In May 2015, GNWP replicated its Girl Ambassadors for Peace program in Torit, South Sudan, a program piloted in Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A group of 30 girls and young women participated in the two-day workshop with the hope of continuing their education, through literacy training, and also by increasing their knowledge regarding their individual rights according to United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and 1820.
The young women present at the workshop dream of holding positions in government, becoming lawyers or doctors, and advocating for other women. One of the younger girls shyly admitted that she hopes to become a pilot. Many of the participants already have children, which often is an obstacle to these young women achieving their goals. One young woman explained that she is the mother of four children, but does not wish to solely stay home and raise her children. Her desire is also to continue her education. She views her participation in the Girl Ambassadors for Peace program as a means to achieving her own personal goals, as well as changing the lives of other young women in similar circumstances, starting with teaching them how to read and write.
During the first day of the two-day workshop, facilitators from GNWP, EVE Organization for women Development and Generation in Action, discussed different aspects of peacebuilding with the girls. The discussion began with an overview of the conflict in South Sudan, defining what conflict is, and then the young women explained the dire consequences conflict has triggered in their communities.
The women were broken into smaller groups where they discussed the following topics:
- What is your contribution to peace and security?
- What does peace and security mean to you?
- Do you have peace and security in your community?
- What is the impact of a lack of peace and security?
- What should be done to ensure peace and security?
Each group presented their responses to the questions, which focused on issues such as inter-tribal fighting, rape, the upsurge of violence and murder. Some groups indicated a need for better infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and markets. The young women indicated that the high cost of living, poverty, food insecurity, theft, massive loss of life, a lack of freedom of movement –- causing segregation and migration, and political instability are a direct result of the conflict.
The women emphasized a need for community awareness of critical issues such as equal distribution of resources, meeting the needs of the population (food, water and shelter, schools, road construction), end of violence against women, and strong leadership. One way to achieve these goals is through group activities for youth that build a strong sense of community and strip away perceived differences, such as through sports, dance, singing and theatre.
Ideas on how to tackle the problems on a broader scale included advocating for reconciliation and gender equality, sensitization training, government creation of laws on peace and security, empowering girls through education, and encouraging inter-marriage among the tribes.
On the second day each small group participated in a clock exercise that showed a typical day for a man and a woman in Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan. The participants were asked what time their mother and father start the day, their duties, and what time they go to sleep at night. Then these activities were plotted on the clock; the visual showed that women had longer days and more tasks to accomplish than men.
The final exercise was for the groups to create theatre skits that tackle complex topics such as land and water rights, girl’s education, child brides and polygamy. Several government officials attended on the last day to participate in the program and to meet the girls. The girls were commended on their participation and continuance of their education. At the end of the second day the girls received certificates of participation.
In the interim since the initial workshop in May, the girls have begun their trainings and are practicing their theatre skits under the guidance of our Torit-based partner, Generation in Action. The group of women will soon share what they have learned with other young women and perform skits depicting issues that are relevant to their local communities.
To view more photos view the Girl Ambassadors photo gallery.
By Lori Perkovich, Project Staff, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP).