustrations highlight the lack of awareness by the police toward gender-based crimes.

Learning more about gender-based violence

The police say rape is difficult to deal with, and they demonstrate a startling lack of knowledge about how to detect a rape, whether the age of the woman is important and whether it is possible to bring the perpetrator to justice until a baby is born.

One speaker at the session - Anna Albina Liberio - is a rare example of a female police investigator who has risen through the ranks and is winning the respect of her male peers.

But Liberio said she has never investigated a case of gender-based violence.

Crimes ignored, underreported

As her superior, Colonel Tranquillo, translates, she explained why women are suffering in silence in South Sudan and why cases of violence toward women are hugely underreported.

“She is voicing to women in South Sudan that they are capable. Most of them, they don’t know their rights, and they have no knowledge about the violence or anything concerning their rights, so the knowledge is the key to combat those crimes,” said Tranquillo.

Tranquillo said a large number of girls living on the streets with no parents often are scared to come forward and report sexual violence to the police. He also said a lot of domestic violence is carried out at night to avoid the community’s watch.

Israid is training a total of 45 new social workers in Juba. The agency's director for South Sudan, Ophelie Namiech, said Israel is starting in the relatively booming capital rather than the remote and conflict-ridden states because many unaccompanied women have flocked here from neighboring countries and are particularly vulnerable.

“We realized that the problem of gender-based violence was not only extremely important here, but increasing since independence, because of migration, and because gender-based violence, we realized, was not only a weapon during the war but it's also a consequence of war - you know, traumatized people, especially with kids, girls under the age of 18,” said Namiech.

Cultural barriers complicate matters

Namiech said traditions and stigma surrounding violence toward women are major challenges, and that in some villages assessed by the aid agency, rape is considered “normal."

At the country’s main hospital in Juba, social workers sit in a bare, cramped room with hospital blankets draped over desks that are bare, except for a pad and pen.

They say that of the very few cases of rape and violence reported to the police, only when the woman’s life is in danger do they receive cases at the hospital. They say that violence toward women is common, and that raising awareness and increasing the number of social workers is key to protecting women.

The director of gender at South Sudan's Ministry of Social Development, Lily Ismail Yudi, said the chronic lack of awareness of women’s rights makes it difficult to break the cycle of violence.

Breaking a violent cycle

“Due to tradition and cultures, women are not recognized as somebody who is important in the family. If she is, it will be in terms of her services only. Also, these women are not sent to school due to the culture in some areas - they consider that the girl is a source of income,” said Yudi.

She said women usually are married off early so that the family can receive a hefty dowry of cash or cows, or are used as domestic or agricultural workers to support the family.

“This is why by the end of the day, you can find that a girl ended up married without any education, without being exposed to any other communities, to learn about things that can help her in the future,” said Yudi.

Yudi said she hopes that trained social workers can help make women aware of their rights, and that those women will pass the information on to their daughters, and eventually bring the cycle of violence to an end.


This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs