27 May 2022
By Mavic Cabrera-Balleza*
“We are the future of South Sudan! We want to go home, and we appeal to President Salva Kiir to ensure safety and security in our village,” – young South Sudanese refugee women in Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement, Uganda
As part of its Feminist and Localized Humanitarian Action Program, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, in partnership with Eve Organization for Women Development, facilitated a workshop on peacebuilding, women’s rights, and gender-responsive humanitarian action with young South Sudanese women refugees on 27 May 2022. The young women’s responses to the training were very positive and inspiring. They expressed their longing to go back home and live peaceful and productive lives. However, they also know that it may take a long while before that becomes a reality because of the sluggish implementation of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement and the South Sudanese government’s lack of political will. Despite the limited resources and facilities at the refugee settlement, the young women want to learn how to read and write better and develop life skills. While they don’t mind walking to school, which takes several kilometers, they wish there were more classrooms and teachers. There is only one teacher for more than 100 students. There are very few classrooms where several grade levels must share one room. “Sometimes we just stand outside because the classroom is so full!” said one of the young women.
Thirty young women aged 17 to 30 participated in the workshop. Out of the 30, at least 20 already had children or were pregnant. They identified early pregnancy as one factor that prevents them from going to school and pursuing other opportunities. They want to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and they want to decide over their own bodies.
GNWP and Eve Organization plan to advocate with the Ugandan Government authorities to build more classrooms and hire more teachers. The two organizations also plan to organize sex education and identify other groups or institutions that can provide reproductive health care services.
The young women also discussed their livelihood projects. They want to earn incomes to support themselves and their families. GNWP provided them with seed funds for their projects. The students in the group also received funds to buy school supplies.
Hon. Betty Ogwaro, a Member of the National Parliament of South Sudan joined GNWP and Eve Organization on the trip to Bidi Bidi. She exchanged ideas with the South Sudanese women refugees, particularly on how to achieve peace in South Sudan. Hon. Ogwaro serves on the Boards of GNWP and Eve Organization.
GNWP and Eve Organization will continue to collaborate to enhance the South Sudanese young women’s leadership potential and develop their skills. They will also support the young women to participate in the management of the refugee settlement and implement the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security and Youth, Peace, and Security in South Sudan and Uganda.
GNWP thanks the Austrian Development Agency and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation for their support.
* Mavic Cabrera-Balleza is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders.