Refugee women and girls are at high risk of sexual harassment when living in refugee camps. In South Sudan the Danish Refugee Council is raising awareness and fighting the problem through large scale campaigns, delivering training to refugees and other NGOs and providing assistance for the victims.
“Did you see what happened, could it happen here?” Maria Helena Ariza, has the attention of a group of about 50 refugee men and women in Batil refugee camp.
The Danish Refugee Council’s (DRC) protection manager is talking the group through a scene they have just witnessed; a rape of a women by a water point. The scenario could have been real – but in this case it is part of a play, facilitated by the DRC protection team.
“It is necessary to talk about these things. It happens. Before these classes, I just didn’t know that it was wrong,” says 29-year old Malin Almuk Mahadir, who came to the camp with her husband and four children a year ago.
Malin Almuk Mahadir is one of 30 women who is participating in the protection class focused on sexual and gender based violence (SGBV).
The class addresses the risks women face, the needs of the victims, human rights and the laws protecting them and the responsibility of the community. After class the group of volunteers pass their new knowledge on to the communities they belong to.
“These things do happen here. It wasn’t such a big problem in Blue Nile [Sudan] where we were living with relatives. But here people are mixed up, we live many more people together, more things happen and there are more risks to us,” says 25 year old Regina Sadiq, a volunteer with DRC.
Close to 200,000 sudanese refugees have come to South Sudan since 2011 due to fighting in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The DRC protection team has the responsibility of running workshops for humanitarian actors and duty bearers in four refugee camps in Maban County.
A key part of DRC’s prevention and response activities rest upon the regular monitoring and training of more than 65 SGBV focal points in Doro and Yusuf Batil.
Long standing asymmetries of power between men and women are at the root of the problem, but a heightened level of stress in the camps further fuels domestic violence.
“Women and girls are at high risk of sexual harassment at water points, along the roads and at the local market. It is a responsibility of the community to change the social roles,” Maria Helena Ariza explains.
“Women’s rights and human rights have not beenthe priority mindset before. Domestic violence for example has just been part of normal life.
Therefore to end gender based violence we have to involve men – they are the ones to rethink the relationship with women, including the relationship with their wives.”
DRC is looking forward to engaging men as volunteers who will act as role models to other community members and seen to achieve behavioural change that could lead to a decrease in violent incidents.
To Malin Almuk Mahadir the training is both of value to the community and in her private life: “What we learn is good for my family, I start by telling my husband and then go on to talk to the community. Now my relationship with my husband is better,” she says with a smile.
DRC has been working in South Sudan since 2005. DRC and its mine action unit, DDG, provide emergency assistance, food security and livelihoods, mine action, armed violence reduction and community driven development.
DRC is responsible for the management of three refugee camps, accommodating more than 120,000 Sudanese refugees, and is.co-coordinator to UNHCR on the Refugee Response Coordination Forum supporting the coordination of the refugee response in South Sudan.
The DRC protection team run workshops for Chiefs, police, outreach workers, womens groups and watchgroups.
The training sessions address issues such as referral pathways and available services; Gender Equality within a South Sudanese legal framework; and awareness raising of the prevalence, forms and consequences of SGBV.
DRC are furthermore responsible for ensuring a coordinated response to SGBV by working with other humanitarian actors involved in the provision of health, mental and psychosocial care services.
– The Danish Refugee Council