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cultural dance #defyhatenow

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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