Women from Rejaf Payam Learning How to Resolve Disputes in the Face of Community Food Scarcity

Mar 28, 2017

Women from Rejaf Payam at the Conflict Analysis and Mediation training organized by UNDP in partnership with South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission. Photo: © UNDP

Muja Rose Zacharia is a mother of four children.

“My husband has a new wife. He left and he doesn’t support me anymore. I am carrying alone the responsibility of taking care of my children,” says Muja.

Vivian Esisma Toto is 25 years old and has 2 children.

“My husband is in Wau. I am in Juba and I cannot [just] wait for him [to provide for my family]. I am just at home, but I want to work to develop myself and be an empowered woman, get money and have an activity to support myself and my children,” affirms Vivian.

According to UNHCR, in early July, fighting concentrated in Juba forced as many as 36,000 citizens to flee their homes. Although some of these displaced people have returned, the humanitarian situation in Juba and surrounding communities remains serious. Many households are facing food insecurity and malnutrition both in rural and urban centres, including in the country’s capital Juba. According to FAO, roughly 360,000 of the estimated food insecure population are the urban poor living in Juba, Wau and Aweil towns, who are most affected by the economic crisis, diminished livelihood opportunities, and high cost of food. The violence in July also disrupted many local small-scale economic livelihoods. Hundreds of families relocated to the outskirts of Juba city and UNMISS Protection of Civilian Sites (POCs) to seek safety and protection with the host communities. Muja and Vivian are part of the host community in Rejaf County from within Juba municipality.

“I am a teacher in the school.  The salary helps but it is not enough to feed my family,” explains Muja.

The repatriation of thousands to their home counties affected the normal market's supply of food and essential commodities, according to the administrator of Rejaf Payam.

“I used to sell flour and rice imported from Uganda in the market in Munuki. The business was going well but after July [crisis] the prices were very high and I had to close my shop. Now I do not have any source of income, but I believe if I get a place in the new market I will be selling local products and vegetables. I will again have a source of income to sustain my household,” says Loful Ikang, another woman from Rejaf.

The diverse ethnic groups settling in Rejaf rely on rural farmers and host community food supply to the markets in Gumbo Area Council. However, the existing market structures are limited considering the large population displaced in Gumbo and Rejaf Town Councils.

“We are so many people now, and there is not enough food. We don’t have the means to create a business so that we can give something to eat to the new people coming. We don’t even have enough food for our own families, and this is becoming a problem. The situation is getting tense between my community and the newcomers,” explains Muja.

As part of UNDP’s Integrated Crisis Response Plan, the Community Security and Arms Control project (CSAC) is supporting the construction of a new market in Rejaf which aims to enhance livelihoods and promote peace as an immediate response to build peaceful coexistence and relationships between the host communities and the displaced populations.

regaf_2New market facility in Jondoru under construction. Photo: © UNDP

“The market will bring people together so that they can focus on what connects them rather than what divides. Women are the most affected in this conflict, and at the same time they are agents of peace, so this market will be used and managed by women from the host community and IDPs,” says UNDP Project Manager Judy Wakahiu. “This new vegetable market will consist of 72 stalls, toilet blocks, a vegetable washing area, an elevated water tank, and a solar lighting system, and is expected to serve approximately nine thousand residents.”

Given the complexity of the population and with the aim of promoting peaceful coexistence, CSAC, in partnership with South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission, also conducted a three-day training to equip the women with conflict resolution and mediation skills in preparation of the new market.

regaf_3UNDP project manager Judy Wakahiu (left), Hon. Betty Oboy from the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission, Rejaf Executive Administrator Joseph Loro, and Executive Director of the National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation William Ongoro (right) address the female residents of Rejaf Payam. Photo: © UNDP

“We believe problems are part of life and trying to solve them is also part of life. Not every woman will have a place in the market, and that will be the first problem, but that is why we are here to teach them a way to resolve problems peacefully,” says member of South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission Hon. Betty Oboy. “This facility requires cooperation. Women need to come together, so that they can be an example to others and live in harmony and peace in their community. All of us belong to this land, we are all South Sudanese and you are leaders for peace,” she explains, while addressing the women participants of the workshop.

Under the theme “Enhancing Community (Peace-builders) Effective Participation in Conflict Resolution through Mediation, Dialogue, and Negotiation,” 150 women from Jondoru have received skills in mediation and non-violent approaches to conflict resolution. The training provided the opportunity for women to acquire knowledge and skills needed to confidently mediate and resolved local disputes in their families and communities.

“I am very happy for all the people who support the construction of this market and the people of my community. Jondoru is now divided into two, residents and displaced, but I believe women are the symbol of peace and they can find a solution to any problem. This market [being run] by women could help to solve the conflict driven due to food insecurity,” says Rejaf Executive Administrator Joseph Loro.

“The idea of business is a relatively new idea for us in South Sudan. It has been always associated with our brothers [in Uganda and Kenya], but if we engage in business we can avoid conflict since one of the main factors that generate conflict is competition for resources and jobs,” explains UNDP Democratic Governance and Stabilization Unit Team Leader Andrew Shuruma. ”Peace starts with women. If they can manage to maintain peace at home, in their business, and in their communities, there will be greater peace in the country.”

With the objective of strengthening the capacity of South Sudanese in mediation skills, participants gained knowledge and understanding of conflict analysis and mediation process and developed the confidence to perform as a mediator in a conflict situation.

rejaf_5Muja Rose Zacharia and Vivian Esisma Toto participating in the Conflict Analysis and Mediation training. Photo: © UNDP

“I am one of the women from Rejaf community. I was serving tea, and I just learned in this training how to run a business in the market in a peaceful and collaborative way,” says Vivian.

“This market will create a friendship. We will work together and we won’t be fighting but developing union,” says Muja. “We have learned how to resolve disputes and problems in different ways. A problem between two friends can be solved between the two friends or with a mediator, or even with a higher institution like the police. I prefer the two first ways because going to the police would spoil our relationship in the community.”

"The origin of every problem are needs, especially the need for food, but today we have learned how to take into account other people’s needs, not only ours, and try to fulfil everybody’s need in a peaceful way for the good of all,” she concludes.

regaf_4Rejaf community members pose at the construction site of the new community market. Photo: © UNDP