Refugee youth in South Sudan say no to gender based violence
Category: East and Central Africa, Opinion and debate
The Danish Refugee Council is raising awareness about gender based violence in the refugee camps in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State as a part of the global campaign ‘16 days of activism’. In the kick-off event, refugee youth performed a drama with a clear message: no to gender based violence and yes to education.
The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is now launching a campaign to raise awareness about gender based violence in Yusuf Batil Camp in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. For 16 days, the camp – home to more than 35,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State – will be full of drama plays, songs and banners conveying one important message: No to gender based violence! The campaign is a part of the global initiative ’16 days of activism’ to end violence against women.
Stefania Rigotto, DRC emergency officer in South Sudan explains why this campaign is so important: “Sexual harassment and exploitation of women and girls are unfortunately very prevalent in the camp – just as in most other situations of displacement.” In order to improve the understanding of and response to these issues, DRC has conducted an assessment of sexual and gender based violence in the nearby Doro refugee camp. One of the concerning findings was that adolescent girls are at high risk of sexual harassment at water points, along the roads and at the local market.
“We’re especially worried about some cases of sexual exploitation where young girls exchange sexual favours in order to get money or clothes”, Stefania Rigotto explains. “This is not a widespread problem yet, but we do see a negative pattern emerging. It is especially worrying because this negative coping-mechanism increases the risk of HIV/AIDS and leads to social stigmatization of the girls. Hopefully this campaign will help us to halt these recent developments”. The assessment also documented that early marriage is widespread in the camp: “It’s normal for girls to get married when they are 14-15 years old – and sometimes they are as young as 11-12 years old,” Stefania Rigotto continues.
This year, DRC therefore uses the 16 days of activism to put spotlight on issues related to youth and gender based violence. The youth themselves are convinced that education is part of the solution to these problems. ”The other day a youth group – that included girls and boys – performed a drama with a clear message against early marriage saying we want to go to school, both boys and girls!,” Stefania Rigotto continues. Boys are not alone in taking up this message: “The event was really well attended. Grown-up men were even climbing up in the trees to get a glimpse of the action. This is really good news: we need girls and boys as well as women and men to come together in order to make a change. Gender based violence is not just a women’s issue.”
The ’16 days of activism’ is a global campaign that originated in 1991 from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute. The campaign takes place every year between 25 November, International Day Against Violence Against Women, and 10 December, International Human Rights Day, emphasizing violence against women as a human rights violation. This year, the key message is: “From peace in the home to peace in the world” – a message that is being conveyed by more than 4,100 organizations in over 170 countries.