SURUR ALI AYILE
LAINYA - More than 1000 women, men and children in Lainya town undertook a three-kilometer walk to mark 16 Days of Activism.
They had a dual objective: To raise awareness regarding the need to eliminate all forms of violence against women as well as poor hygiene conditions in the area which has an adverse effect on women’s health.
“Women and girls in South Sudan have continued to suffer from abuse and conflict,” says Lilly Manase, a social worker. “Most importantly, they shy away from reporting domestic violence and even rape because in this country, women are traditionally supposed to be married forever. They are scared that if any such report becomes public their husbands will abandon them.”
For his part, Abugo Simon, an HIV/AIDS Officer with the South Sudan Health Association, says he believes there is a direct correlation between mental, physical and emotional wellbeing and violence.
“Children who come from families where their father abuses their mother are traumatized,” he states. “A home is actually the first school that a child goes to and it is the duty of every parent to teach their children the importance of equal rights and give them a safe, conflict-free environment. If you want your boys to be respectful of girls, you must lead by example,” he adds.
Lilly’s frustration is compounded by children who are suffering from numerous diseases due to a lack of sanitation and hygiene among communities. “People dump waste by the road and it becomes a breeding ground for all kinds of germs. We consistently suffer from diarrhea and other food-borne diseases. Especially now, with COVID-19 and its variants, I cannot stress the importance of proper handwashing,” she states. “It’s not just important for women but for everybody.”
Perhaps the most eloquent testimony for ending gender-based violence came from Obadia Soka, a community elder in Lainya county. “As husbands, we are responsible for upholding the rights and dignities of our wives and ensuring they have as many opportunities as we do to educate and empower themselves. As fathers, we have similar responsibilities to our daughters.”
UNMISS collaborated with ACROSS, a faith-based organization to organize this event.