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Mary, a Gender-based Violence champion in Bentiu, Unity State

South Sudan continues to struggle with high rates of Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG), which has negatively impacted its development and gender equality. This has constrained their full participation in decision-making in the community, economy, and society in general. Poverty has contributed to forms of GBV such as child marriage often for bride price, sexual exploitation, and abuse and limited access to sexual and reproductive health rights. These necessitate the need to improve women’s knowledge on their rights, and opportunities for them to, access, and enforce their rights.

Shakira Lakoyo

Posted on 08 Mar 2023

Written by Shakira Lakoyo

Mary Nyankun Diew, lives in Bentiu in Unity State, South Sudan and is an advocate in the fight against VAWG. She promotes women's equality in her community, which hosts approximately 500 households of both Internally Displaced Persons and host communities.

Mary’s efforts were strengthened after attending trainings from Danish Refugee Council (DRC) where she gained skills to address VAWG-related issues in her community.

Mary, who has experienced the devastation of VAWG herself, has been raising awareness on the causes and consequences of VAWG.

She is a trainer on VAWG at the Women and Girls Friendly Space Center in Suk-sita. These centers, constructed by DRC, provide a safe space for women and girls to meet and discuss freely how they have been affected by VAWG and access support, case management and get medical and psychosocial support.

They also learn more about their rights and legal services available in case of any harm.

Shakira Lakoyo

In Bentiu, South Sudan, women bear the majority of household responsibilities, including walking kilometres to fetch water and firewood, putting them at risk of sexual assaults and rape.

In South Sudan, survivors tend not report incidents or seek support due to a lack of knowledge of their legal options or the money to pursue them.

In South Sudan, Stigma, gender bias, and the culture of impunity contribute to the very low rate of reporting and response to VAWG.

Survivors tend not to report incidents or seek support due to a lack of knowledge of their legal options or the money to pursue them.

Mary stresses the importance of empowering women to stand up for themselves and speak out against mistreatment.

One of our problems has been a culture that leaves girls and women vulnerable to violence. Many women don’t report cases of violence in their homes because they fear being stigmatized or called names. With my advocacy, I want to tell every woman in my community that, it is their right to always stand up for themselves and speak up against any mistreatment.

/  Mary, a community leader and gender-based violence champion in Bentiu, Unity State

08 Mar 2023
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