WMC Women Under Siege

Photos: Hope for women and girls in Juba, South Sudan

Juba, South Sudan—December marked a troubling anniversary for South Sudan: Four years ago that month, in 2013, the conflict that has displaced 4 million people began. The ongoing power struggle followed a dispute that year between President Salva Kiir, who is part of the Dinka ethnic group, and former Vice President Riek Machar, of the Nuer group. Devastating allegations of human rights violations, including sexualized violence, continue.  

Life amid the conflict is dangerous for all South Sudanese people—but it is especially so for women and girls.  

Approximately 98 percent of gender-based violence cases reported in South Sudan in 2016 affected women and girls, according to data collected by the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System, a partnership between the United Nations Population Fund, the International Rescue Committee, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  

The country’s humanitarian crisis is expected to get worse as the conflict enters its fifth year, according to the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan released by the United Nations on December 12, 2017. So there is a lot of work to do.  

While many organizations have already created safe places in South Sudan for women and girls—such as women’s centers—UNICEF South Sudan has worked with a few key partners to establish guidelines for these spaces to best meet the needs of communities and aid workers. The results of that collaboration resulted in what are known as “Women and Girls Friendly Spaces,” which were drafted in mid-2016 and piloted in mid-2017. Now, women know they can go to these locations to safely socialize, rebuild social networks, receive support, acquire skills, and receive information related to women’s rights, health, and services.  

Here, some photos of women in “Women and Girls Friendly Spaces” in Juba, South Sudan.

Women gather at a church built by a local organization in Juba. Social workers visit this Women and Girls Friendly Space each week to conduct sessions on gender-based violence, health, sanitation, and other issues.


Women arrive at St. Mary, a cemetery in Juba, which has been occupied by a community and made into a “Women and Girls Friendly Space.”


Social worker Martha Adoch holds up a photo during a gender-based violence awareness session in St. Mary in Juba. “We face a lot of challenges being a social worker in South Sudan,” she says. “People here struggle a lot. They don’t share what they are going through because of fear, stigmatization, and taboo.”


Social worker Judith Okelo conducts a gender-based violence awareness session at a camp for internally displaced peoples (IDPs). The camp, Gumbo IDP, was set up in Juba after heavy fighting erupted in December 2013. Children take part in trauma sessions too. According to a March 2017 report from the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention, there have been violent conflicts in Gumbo’s schools at least three times a week, with more than half of these conflicts due to food shortages.


More from a gender-based violence session at the Gumbo IDP camp in Juba. The camp has registered high incidents of gender-based violence.



Social worker Judith Okelo conducts a gender-based violence awareness session at a camp for internally displaced peoples (IDPs). The camp, Gumbo IDP, was set up in Juba after heavy fighting erupted in December 2013. Children take place in trauma sessions too. According to a March 2017 report from the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention, there have been violent conflicts in Gumbo’s schools at least three times a week, with more than half of these conflicts due to food shortages.


(All photos by Bruno Bierrenbach Feder)


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