South Sudan: Using radio to educate on COVID-19 and gender based violence

Rachel Adau Gieu "I became a co-founder of WECSS in order to be an inspiration to women and girls"

Name, age, job role, location, how are you working to end GBV?  

Rachel Adau Gieu, 29 years, Executive Director, implementing Projects WVL in Bor-Jonglei State, and Aweil Northern Bahr el Ghazal State in South Sudan.  My work involves empowering women and girls in the Access to Living Standards, Justice and Women Rights Programme by sensitizing communities on the rights of women and girls and people with disabilities.  

How did you get started working to end GBV? Why did you choose to do it, how did you get into it?  

During the long war of South Sudan, I grew up in the refugee camp and the perceptions of our people toward women and girls were really alarming and need serious attention. Many forms of GBV were rampant and this couldn’t allow me to sit back after finishing my studies in 2015. 

I decided to work as a volunteer to a Women-Led Organization and advocate for girl child education. This became an eye-opener for me and went ahead to become a co-founder of WECSS in order to be an inspiration to women and girls who are suffering in a dignified silence in the hands of a cruel world.  

How has COVID-19 changed how your communication or work with GBV survivors?   

Due to social distancing and public health guidelines and measures set up by the state and national governments, it has been impossible to engage and sensitize community members in Bor and Aweil. What we do is to always go to radio stations and address the public on measures of COVID-19 and how to protect women and girls. We also invite few stakeholders to attend meetings, workshops and training with COVID-19 preventive measures in consideration. Since we address people in various languages especially natives, we have won the public interest on the rights of women and girls.  

What are some of the biggest challenges and obstacles you have to overcome in your work and the current response?   

During the lockdown period, when social gatherings were prohibited, WECSS could not continue her activities as planned. We have also lost funding from most partners who were about to sign deals. Besides, most of our people, especially women and girls don’t know their rights and educating them will require some time. 

What lessons have you learnt along the way?  

Social and cultural practices are a major hindrance to the rights of women and girls. This will require time to adapt to changes in the environment as we continue supporting women and girls who are at the risk of GBV. Economic vulnerabilities have a strong connection with GBV as witnessed during these Covid-19 times. Women should have access to resources and this will enable them to overcome all forms of GBV. I also learnt that good approaches can create good relationships with communities where we operate.