VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
Neighbor helping neighbor in South Sudan
October 15, 2012 by Terah Edun
|Pauline Dorcus Lamyero is an IRC-trained community advocate in her small village of Imotong, South Sudan. Photo: Terah Edun/IRC|
Times are lean in the world’s newest nation as South Sudan recovers and rebuilds after decades of civil war. Resources and supplies are scarce, but people struggle to provide not only for their families but also for fellow citizens left homeless by the conflict. Domestic violence, rape and child abuse have increased. Tension between South Sudanese who fled the war and those who stayed routinely erupts into violence as refugees return home.
“Last month four people were shot dead and another man’s fingers were cut off,” says Pauline Dorcus Lamyero, who teaches tailoring in the village of Imotong. “The attackers were from a different village. It was retaliation for an assault on a rich man who owned granaries. He and three of his family were killed for their wealth.”
Pauline, one of eight members of the local Community Protection Committee, visited with the mutilated man, who protested his innocence. “The CPC wants justice for the man and others like him,” she says.
CPC members are International Rescue Committee-trained community advocates who work on behalf of the most vulnerable in small villages like Imotong. Their goal is to reestablish social networks by combating discrimination against returnees to South Sudan and by negotiating disputes. They also strive to educate people in remote areas about human rights and provide them with access to justice when those rights are violated.
“The CPC is good because we are on the ground, the people know us and they accept us,” says Pauline, who notes that the CPC works with town elders and local police to ensure that laws are observed and upheld. “Had the attackers known about access to justice they wouldn’t have done such things. In the future, we might avoid such bloodshed.”
She also praises the committee’s efforts to create a more nurturing environment for children, especially girls. “The community is happy to have a female teacher and the young girls look up to me,” she says. By setting an example for her community and her students, Pauline hopes “to spread awareness and change.”
With the IRC’s support, South Sudanese are recognizing their human rights, standing up for them, and working together to create solutions to problems in their communities. By establishing Community Protection Committees and a process for addressing grievances, the IRC is helping to speed South Sudan’s recovery, village by village.