On July 9th, this Sunday, the world’s newest country, South Sudan, will celebrate 12 years as an independent country. It has come with unimaginable suffering.
Despite a recent, two-year extension on the 2018 Peace Agreement, the people of South Sudan continue to face ongoing conflicts and violence in their communities, in addition to other challenges like climate change, hunger and displacement. All of this has been exacerbated by recent conflicts spilling over from its norther borders with Sudan.
Women in South Sudan, often the most affected by these challenges, are leading the hard work of building peace and healing from trauma in this deeply complex and challenging part of the world.
Ask Elizabeth Aluk, who recently spent time in her homeland working with women in several different communities in the country. Aluk is an advocate for South Sudanese women and children’s rights, both in Manitoba and in South Sudan. Her organization works with a project supported by MCIC’s Community Solidarity Fund. MCIC has been funding Manitoba Women for Women of South Sudan (MW4WSS) to address gender-based violence and poverty in conflict-affected regions.
Working and connecting with community in such a challenging context brings its own issues, says Aluk. “I had challenges being in an insecure place (conflict zone). It was really, very, very dangerous. It was scary. Being with local people, knowing the local language, helped a lot. I am traumatized too.”
Aluk has continued her own professional development with MCIC trainings, community connections, and education at the University of Winnipeg.
MW4WSS first received funding in 2020 through the Community Solidarity Fund for their project on trauma healing and peacebuilding. Since then, Aluk has participated in ongoing trainings, collaborated with colleagues at the University of Winnipeg's Global College, and expanded programming into other areas in South Sudan, introducing livelihood training along with their peacebuilding and trauma healing work.
Throughout these experiences of learning and action, Aluk notes her own growth and development:
“I learned that you have to be focused. I learned a lot about what is required to manage a project where there is war and conflict going on. I have been taking that learning to heart. Having knowledge about dealing with trauma and healing. I attended a training course at U of W, for which I had a certificate. That has helped me a lot. Having connections with MCIC through [this funding relationship] has opened opportunities to connect with other trainings and that has helped a lot. Being willing to educate yourself is also key, so I have been open to that. To be in development, you have to be in peace.”
She would like to see those outcomes spread further and continues to learn about the most effective ways to do that. She notes, “Without support of MCIC I don’t think I would be feeling the peace and harmony that I am feeling. I share common values with MCIC and am glad to be part of it.”
On the future of South Sudan, Aluk is sober, knowing the realities being faced by its people. “Now, there are a lot of refugees coming from the north who are impacted. You can imagine the height of the trauma. Even when you hear about Ukraine and Russia, we are traumatized again, because we know what they are going through. We hope that those things are not happening.”
How can you support peace and development in South Sudan?
- Learn more about W4WSS and support their work at www.women4womenmb.ca/
- Learn more about the Community Solidarity Fund and last year’s recipients in our 2022-2023 Annual Report: Inspiring Insight and Innovation.
Be a peacebuilder in your own family and community because we should never take the gift of a peaceful world for granted.
All images provided by University of Winnipeg Global College & Manitoba Women for Women of South Sudan, Trauma Healing and Peace building.
About the photos:
Top picture - Monica Illario Kaima, a trauma and healing facilitator and counsellor, leads a session in Rumbek City, Lake State, South Sudan. The work is supported by Manitoba Women For Women of South Sudan (MW4WSS) and MCIC.
Second picture - Two women participate in an individual trauma healing session in Rumbek North County, Lake State, South Sudan. Women and girls face targeted violence based on their gender, such as early childhood marriage and exclusion from educational opportunities.
Third picture - A group is gathered for a trauma and healing training session led by a local organization in partnership with MW4WSS in Cueibet County, Lake State, South Sudan.