Author: Nelson James

defyhatenow bloggers

#defyhatenow bloggers workshop

Report from #defyhatenow workshop with South Sudanese bloggers in Nairobi, 27-28 July 2017

We sometimes forget that our online voices reach a wider audience than just our friends. Team #defyhatenow is reminding South Sudanese nationals that we need to continue working together to make the online spaces we inhabit more peaceful and tolerant.

Having a platform online gives everyone a voice, and empowers all of us to share our thoughts and contribute to global discussions. What you do with the “little big” audience you have is what matters. We are not just ordinary citizens of our respective countries, we are citizens of the world, and in a minute your online message could bring peace or exacerbate conflict in the world offline.

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Kenya is an example of a country where blogging has moved from a revolution to a way of life. The Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) is at the forefront of this transformation. It is a community association of Kenyan bloggers and writers that promotes online content creation & free expression in Kenya.

BAKE connects blogs in Kenya from all areas of interest and expertise. It was formed in 2011 after a series of discussions concerning content creation and consumption of online content in Kenya.

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Topics covered included an introduction to blogging, how to set up a personal blog, ethical considerations, an overview of citizen journalism and storytelling for positive change in sessions from Kachwanya of BAKE, Caleb and Theo of PeaceTech lab, writer and blogger Kendi, with support from our #defyhatenow team project manager and social media manager.

Participants were able to create their own personal blogs, using Medium and WordPress.

The bloggers workshop also focused on strategies for understanding information verification and fact checking. PeaceTech Lab facilitated a session on how to detect and report instances of hate speech and online propaganda on Facebook and other social media platforms. PeaceTech Lab published the Lexicon of Hate speech terms in South Sudan, and conducts ongoing monitoring and analysis shared through the Open Situation Room Exchange (OSRx).

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We all need to be extremely careful about what we share because we reach an audience of more than our friends. Since you have the choice of how to speak and write, it’s important to choose your words wisely, and use them to promote understanding, tolerance and peace – online and offline.

#defyhatenow seeks to support those voices acting against the conflict to go ‘viral’ within and outside the country – bringing the South Sudanese diaspora into the online peacebuilding framework, bridging gaps of knowledge and awareness of social media mechanisms between those with access to technology and those without.

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Mary Apollo on the role of diaspora based journalists in promoting peace in South Sudan

“I #defyhatenow” 

The role of Diaspora based journalists promoting peace in South Sudan. 

We had a chat with US-based South Sudanese journalist Mary Apollo, an Atlas Corps fellow talking about writing and the impact of the Diaspora community in building a peaceful South Sudan.

 

How do you describe yourself?

I am an activist and I have a relationship with words. In short, I love telling stories through the written word (fiction and non-fiction). I have six years experience working with NGOs.

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When did you start your writing career and what inspired you?

As soon as I could spell, I could write. Growing up I read a lot – I still do – and this led me to the Faculty of Arts at the University of Khartoum where I studied Psychology and Mass Communication.

After I graduated in 2010, I worked so hard to get some of my writing published in a newspaper. I got a chance for training in one of the local newspapers in Khartoum, Sudan in the news department.

I wrote about the women who have been facing violence in my society, issues of identity and citizenship, cultural issues and political affairs.

Do you remember the first story you did?

The first story I wrote was about a woman who was abused by the Sudanese government. She was in prison. It’s still a difficult story for me to remember. There is a story I wrote that was very personal to me. It was titled “My Cousin Venus,” and was about my cousin who is struggling with her identity. She is fourteen now. She hates her complexion and her hair texture. She has a complexion I would describe as ebony and it’s very beautiful but she felt out of place, as she was described as a black slave. Most of her classmates and teachers were lighter and had softer hair so her mother had to change her school which didn’t help much. You would think being an African in Africa one is accepted for who they are but “colourism” is more pronounced around here. This would easily lead to skin bleaching in the future. I look forward to the day she will feel comfortable in her skin and hair. While writing this story I talked to my grandmother who was very keen on giving me details on the South Sudanese social lives including identity issues people face.

The story was selected for a creative writing workshop by the public Libraries in DC in 2016. It was a Memoir writing workshop with the writer Marita Golden.

You have lived in more than one country and you have very international experience, what inspires your writing? Whom do you look up to when you write?

I was born, grew up and went to school in Khartoum, Sudan. Apart from my mother tongue, I speak Arabic, English, and French. I studied in Arabic and I have learned the other languages growing up. I have an easy grasp of languages so this makes it easier for me to communicate.

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My family inspires my writing as they are part of my first experiences. I draw from my experiences as a little girl growing up in a politically unstable country. I also try to identify my experiences with the people I meet and friends I make in every new place I visit. I read a lot of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s work; she inspires me with her creativity and fearlessness.

 

You were a fellow at Atlas Corps, what has your experience been like?

I was attending an “Atlas Corps Fellowship”. It’s a leadership training which brings leaders from around the world to be trained and go back and serve in their countries. I worked in Results foundation in the microfinance department. I wrote projects, finalizing reports for the microfinance team and writing blogs.

I loved every minute of it. It has created better chances for me and shown me the impact of teamwork and a peaceful coexistent.

Tell us more about being a South Sudanese journalist based in the US?

Living in the USA is very different from South Sudan. Life here is fast and different. You are opened up to so many cultures and types of people. Voices here are loud and demand an ear. Career life is also exciting and tough all at once. As an immigrant, you must work twice as hard to prove yourself because you went to school in a different system. You also take every shot you get because the competition is so much more. You also suddenly start dealing with a lot of documentation because you do not want to be on the wrong side of the law.

The contest of writing is new and you begin having new personal experiences. This informs your writing. The audience is also different. In South Sudan, while maintaining the facts there is a need for more details in news or stories. Our speeches are longer. In the USA news and stories are brief but still factual and speeches are shorter.

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They cheer you on louder in South Sudan maybe because we are a young country and we are eager for information. In the USA there are many who do what you do, as much as there is support you have no voice cheering you on apart from your inner voice. There is an absence of information about Africa in general here. I have learned this from the questions I get asked. I wish people read more about Africa and particularly South Sudan but I have learned to be gracious and patient in answering all the questions.

 

What do you think is the impact the Diaspora can make in building a sustainable and peaceful South Sudan?

Some people on social media and not just in the Diaspora use social media to spread “hate speech”. This is because everyone has their own channel to share their thoughts on. Be it Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube or Instagram it’s easy to share opinions now. Everyone has a role to play on how they use the channel they prefer. It’s upon every one of us to use our voices to preach peace and not fuel hate.

I did a live Facebook video to ask people to refrain from spreading hate on social media as it’s like petrol on a fire. It’s so much easier to spread hate via the internet than through any other channel, you reach a larger audience faster.

I think it’s the role of every single South Sudanese on social media to preach peace and ask everyone to #defyhatenow.

How do you think the South Sudanese Diaspora community can use social media to defy hate and preach peace?

They can do different kinds of social campaigns. They can also support causes that support their local community but most importantly they should be very cautious with what they post on social media.

What are your hopes for journalism in South Sudan?

I hope there is more freedom of expression in South Sudanese Journalism. I look forward to the day an organization that brings together all South Sudanese Journalists is formed. It will provide a louder voice for the journalists, strengthen the profession and journalists will be accountable not only to self but also to an authority.

What would you tell anyone reading this…?

It’s up to you to hold yourself to a higher regard in terms of maintaining peace. You are not just a drop in the ocean; you are the drop that makes the ocean calm or creates a storm. It’s the same case when it comes to social media, are you creating peace or fueling hate speech? #defyhatenow

 

 

This interview was conducted & written by Kendi Gikunda  . The opinions expressed in this article are the Interviewee’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of #defyhatenow.

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I am Maura Ajak, I report on gender-based violence in South Sudan

South Sudan will be rebuilt by the South Sudanese people. Everyone is passionate about building a little piece of their South Sudan and impacting the country in their own little big way.

This is the first article in our “I #defyhatenow “series. we will be featuring South Sudanese citizens talking about their daily lives and how they defy hate and opt for peace through their work. 

We caught up with the courageous Maura Metbeni Paul Luigi Ajak, an award-winning reporter working for The Catholic Radio Network in Juba, South Sudan.

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Here is our chat:

Have you lived in South Sudan all your life?

I was born in Wau but I grew up in Khartoum, Sudan. I came back to South Sudan in 2008.

I started my studies in Khartoum, where I did both my primary and secondary school certificate at  Combonian Catholic Schools.

What inspired you to become a journalist?

I have witnessed a lot of gender-based violence. I have heard of massive rape done by uniformed men where women/girls are randomly raped by two or three men at a go. Underage girls between the ages of 11-15 are gang raped like they are toys to play with. They lose their innocence and are scarred for life because of such experiences. Being a woman in South Sudan I knew I had a voice and an opportunity and I knew I wanted to tell these stories, so that maybe someone can help. It was my way of helping my fellow women.

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I also happen to speak both English and Arabic which helps in communication and reporting.

Tell me a gender-based violence experience you have witnessed.

One time, early in the morning at around 6:30 AM I heard a woman screaming, “HE WILL KILL ME, HE WILL KILL ME” I dressed in a hurry and I rushed outside. I found a husband beating his wife with a black leather belt, at first I thought it was the guy who sells water as the whips sound similar when applied to a donkey. Looking closer I saw a woman wailing and a man hurling insults at her while beating her, as the men surrounding them watched laughing and encouraging the husband.

Our neighbor grabbed the leather belt and shouted at him to stop it. That’s when everyone left in a hurry. As a woman there was nothing I could do to stop him. I stood there and painfully watched because if I dared to interfere I would be harassed endlessly but it was painful to stand by.

Has someone been violent towards you directly?

Not physically, just verbally and mostly from men. I think for just being a woman with a job and also being a journalist is enough to warrant some form of violence here.

Most of your work is based on human rights and transparency issues and South Sudan, why is that?

I am a woman and most of the cases concerning human rights violations involve women being abused in one way or another. Not many people want to talk about these issues but they need to be told openly to the world.

Underage girls and women who are gang raped need someone to tell their stories to, even if it’s anonymously. I had a case where a girl had been brought to the hospital by the Bishop. She had been gang-raped; her clothes were soiled and bloody. Her body was swollen; she was crying and was inconsolable. I was so angry and bitter with the world. If I was alone I might have punched the air to release the tension but I remained calm because I had to do the story and give that girl strength.

 

What challenges do you face because of your work?

It can be scary especially in South Sudan but I like my work so I always ensure I get my information from trusted sources to avoid complications. It’s also hard to gather sensitive information, especially when it is fresh so I give it time to cool down then I start digging for information afresh.

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You have been recognized and awarded for your reporting on transparency and gender issues in South Sudan;  how did that feel and what does this award mean to you?

I really felt honored, it is a lift up stage for me to do more as a human rights defender. The award has given me the courage to bring up the unheard voices In terms of issues that considered a taboo in some communities.

 

 

 

What are your hopes for journalism in South Sudan?

I hope we have an institution where journalists can gather and get updates on the happenings routinely. I also hope we have a space where human rights issues and sensitive issues e.g conflicts and gender-based violence can reported with the openness they deserve.

How do you think  South Sudanese nationals can use social media to defy hate and preach peace?

We should feel free to share our experiences in a way that impacts the world positively. Childhood stories, old stories from our ancestors and day to day stories showing the progress and steps we have made as a country. These stories would help to achieve peace by creating awareness about the consequences of war.

What would you tell anyone reading this?

No one thrives in war. Most people love peace and peace begins with you and me. Let’s not incite each other and especially with this era of social media let’s thrive to preach peace. #defyhatenow

 

 

This interview was conducted & written by Kendi Gikunda  . The opinions expressed in this article are the Interviewee’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of #defyhatenow.

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#RhinoTalks, South Sudanese diaspora community combating hate speech

#Rhinotalks, Rhino Refugee Camp Uganda

#Rhinotalks is a roundtable forum bringing together different actors and stakeholders from South Sudanese NGOs in Uganda, with journalists, refugee settlements leaders and student leaders. #Rhinotalks aims to raise awareness, explore and develop strategies for mitigating the existence of hate rhetoric among South Sudanese refugees and asylum seeking communities in Uganda.

The Rhino Refugee Camp Settlement is located in Arua District in northwestern Uganda on the outskirts of the country’s largest game park, and has been the “temporary” home to over 55,000 refugees, predominately from South Sudan.

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The event is an action to widen the campaign against online hate speech, with the focus on involving stakeholders and influencers by engaging them to discover their personal roles in mitigating online hate speech. #Rhinotalks also aims to create a series of resolutions to better counter social media hate speech.

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#Rhinotalks was organized by the Community Development Centre (CDC-Uganda), a community-based organization focused on building strong and resilient societies, as part of #defyhatenow diaspora outreach program at Rhino refugee camp.

The event was attended by over 28 participants from civil society organizations, CBOs, Journalists, Youth Groups and  Students from Rhino Camp settlement.

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The participants discussed ‘ What is Hate Speech?’ and examined the role of hate speech in the South Sudan Conflict through personal stories. Focusing on the roles of the stakeholders in mitigating hate speech, peace building, and reconciliation was part of the advanced sessions and the unconference group interactions.

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#RhinoTalks attracted the interest of media houses from South Sudan, with Radio Miraya conducting an interview with CDC’s Development Desk Officer, prerecorded and played on the 14th June at the Talks Event. Listen to Radio Miraya Interview

The event was featured on Catholic Radio Network [CRN], Friday June 16th:

South Sudanese in Uganda Call for an end to hate speech

“South Sudanese in Uganda call on social media users to stop spreading hate speech in search for peace, reconciliation, unity and development.
They criticize that continued circulation of hate speech resulting from sharing baseless rumours about incidences in South Sudan create hatred and disunity, Radio Easter reports.
Students and different stakeholders from civil society and community based organizations participated in the dialogue.
The discussion was entitled: Rhino Talks with the goal of “creating awareness and shared activism against inflammatory speech and direct incitement to violence”.
Bugema University student, Riak Michael, says South Sudanese should not be quick to spread unclear information. He adds that he learnt skills to identify, analyze and counter information that carries hate speech.
Johnson Poru, a student of Makerere University, Business School, adds that he will “responsibly share” with students and online users’ positive messages that promote peace.”  (Catholic Radio Network – Read full article)

Event outcomes  

  1. The event was attended by over 28 participants including civil society activists, refugee welfare councils RWCs, and South Sudanese University students participation.
  2. There was a high level of participation in terms of discussion. Everyone voiced their concerns before the end of the workshop.
  3. The participants showed a positive interest in the project activities and expressed that the timing and content of the project were relevant to them.
  4. The participants agreed to jointly work with CDC staff to monitor and report hate speech to avoid a further escalation of violence among the South Sudanese communities in the diaspora.
  5. Some of the civil society members recognized their role in combating hate speech by monitoring and working to mitigate it through their organizational initiatives.
  6. Youth took the challenge and promised to be agents of positive change and reconciliation among the South Sudanese refugee communities in Uganda

 

“I have learned to promote peace on social media “Eric. J. Moses

 

Johnson Poru , #defyhatenow #RhinoTalks

 

 “I have to speak up and share responsibly” says Andrew Lasu , #defyhatenow #RhinoTalks
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Online & offline hate speech in South Sudan, Illustrations by Hannah Rounding

A series of illustrations made by artist Hannah Rounding. The images are a series of visual training aids produced for the #dehyahtenow . The materials are designed to be used by NGOs, schools, universities, journalists and community groups to create awareness, discussion and understanding around social media based hate speech, the impact of this on the ground and ways social media can be used to mitigate violence.

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About  Hannah Rounding

Hannah is an artist/illustrator and international development professional. Ishe specialises in designing and delivering creative community development projects that span the arts, cultural heritage, media, peacebuilding, education and justice sectors. She has over 10 years’ experience working across multiple countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK.

https://www.hannahrounding.com

I am Bior and I stand for Peace

Bior is a young South Sudanese from Bor town, who is actively engaged in peacebuilding and is part of the #defyhatenow community for the past 18 months.

Inspired by the need for Peace in his community Bior decided to organize a peacebuilding outreach in Bor town.

Bior’s passion for peace is deeply held, and despite the many challenges and difficulties, he continues to be optimistic and utilizes every chance he has to spread peace and share with his community. The recent Peace Outreach is just one of the many activities Bior is engaged in.

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[excerpts from Bior’s report]

After two days of outreach from school to school on #defyhatenow, these were the requests from the teachers.

Small sign posts with peace notes. These small sign posts will be used to write important peace notes and spread around the school like the ones the team to Bweyale saw on the school compound. This will help remind teachers, students and parents that come to school and the messages of peace will continue to spread around the communities every day.

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History books. The teacher suggested that if there could be any way #defyhatenow can find encouraging history books on national and community peace building to be given to students to read all the time to give hope and love for their nation they would appreciate that.

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Games and sports. This is the most unifying event that brings schools and communities together, because this brings all students from different schools, tribes, cultures, denominations together to competition among themselves know each other and learn from each other hence peace building come automatically among themselves.

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Support orphans at schools. Orphans are the most neglected people when it comes to treatment, care, school, justice, and more. The teachers said if #defyhatenow can help generate support for orphans it could be better for them to learn and participate in peacebuilding through education and not to think or feel bad for being an orphan.

If #defyhatenow can help to do this the education will spread even to the helpless. These are some of the things we are planning to do in Bor to #defyhatenow.

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