Until this week, 24-year-old Yohana Jermano Gwang had neither knowledge of his human rights nor did he know when to report acts of their violation. Now, though, he says things are different.
“Now I know my rights to life, education and free movement everywhere in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Mr. Gwang, following a training session on human rights.
Conducted by the Human Rights Division of the United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the one-day workshop brought together thirty-five traditional and religious leaders, representatives from the civil society, women’s groups, and internally displaced persons from the Malakal UN Protection of the Civilians site.
“This knowledge that we received in this training is going to change my perceptions on human rights issues, especially in our context here in Malakal,” Gwang noted.
“I now know my rights, and how to protect the dignity of any human being, regardless of race, religion, colour, and social status,” said Bernadette Daniel, one of the participants. “This training has changed my mindset from negativity to positivity, and now I would be bold to speak up for gender equality at my place of work and rights of girls to pursue their dreams through education,” she declared.
UNMISS Human Rights Officer, Kwachkwan Tipo, spoke in general about the purpose of the workshop.
“This workshop is to enhance and build the capacity of people of Upper Nile in general on issues related to conflict-related violence, and how to report the violation of human rights, for purposes of accountability,” he said.
UNMISS Head of Field Office in Upper Nile, Hazel Dewet, encouraged participants to take human rights issues very seriously, as stipulated in South Sudanese laws.
“Let us make human rights a reality in our everyday lives because it has already been included in your own laws as after independence, South Sudan decided to join the United Nations,” said Ms. Dewet.
Following the outbreak of civil war in December 2013, human rights violations became commonplace as enormous atrocities were committed against the people of South Sudan by warring parties. UNMISS has been monitoring and reporting on this issue, as a part of its core mandate.