How IsraAID is Supporting Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in South Sudan
As the world marks 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, survivors in South Sudan share their stories.
Gender-based violence (GBV) concerns have been at the forefront of numerous national and international organizations, and UN agencies, since South Sudan was established in 2011, yet according to United Nations Human Rights Commission, the situation remains a “hellish existence for women and girls” where 65% of South Sudanese women and girls have experienced physical or sexual violence.
Every December, IsraAID South Sudan, along with millions of people globally, takes part in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign. It’s an opportunity to bring awareness and increase understanding of what GBV is, and what services are available to people affected by it.
IsraAID South Sudan marking the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
This year, the theme was ‘Take Responsibility. Protect Women and Girls from Gender-Based Violence.’ This is what we, IsraAID South Sudan, aim to do every day. Through our community outreach activities and direct services, we provide a safe space for people to access mental and physical health services, skills and employment training, and legal and medical support for thousands of women affected by GBV, among other essential community services. C* and her mother are just two of the thousands of people we’ve supported.
C is a teenager who lives with her mother, aunt, and siblings in a settlement for displaced civilians. One morning, C was sent by her mother, together with the neighbor’s daughter, to check on their crops the behind the camp. Before reaching the garden, they found themselves facing a group of armed men.
“With great fear, we started running and, in the process, I was caught,” C told an IsraAID team member. In that moment, she was raped. Despite her pain and trauma, she was scared to report the incident due to threats from the men who attacked her.
When C arrived home, her mother was out at the IsraAID Community Engagement center attending life skills and counseling sessions. C sent her sister to call their mother, but she was still afraid to open up about what happened. Her mother listened to her with much sympathy, wiped her tears, and thanked her for opening up. Her mother had attended sessions at the IsraAID community center on services available for GBV survivors, so she knew exactly what to do in C’s case.
Thanks to what she had learned, her mother knew that C was at risk of HIV, Hepatitis B, STIs, and an unwanted pregnancy – particularly if they did not get help within 72 hours. C agreed to meet with a case worker immediately to address her medical and mental health needs.
With her and her mother’s consent, C was taken to a health facility for treatment. She has since returned to school. “Life would have been so difficult if IsraAID had not intervened,” she said.
*Name withheld to protect privacy
Lydia Layaa is IsraAID South Sudan’s Program Manager