Just over a month ago fighting broke out between rival army factions in South Sudan, escalated by ethnic undertones, the country now faces a full-scale civil war. At least 1,000 people are believed to have died in the clashes and the UN has estimated 500,000 as being displaced.
As is so often the case in conflicts, women have suffered disproportionately. The world’s newest nation is already one of the most hostile environments for women and the large scale displacement has made them increasingly vulnerable to rape and gender-based violence. Women and children make up the vast majority of the refugees fleeing the violence, many of whom have become widows and orphans, and are now defenceless and exposed without the protection of their homes and families.
With women being affected to such a degree, their participation in peacebuilding is critical to ending the violence and building sustainable peace. Women have the skills and knowledge needed to resolve conflicts and often have different priorities to men, such as protecting children and building peaceful communities. However Sudanese women live in a culture where they are to be seen, not heard. They need to be empowered in order to participate in peacebuilding.
Our partner, The Collaborative for Peace, is run by Angelina Napal – a local South Sudanese woman – who is encouraging other women to make the most of their peacebuilding capabilities. The Collaborative empowers these women through setting up local level ‘peace committees’ made up of representatives including women and young people. As a result the women in these communities have seen their roles completely transformed. For the first time they are having their voices listened to and are being called upon in decision making processes.
The Collaborative is empowering these women and transforming their communities into more peaceful, inclusive places to live.