AWEPA has embarked on a programme to strengthen the capacity of 10 Local Councils in Central and Western Equatoria States. The states include: Yambio, Nzara, Ibba, Maridi, Mundri West, Mundri East, Mvolo, Lainya, Yei River and Juba County. Using a two-pronged strategy of trainings and outreach, AWEPA has reached out to various communities in South Sudan.
In January and February 2015, outreaches were organized to various counties. Not only did the outreaches offer a forum for the local community to interface directly with their local leaders but it also brought to the fore the issues that the communities feel very strongly about.
In the outreaches to Lokiliri Payam (Juba County), Sakure Payam (Nzara County) and Nabanga Payam (Ibba County) in Central and Western Equatoria States, AWEPA and the local Councilors interacted with the community on the topic of girl child education. The emphasis being sensitizing the community about the importance of girl child education, the dangers of early marriage and the importance of good hygiene among the community
These communities were deliberately targeted following a request by the Councilors to intervene and see how the community can be helped in addressing the problem of school dropouts, particularly among the girl child.
According to World Bank statistics, South Sudan has a female literacy rate of 16%, one of the lowest in the world. A sad picture is compounded by practices such as early marriages and beliefs that look at the girl child as a source of wealth or income through marriages. Lack of sanitary towels for girls and good sanitary facilities at schools even exacerbates the situation. These were but just some of the issues raised by the community as a reason for the sad state of affairs for the girl child in these counties. It was agreed that community sensitization on early marriages be scaled up, grants be provided to support girl child education and by-laws be enacted by the Legislative Council to address the problem.
AWEPA also conducted outreaches on Conflict Resolution and Peace Making in Mugwo Payam, Yei River County, one of the areas greatly affected by inter clan conflict in South Sudan. The purpose of the outreach was to sensitise the community about conflict resolution mechanisms and peace building initiatives but also offer the community a forum to identify some of the issues which tend to drag them into conflict; the outreach also offered a forum for councilors to consider some of the issues that would be raised during the interaction with the community with a view of tabling Bills, Motions or By-laws that enhance effective service delivery to citizens.
During the interaction, the community identified some of the issues that drag them into conflict as being: land grabbing, use of mob justice to settle disputes, absence of law enforcement agencies like the police and courts of law, unemployment, and poverty and among others.
This was a great step in the right direction to address conflict at the lowest level through outreach. What is left now is for the community leaders to devise strategies to address the root cause of conflict in their community, and this could take the form of policy formulation at National, State or County level. Other outreaches conducted were to Nadengere Payam in Yambio County on Agriculture and Environment Conservation.
Apart from outreaches, in March 2015, AWEPA conducted Training of Trainers (TOT) on Conflict Sensitivity and Awareness for Local Councils in Juba. A similar training was also conducted for AWEPA staff in Kampala.
In the coming month, AWEPA plans to organize a training for Councilors on Conflict Sensitivity and Awareness, Training on Legislation and also conduct outreaches to other payams in South Sudan.