Case Study: South Sudan: Preventing sexual violence in humanitarian contexts

“Some of our schools […] don’t have female teachers and in case you have a problem as a girl, there is no one for us to approach, so you keep quiet with your problems.”

Date: Friday, May 17, 2019

SIHA Project Officer - Christin taking students through the project inception at Wau Complex Secondary School.  Photo: SIHA
Christin, a SIHA Project Officer, discusses the project plan with students in Wau. Photo: SIHA

South Sudan, a country that gained autonomy in 2011, is still beset by instability after decades of armed conflict. The protracted conflict left South Sudan with an estimated 1.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), many of whom live in camps for the protection of civilians, where women continue to be at high risk for sexual and gender-based violence.[1]

The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), is implementing a school-based project to prevent violence against women and girls in the large camps for internally displaced people in the northern town of Wau.

SIHA’s baseline study found that teachers and school administrators had little information and understanding of what constitutes sexual violence and harassment. One participant said*: “[Some] think that rape is not a crime […] particularly men […] they think that women are there for only sex and they can do anything they want.”

The study also revealed factors which contribute to pervasive sexual violence in the camps including: the risks to women and girls sent to fetch water outside the camps; forced and early marriage; the absence of female teachers; and the objectification of girls in schools.

During SIHA’s research, girls reported they felt unable to approach male teachers due to either experiencing sexual violence by male teachers or fearing violence. One girl said: “Some of our schools […] don’t have female teachers and in case you have a problem as a girl, there is no one for us to approach, so you keep quiet with your problems.” Some girls said that boys also bully and verbally abuse them in school.

The findings prompted SIHA to focus part of its project on increasing the capacity and ability of teachers and administrators to prevent violence in schools and to educate future generations about gender equality and the right to be free from sexual violence. The project also engages with men and boys, cultural leaders and government officials.

After the conclusion of the baseline study, SIHA developed and now runs training sessions to raise awareness and increase knowledge of the teachers and administrators in the IDP camps about how sexual violence negatively impacts the community. The training covered the dynamics of power, the types and consequences of gender-based violence, the laws of South Sudan pertinent to violence against women, and information about services available to survivors of violence.

One participant said: “They are happy that this training is talking about these issues and they expect that their colleagues in the room will educate their friends out of the room as well.”

Amplifying the voices of UN Trust Fund grantees: SIHA

Hala Alkarib, Regional Director, and Martha Tukahirwa, Regional Communications and Advocacy Officer, highlight SIHA’s school-based project working to change mindsets and behaviours to end sexual violence against women and girls in camps for internally displaced people in South Sudan.

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* The anonymity of the study participants is guaranteed.

For the second consecutive year, the UN Trust Fund has supported projects with a special focus on refugee and forcibly displaced women and girls in the context of humanitarian crises, reaching an investment of USD5 million in this field. In 2018, active projects reached 7,718 refugee and internally displaced women and girls.

Donate today to support projects like this working to prevent and end violence against refugee and forcibly displaced women and girls.

[1]https://www.unocha.org/south-sudan