Source: UNMISS - United Nations Mission in South Sudan

unmiss south sudan eastern equatoria women leadership conflict prevention

UNMISS workshop in Eastern Equatoria building leadership skills among young women.

“We are empowered. We don’t have to be silent. We must move to educate people about the possible causes of conflict and suggest solutions for peace in our communities.”

That was the message from women’s representative, Fatuma Nakang, at a peace forum in the Eastern Equatorian village of Ikotos, sponsored by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. The forum was focused on building the leadership skills of young women, preventing communal conflict and bringing durable peace to local communities.

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Conflict in this area has traditionally been provoked by issues such as cattle raiding, looting, and revenge attacks between different tribes. Another traditional practice that has caused huge suffering is the gifting of young girls as compensation for crimes committed by one family against another, such as murder.

One young woman suggested a better solution to the Ikotos village chief and elders.

“Compensate a murdered person with money or cows not a girl-child. We need freedom go to school,” said Kulang Grace, a recent high-school graduate who is passionate about ensuring access to education for other young women.

Women participants at the Ikotos forum as well as those attending a similar event in nearby Kidepo Valley discussed a number of challenges, including how identify the causes of conflict, developing resolutions and action plans to prevent violence and the important role of women in peacebuilding.

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The resolutions coming out of the two forums were similar. They included the need to hold the perpetrators of cattle raids accountable, disarming civilians to prevent deaths from crime and intercommunal violence, and taking legal action against families that fail to educate their daughters or who encourage early and forced marriage.

“We have a Strategic National Action Plan that explains about ending child marriage in South Sudan by the year 2030,” said Dominica Iduwa, Director General of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare. “We will use this plan to protect children from early marriage.”

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The participants requested UNMISS to organize similar forums for youth, particularly focusing on the problem of gender-based violence. They promised to share their improved understanding of conflict-resolution and peacebuilding with others in their villages in an effort to spread messages of peace.

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