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Bridging the Divide by Pioneering Gender Equality among refugees in AjoungThok, South Sudan

In 2015, the Nuba mountains in Sudan, which held great ancestral significance to Elizabeth, were ravaged by conflict, rendering the safety of her family uncertain. Faced with numerous obstacles, Elizabeth and several of her relatives made the difficult decision to flee to Yida, a town situated on the border of South Sudan. Upon their arrival, they were promptly directed by the DRC to seek refuge in a camp located in Ajuong Thok.

Lakoyo Shakira

Posted on 09 Aug 2023

Seven years have passed, and Elizabeth is still not in touch with her relatives who took refuge in other places like Khartoum Sudan, but this has not dimmed her hope of reuniting again.

In Ajuong Thok camp, in the absence of violent fighting, Elizabeth and few of her family members who escaped from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan found enough stability and security to cultivate a seed of hope for their future.

A point of hope was when a staff from DRC’s Economic Recovery team invited Elizabeth to join activities at  Ajuong Thok Vocational Training Center.

DRC constructed the institute in 2015 with financial support from the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) for Refugees to provide refugees with technical training to start businesses to help support their families and contribute to their new community. 

Elizabeth enrolled for a welding course, a course that is stereotypically male. Despite having to break gender norms, the 28-year-old Elizabeth is defying the odds by managing to go to class and learn new skills with excellence.

Elizabeth has shown determination, hard work and dedication in achieving her dream of a better life for herself and her family. 

Elizabeth has gained a reputation for her exceptional skills and work ethic, which have earned her the admiration and respect of her colleagues and instructors despite the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field.

She remains undaunted and continues to perform her duties with the utmost professionalism and meticulousness. She is expected to complete her course and get a certificate in the next few months. 

Elizabeth has inspired young women to defy the odds and to break into spaces with the under-representation of women in a country like South Sudan.

She has shown that with determination and commitment, a refugee woman can enroll and study any course of her choice and make significant contributions in any field they choose to pursue at the institution.  

Through Elizabeth's dedication, Women in the refugee camp are realizing that they can acquire skills that have been seen as stereotypically male for years.    

It was in the morning hours when we started hearing sounds of planes flying over. At first, we thought it was the normal sound of planes that might just be passing by, little did I know that was my last day at home and, I would lose relatives. We ran out of our home and walked to Yida, the border with South Sudan as others fled to Khartoum. Some people made it to safety, but others didn’t make it.

/  Elizabeth, a refugee enrolled at AjoungThok Vocational Institute

Gender inequality is particularly pronounced in situations of displacement, where women often face multiple layers of discrimination based on their gender, such as limited access to education, healthcare, decent work, and decision-making processes.

They may also experience heightened vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence. In addressing these challenges, DRC prioritize gender equality in displacement settings by providing safe and gender-responsive services, promoting women's participation and leadership, and addressing the root causes of inequality by equipping women with skills. 

Elizabeth's acquired skills have opened doors for her to receive occasional short-term employment from various humanitarian agencies.

These opportunities often involve welding tasks such as making tables, beds, and chairs. By undertaking these projects, Elizabeth is not only able to provide for herself and her family but also contribute to her new community.

In addition to being approached by organizations for welding work, Elizabeth also receives job requests from the local markets and within her own neighborhood. As she continues to enhance her skills through her ongoing course, Elizabeth is confident that she will become highly proficient, leading to even more promising prospects in the future. 

By enhancing skills of refugee women like Elizabeth in their new communities, women can forge stronger bonds and increase their collective power to challenge discriminatory practices and policies.

Ultimately, it is essential to create inclusive and supportive environments that foster equitable opportunities for women, ensuring their rights and contributions are valued and recognized. 

It is crucial to empower refugee women beyond the confines of stereotypes, enabling them to exert influence and effect meaningful transformations in their respective environments.

Elizabeth's narrative should serve as a catalyst for societal change, resonating with women from all walks of life.

Women play a pivotal role in driving progress and advancement; however, their true potential can only be realized by overcoming obstacles such as stereotypes. 

Elizabeth is a top student and helps the rest of us weld in the classroom. I hope next year other young women are motivated by her example to learn a new skill at the center

/  Mubaraka, Elizabeth's course mate at AjoungThok Vocational Institute

Protection Assistance for Refugees, IDP’s, Returnees and host communities

Danish Refugee Council's Protection Assistance for Refugees, IIDP's, and Returnees project is generously funded by UNHCR, with the primary objective of improving the lives, safety, and dignity of approximately 92,491 of refugees, returnees, and Internally Displaced Persons.  

This initiative specifically targets the areas of Ajoung Thok, Bentiu, and Malakal, aiming to effectively address the risks associated with displacement, expand access to essential services, and promote self-sufficiency for vulnerable communities. 

The Protection Assistance for Refugees, IDP’s and Returnees project provides support through Shelter & Settlements, Economic Recovery, and Camp Coordination & Camp Management, adopting a community-centric approach. DRC integrates the expertise of various stakeholders, including partners, governmental entities, and the affected individuals. 

Through this project, Danish Refugee Council endeavors to identify and provide support to those who are most vulnerable, by ensuring that they receive appropriate services and assistance.  

Together, we can work towards a brighter and more promising future for Displaced communities. 

With support from

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