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Community voices: South Sudan

"My name is Matilda*. I am 37 years old and live in Warrap State. I have seven children. I am a member of the community security working group (CSWG) and the Deputy Chairperson. Originally, I was from here, but then we lived in Khartoum for some years. In 2011, after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (between Sudan and South Sudan), I returned home. When we first came back there were problems with people who already lived here, but now, three years on, we are part of the community and there are no problems. When we first came, this [area] was bush land; there were no food sources or water. It was not safe but we have worked to make it safe - we can even sleep outside.

In most of the cases that the CSWG deals with, I represent the women. They come to me with issues, and also when there is something they need to know. For example, there was a government labour scheme that affected women so I was in charge of telling them the message. Women come to us with a lot of problems, there are domestic problems but also women don’t have the skills they need so they struggle to get employment.

As a CSWG, we meet once a month. We started in 2012. At first we faced suspicion, people wanted to know what we are doing meeting and what are our motivations; but gradually over time we have built up the trust of the community – it is clear we are trying to do good for everyone. We work on different issues but one that is frequently coming up is around water. There are disputes at the borehole sites; in most cases we can handle it. We are working with people to find a solution, but sometimes when it is really bad, the government has to come in. There is competition at the boreholes, everyone needs water and people do not want to queue – they want to be the first. As there are few sites what you see is children queuing for water, then they fight and their mothers and families get involved and quickly it escalates.

I listen to them and hear their stories then I take it to the CSWG to see if we can solve the problem as a group. There was a case of a man who was drinking and beating his wife. We took it to the CSWG but then we contacted the police and judge who went to him and set a mandate that he must stop or he would face imprisonment. Outside of this we have other issues in the community; there is a lot of theft, particularly in the market places, but now we have a relationship with the police I am less fearful.

We are a committee, so honestly I could not say for the future what we will work on as we all must decide this together; this is how we can motivate people in the future by looking at things together. We are trying to build relationships with the police and communities, but we would like an office so we can keep our documents there. I am happy as I am contributing to the security of the area, and even though it is voluntary, I like the job."

Matilda talks to community security working group members

* Note that names and locations have been changed.

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.