Abused, abandoned by her husband, and left with nothing to feed her children, Athieng from South Sudan’s Upper Nile State felt helpless. She almost ended her life.
She is not alone. According to the recently released 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview among the reported gender-based violence incidents recorded in 2019, physical assault perpetrated by an intimate partner accounted for 37 percent, sexual violence 18 percent, and emotional abuse 25 percent.
Athieng began to spend time at World Vision’s women and girl-friendly space with other survivors and social workers. With sufficient support and life skills, she eventually dared to start over. This support is crucial for these women to rise above the experience.
“To see the growing focus on women's rights, and hear of the first-hand experiences of survivors of gender-based violence, particularly sexual assault, has been sobering and inspirational,” says World Vision’s Senior Protection and Gender Advisor Vanessa Saraiva.
She adds, “We know that women and girls are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence worldwide; 98% of reported survivors in South Sudan are female.”
This year, the 16 Days of Activism campaign from 25 November to 10 December, focuses on 'standing against rape'. Rape is a very specific form of violence against women and girls, rooted in complex issues: a deep-rooted patriarchal system, harmful social norms, gender inequality, and power imbalance.
With strengthened awareness that they have the power to stop the abuse, women like Athieng can take control of their lives.
Saraiva says, “To support a survivor and treat her with respect and dignity, requires two immediate reactions: first, a clear and loud reminder that rape is never her fault; and second, access to life-saving services (medical care within 72 hours, psychosocial support services, access to justice, and safety).”
“The women of South Sudan are among the most resilient in the world. Despite the odds that they are up against, their courage has never wavered in asserting their place in society. If there is no more gender-based violence, they can unleash their energy and skills in helping rebuild this country”, says Mesfin Loha, World Vision’s Country Programme Director.
World Vision, together with partners like the World Food Programme (WFP), commits to supporting survivors, preventing violence from occurring in the first place, and realizing equality in our relationships, homes, and communities.
Loha concludes, “Give these women the chance and they will rise as leaders.”
Watch video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nTBNUxkce4
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