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Community voices: South Sudan

Atoch is the Chairlady of a women’s group in Warrap State and Deputy Chairperson of her local community security working group (CSWG) established by Saferworld and the Kuac Area Development Agency (KUADA) to help communities address their safety and security concerns. Atoch returned to her former home town in 2011 for the referendum and subsequent independence of South Sudan to find that few employment opportunities existed.

"My name is Atoch. I am 39 and I have four children. I am a member of the CSWG and I am in charge of women’s affairs, so if any issues are affecting women then they come to me and I take them to the CSWG. My main job as I am the Chairlady is looking at how women can take up positions of power and also the issue of domestic or gender-based violence. 

We came from Khartoum and starting a new life has not been easy. We came with a lot of things – we brought them with us from the north; our bed, chair, seat. Now we sell them one by one to survive as we are not working. My husband isn’t working, I’m not working; so we take the chair to the market, and if we sell it we can have food for the month. Even the bags we brought our things in we have had to sell. Before we had jobs, and I worked in a factory and [had] an income.

Here security is also hard. There is only one police station, and it is under the tree. You can see the community here is very large, we need more policemen so in the case of misunderstandings or crime, people would be able to access the police. Physically the area is too big to police with the current capacity, it is made up of many blocks.

As a CSWG, we discuss issues that are affecting the community, people come to me with issues and I go to the Secretary and the Chairman. The Chairman calls the meeting and we say what the issues are, from there we go and brainstorm how to tackle them to try to improve safety and security for the communities. We also talk about our expectations. We pass this information on to KUADA and also we try to talk to the Governor about the problems we are facing.

A main safety concern is the lack of water. This really affects women as mainly it is us who gather the water. Here there is only one functioning borehole. An NGO built seven for us when we first moved to the area, but that was in 2011 and now they have broken down. Before when it was functioning, people are queuing, and you can see they are okay with that. I used to send my children, but now when we go, especially in the evening; I prefer to go myself as people are fighting because there isn’t enough water to go around.

Sometimes neighbours challenge me when I am collecting water. A woman was abusing me and I said to her I am a member of the CSWG and then she walked away because she knows we are trying to work on this issue. Another time I tried to stop a fight over the borehole and I got hit, and lost a tooth. As a community we are trying to raise money to help and rebuild the borehole."

These case studies from two of our programming locations help to give voice to community members who are affected by differing forms of insecurity in South Sudan. Too often their voices are not heard outside of their communities; there’s often a significant disconnect between local communities in South Sudan and national and international level policymakers. These case studies illustrate a number of the security issues their communities are facing – including criminality, robbery, gang activity, lack of access to basic services and violence against women – and the work they’re undertaking in challenging circumstances to address these jointly, supported by Saferworld and our partner civil society organisations through our community security programme.

Find out more about our work in South Sudan.