Improving SGBV Response in Yambio Through IGAD Civil Service SupportDec 15, 2017
Survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Yambio no longer have to face the unfamiliarity or intimidation of going to a police station to report the crime. Tucked behind the main building of the Yambio Hospital is a two-room Special Protection Unit (SPU).
“Before this SPU opened, whenever a survivor went to the police to report a crime, we detained both the victim and the perpetrator. Many times, they were kept in the same room together,” said Corporal Eunice D. Enoka, a police officer with South Sudan National Police Service.
Each day Corporal Enoka uses her bike to come to work and leaves her police uniform at home, opting for regular clothes in order to project a more approachable image for the sensitive work required. Corporal Enoka is one of four Yambio police officers assigned to work in the SPU alongside the social workers and is trained in SGBV case management.
“When both police officers and social workers are in the SPU, it is easy for them to consult one another, engage in case conferencing and eliminates the need to travel,” said Mr Moses Kimani.
By locating the services for the survivor in one place, Mr. Kimani says, “we can avoid losing hours before the window for medical intervention closes.”
Mr. Kimani is serving a two-year term as a Civil Service Support Officer deployed as part of the RSS/IGAD Regional Initiative for Capacity Enhancement. His assignment is at the Gbudue State Ministry of Education, Gender, Child and Social Welfare. The IGAD project a solely supported by the Kingdom of Norway and implemented by UNDP and the South Sudan Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Human Resource Development.
The establishment of the SPU was one step in the local effort to boost institutional capacity for victim-centered responses to instances of SGBV and other special protection cases. Survivors no longer endure the humiliation or risk to personal security found when facing their perpetrators during the reporting of a crime.
Through support from the State Ministry of Education, Gender, Child and Social Welfare, the SPU also links directly with Yambio’s unique Children Transit Centre (CTC), located nearby. In cases where the survivors need a safe place to stay, especially in instances of child abandonment, they are now transferred to the child-friendly space.
There is evidence that awareness is spreading amongst the community in Yambio, Gbudue State.
“Instead of being only a medical issue, the community is starting to understand more that SGBV is a police case and where they need to go to get help,” said Wycliffe Simwa Busaka, another CSSO.
“In fact, there was a case of a rape of a girl where they were actually directed to my house. The victim and her family, they found me there. I was able to direct them back to the SPU at Yambio Hospital to get medical treatment and follow the procedures, and also to document it as an SGBV case,” he said.
Mr. Busaka and his fellow CSSOs serving with the State Ministry of Education, Gender, Child and Social Welfare are playing a critical role in building the capacities of the staff of both the SPU and CTC. They are “twinned” with local South Sudanese civil servants to ensure the direct transfer of skills and on-the-job mentoring.
One of their twins is Ramsey Steven, who serves at the Yambio Hospital SPU as a social worker. Mr. Steven is a young South Sudanese graduate who felt a calling to return to his hometown after completing university studies in Uganda. After being connected with Laura Poni, another twin and social worker serving at the SPU, Mr. Steven joined the unit as a volunteer.
“This is what I love to do and I want to be there to help others. It’s not enough to learn about the subjects related to social work in school, you need to gain expertise. With the CSSOs here giving details, giving inputs, I have learned a lot. It has been great having them by my side,” said Mr. Steven.
Mr. Steven says learning how to handle case management in a systematic way and building strategies for interacting with survivors have been the most valuable lessons the CSSOs have taught him.
“Before, I really was not prepared for the different needs of the people who would come seeking help at the SPU. I tended to fear, for example, if a lady came would she be comfortable talking to me, telling me what she needed or not? But now, I feel like I can handle any case that walks in the door,” he said.
“They have helped me understand when, for example, when smiling can ease a survivor or how to handle those who are in bad condition. Some survivors are not good at giving information but you can tell they need help, so you adjust, you go at their pace,” he explained.
Going forward, leaders in the community have indicated a desire to build even more capacity and responsiveness to community needs, including training additional police to serve in the SPU and reduce gaps of service.
The State Minister of Local Government Hon. Jackson E. Buwa has advocated for the SPU, saying at the on-going local Rule of Law Forum, “I want to encourage the cases to be reported and not settled by local leaders.”
The forum, supported by UNDP’s Access to Justice and Rule of Law project, continues to provide regular space to talk about the protection of survivors, children, and methods of determent and prevention within the communities.