VOICES OF SOUTH SUDANESE WOMEN

SOUTH SUDANESE WOMEN MEET TO PREPARE FOR PEACE CONFERENCE

In April 2017, a group of South Sudanese women met in Nairobi to discuss preparations for a women’s peace conference that would bring members of the diaspora in Kenya. The intention of the conference was to bring women from different ethnic communities together to bridge divides that the war in South Sudan had opened between, to work towards reconciliation, and to create a basis for promoting peace. The following collection of voices was captured as the women discussed their experiences and planned the conference.

“We are speaking at a time where the country is in very bad shape – the kind of shape that we have never seen before. Tensions have built – in Yei there were random shootings just the other day and houses and markets have been broken into. We anticipated that things would flare up in Juba even today.”

“At the end of the day it is the mothers who bear the brunt of the conflict – the children come to their mothers for food. The fact that even young girls have come out into the streets to look for something signals how bad things have become in our country. Everyone is now tired of what is happening in the country. Our worry is that the breaking point will be disastrous and we may see something worse than what we have already experienced.”

“There is a conflict already on the ground. If we bring the women together, after the conference we will make sure that as the women go back the plant the seeds of peace – once they have the seeds of peace planted in their hearts, they can go and spread them.

“Women can spread peace very fast, even if the implementation will take long. My sister can take what we talk about to other women, and they can understand. Now there are some women that do not understand themselves – there are women with different thoughts. We have to make them understand that they are one, and to teach our children that we are one – they need to know themselves that they are South Sudanese. If you talk about negative things with your children daily, after the conference, you might change the way that you talk to them.”

“We need to forgive each other. Most of the people lost their husbands, their brothers and they still hold that grudge. People need to forgive each other and to be able to spread their words of forgiveness. If people are able to let go of their grudges, it will help peace spread.”

“If you want something to start, you start with yourself. If you are in Nairobi, you start there. Peace must start where you are. Then you spread it out.”

“Since 2013 the division has been bad. That is why we see that we need to do something more – people need to be called back together. People have gone home, to IDP camps, etc. Now we need to get them to come back together and work as one for peace.”

“We try and help families that are struggling without food, we collect our own money and contribute to them. It is not enough – we also need to bring them to make them believe that if they trust God he can make a way for them. We do not feel like we are helping people much, just bringing food once or twice. We need to follow up, to bring them into connection with others.”

WOMEN GATHERING IN JUBA DISCUSS POLITICAL SITUATION

The following remarks were collected during women’s forums held in the payams of Juba. The women’s remarks reflect the women’s feelings on the current political environment in Juba, the exclusion of women from politics and the state of fear and insecurity that they experience.

From Kator

“The emotional pain resulting from the regular erupting wars is deeper considering that whenever brothers turn against each other the sisters are most affected”

“During the conflict the low earners are the most affected because they are not able to take their children out of the country for education”

“Women of South Sudan’s voices, freedom of expression and rights are not considered… They believed they had voted for the MPs who can at least raise their voice, but they are working for their families and relatives [instead].”

“Insecurity is high in Juba, where people are urinating in buckets just because of fear that they might open the door and find a robber outside.”

“Women should be involved or represented as much as men are to prevent and resolve conflicts [and create] peace.”

From Nimratalata

“The government has spoiled itself, who is going to be led by this government of self-help?”

“The president should visit the IDP camps in South Sudan”

“Remember the years in the bush? We do not deserve this to happen again in our country”

“Chance should be given to the women to lead the country without condition”

From Atlabara

“We need our fellow sisters and brothers and women in the IDP camps to come back home. We are tired of war”

“We need involvement of Dink and Nuer women to be in community forum meetings”

“They wished they had not come back to South Sudan [but] remained with the Government of Sudan”

“The two parties who are fighting; who are they going to rule if they have killed all the younger generation who are the pillars of tomorrow”

“Those elected MPs have forgotten their roles and responsibilities in voicing the voiceless. We elected them to be the eyes of women of South Sudan, not to be for themselves and their families”

“The women need their voices to be recorded and documented for future purposes”

From Munuki

“We do not want these two people to rule us again.”

“Stop killing our children, husbands, innocent civilians and women.”

“Lands are taken by the Government officials.”

“We need a Federal system of government.”

“We need our voices to be recorded and put in South Sudan Television for [leadership] to hear.”

“Tribal hatred in the country is blamed on the divide and rule policy of the British which pitted ethnic groups against each other.”

“One woman’s sister experienced the following: She was five months pregnant. The rebels broke into her house and raped her (7 men). The baby came out. If she were to refuse, those people would have killed her. There were some three women who stay with her at home; they were killed because they refused to have sex with them. For she was praying in her heart there that these men should leave her alive. This happened in the presence of her children.”

From Munuki

“Women who came from Khartoum have no homes of their own; they are living with friends and relatives… There are no schools for their children. People are suffering especially women in the camps, like now there is an outbreak of cholera.”

“We as women produced children during the war and children have grown in the war, and are still growing in war. There has been bloodshed for 21 years.”

“Most children have become niggaz [gang members], no school for them and to make it worse, the children were on Arabic pattern, and now English pattern has made it quite difficult for them and is leading to school drop-out.”

“The women have said that they thought by coming back to South Sudan their problems would be over but instead the situation has worsened.”

“The economic situation is very harsh, Dollars have spoiled the market and everybody cries for dollars. This has led to a decline of the economy of South Sudan.”

“As a result of this conflict many families have broken up, others have fled the country and others are internally displaced.”

“This war has brought famine and massive displacement of people of South Sudan.”

“Clinging too much on power is very bad; it brings war or conflicts.”

From Juba na Bari

“Insecurity is another big challenge facing [the women in this payam], because of this they were forced to move away from their homes to go and stay on the island. This is not where they belong; they asked for how long are they going to live on the island? In case of rain they get a lot of trouble when the river floods, too many mosquitos and no mosquito nets.”

“On the island they are in dire need of food, they are forced to cut grass and bring to the market so that they can buy food.”

“They don’t even have schools on the island so their children cross two rivers to get to the school moreover in a leaking boat; this even worries them more because anytime that boat can sink.”

“ [Because of] bad roads women are forced to walk in the bushes and because of this some women end up being raped by armed robbers.”

“They grind using their hands sorghum, millet etc. which is really a thing of long ago”

“Because of armed robbers they cannot even keep domestic animals e.g. goats, sheep and chicken”

“Cultivation has also become an issue. They are frustrated because they cultivate only old seeds, they need new seeds and those that can grow up quickly, and also they still use traditional tools for cultivation, they need modern machines”

“There are no girls’ schools. The girls are suffering and this makes them to always drop out of school once they reach P3. In the mixed schools the boys challenge the girls that they are big and they should be married and these discourages the girls to continue with their education”

“Laws should be enacted to punish rapists”

“Political grudges have also affected the lives of the civilians in that the politicians have brought bad customs in to the civilians by arming them. And all this conflict affects women and children”

“Old women have died all because of problems and conflicts in South Sudan, they should have lived to tell history to the young ones, they are important, but we lost them”