An increase of cases of gender-based violence and other human rights violations in Western Equatoria State, as indicated by an assessment made by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan has prompted its Human Rights Division to step up awareness-raising on these issues in the state.
More than thirty persons in Maridi County, among them women, youth, local government officials and representatives from civil society groups, participated in a two-day workshop dedicated to the cause.
“I have acquired a lot of new knowledge here, so when I return home, I will definitely share this important information on human rights with other women in my area. I will also urge our men to give women opportunities to be included in decision-making and participate in any public affairs that affect them,” Jenty Night, representing a local civil society group, said after the training. “Only if we are empowered can we stand up for our rights,” she added.
Not only human rights in general but also the rights and limits of the powers frequently exercised by traditional leaders were thoroughly discussed.
Chiefs are not always judging cases in traditional courts in the correct way. For this reason, we felt that it makes sense to train them on the limitation of their powers,” explained Albert Mugabushaka, a Human Rights Officer serving with the peacekeeping mission.
Mr. Mugabushaka also stressed the importance of civil society groups monitoring the verdicts handed out by local courts and make sure that they are in accordance with national, formal laws and respecting the human rights of everybody.
“Only if citizens are aware of what traditional leaders are allowed to do and not to do can they report any wrongdoings in the judicial system,” he said, justifying the inclusion of civil society representatives in the workshop.
Juma Radam, a local chief in Maridi County, took plenty of new insights and knowledge on board.
“It is not always necessary to bring someone to court. In many cases, I think you can just bring in the person, counsel him or her and explain what the law says. That way, many offenders won’t repeat their mistakes,” he said.