South Sudan: Women are the voice of peace

A woman in Jonglei state, one of the areas most affected by the conflict, after receiving an aid distribution from CARE

Women and children in South Sudan are bearing the brunt of the ongoing conflict. They are the ones forced to flee their homes by the fighting. They are the ones trying to survive as they fend for their families.

You could see the trauma in their eyes as they told me the story of a woman who lived a few metres from the compound in Panyagor, where I was visiting. They showed me her grave a stone’s throw away from the compound. One night two months ago, the mother of five was attacked, gang raped and battered to death, leaving her children on their own.

She did not live to tell her story – but women calling for peace want their voices to be heard as clear as possible by those in authority. One of the women I spoke to, Rebecca, said:

We have many women who are widows as a result of the conflict, yet they are raising children without support for their health and education.

“We were living happily before the conflict started,” says Akon. “Because of the conflict that has brought so much fear, our business is affected. There are so many women out there who have no support.

“That is why the war must end, so that we can live in our community without fear. The women are tired of running, because we are always running – without peace [we have] no access to work and money to support our basic needs.”

We hope that peace will come very soon so that families can be united once again and we can stop running.

The people of Nyuak community in Twic East have shown a way to peace – through a peace committee that was formed to solve issues and reconcile people within the community. The committee comprises religious leaders, women leaders, chiefs and other elders in the community. They attribute their success to being united with a common goal of preaching peace at the grassroots level, and they called for peace ambassadors to be in all conflict-affected areas.

“Before, we used to have conflicts among ourselves and our neighbours,” says a chief in Maar Payam. “We had disputes over land, we could fight over fishing ponds.

But now we share things with other communities and solve issues amicably.

CARE’s project Peace under Construction is reaching out to communities in Twic East, Duk and Yuai counties in Jonglei State. The project supports peace-building initiatives by building the capacities of peace committees with the aim of creating peaceful co-existence within communities. It also helps rebuild livelihoods through savings groups and loans for people to start up businesses.

South Sudan will soon celebrate its 4th anniversary of independence (9 July) but people still live in fear. Will the leaders listen to the voices of the people, and follow their example for peace?

Interviews and story by Robinah Baseka, Advocacy and Communications Officer, CARE South Sudan

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.