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.