By Massa Kenneth and Charles Lilley, CARE Uganda
Dudu Grace Edward is a 45-year-old single mother from South Sudan. She had to flee her home and is now living in a refugee settlement in Uganda, where in total, more than one million South Sudanese people have fled. Around 85 per cent of those who fled are women and children.
In July 2017, the other camp residents selected Grace as a so called “Gender Based Violence (GBV) Preventer.” GBV Preventers like Grace help engage the community, raise awareness and show how everyone can work together to support women and girls who are exposed to violence. Grace is one of 80 violence preventers that were selected, trained and supported by CARE.
The first step for Grace and other GBV Preventers is training. Grace became well-versed in gender-based violence concepts, basic counselling, how to raise awareness and how to mobilize the community. The training she received through CARE has helped her to be a positive role model for her community and to make an impact by identifying and helping those who have experienced gender-based violence.
“I am really very happy to be working with CARE. They trained us well. I had had some training from other agencies, but when I attended CARE’s training I understood GBV better,” Grace says. “Every time we need support, the CARE team responds immediately. When I put on the T-shirt, the community easily identifies me with CARE and I feel happy. I really want to be a good role model.”
Annet (her name has been changed to protect her privacy) has a story that is all too common in Grace’s community. She was travelling with 20 people, including her two children, as well as her sister's two orphaned children. They were stopped by armed men many times. One of these times she she was taken by them into the bush and was raped.
After she arrived in Uganda, Annet had a very difficult time settling into her new environment. While some neighbours did their best to help her, she was sick and was traumatized by what happened to her on her journey. Her daughter was also very sick. She started thinking about suicide or going back to her home in South Sudan.
However, Annet’s healing began when she met Grace.
“Grace asked me how I was doing, and I started crying," says Annet. "I told her there was no future for my children here, and we are always hungry. My daughter had been sick. I told Grace I might go back.”
Grace told her that she should first consider that her family is safer than back home in South Sudan, that in Uganda her children can go to school and she can feed them.
“Grace told me to be strong. She was very supportive and encouraged me to stay for the sake of my children.”
Grace also made sure Annet is received support. She joined a workshop on trauma healing.
“It took me about a month until I got better. I feel so much more comfortable now,” Annet says.
Today Annet participates in a women’s group that maked bricks for a Women’s Center they are planning to build nearby. She also cuts grass to sell in bundles to use on the thatched roofs of shelters. Even more inspiring is that she is supporting other refugees now as a member of her Village Health Team. If you ask Annet, she will tell you how much Grace and the other GBV Preventers have impacted her life as a refugee.
“I will return to South Sudan if there is peace, but I am comfortable here now because of CARE and my friend Grace.”
One in three women worlwide will experience abuse in her lifetime. You can help raise the voices of women like Annet and support champions like Grace.