The Kabarthe Women’s Group, in front of the peace centre in Pibor, South Sudan, supported by UNDP and the Government of Sweden. Photo: UNDP

Our work as women in Greater Pibor Administrative Area is to promote communities to live in peace and unity,” said Kurkur Lotilem, a Kabarthe elder leader.

In Greater Pibor Administrative Area, approximately 390km from the capital Juba, a group of determined women, known as the Kabarthe Women’s Group, has reduced age-set violence, child abductions, and cattle raids through their dialogues and efforts. For the Kabarthe women, these positive gains demonstrate their power and influence on the community in Pibor.

UNDP, with support from the Government of Sweden, constructed a new peace centre to further solidify the impact of the Kabarthe women on community cohesion and peacebuilding in Pibor. The centre was inaugurated by the Chief Administrator of Greater Pibor Administrative Area Hon. Lokoli Amee and UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Christy Ahenkora.

Chief Administrator of Greater Pibor Administrative Area Hon. Lokoli Amee cuts ribbon at the peace center inauguration ceremony. Photo: UNDP

Moving on, this peace centre can be a model of peace for Greater Pibor Administrative Area. But more infrastructure is needed, such as schools to help communities stay out of trouble,” said Chief Administrator of Greater Pibor Administrative Area Hon. Lokoli Amee during the inauguration ceremony on 23 June 2021. Hon. Amee expressed thanks to UNDP and Sweden for their support constructing the centre.

The leadership, strength and beauty of all the Kabarthe women [we have witnessed] is testimony to the fact women play a pivotal role in society and community cohesion. We must recognise the leadership of the Kabarthe women and elders who chose the location of this centre based on their understanding and knowledge of the level of security. The next time we come here, we want to see growth and development, because the two together can result in lasting peace,” said Christy Ahenkora, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative and Head of Programmes.

The peace centre in Pibor includes a dedicated hall to support community dialogue and peacebuilding, with a capacity to fit 100 people; a common room; cooking facilities and two water tanks. Local organizations, guided by UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion project, will provide vocational training at the centre to help women and community members build income generating skills and strengthen livelihoods. The centre is open to all in Pibor and can become self-sustaining with group coordination.

Joice Arkanyjilo, head of the Kabarthe Women Group. Photo: UNDP

The Kabarthe women started their group under a tree in 2017 in Manyirany, Pibor town, where they met twice a week to brainstorm how to approach conflict and improve social bonding among the Murle, Anyuak, Jie and Kachepo communities. Their approach quickly spread to other villages, including Likuangule, Berteth, Gumuruk, Manyabole and Jebel Boma.

Despite their best efforts, seasonal flooding and rainfall would disrupt the women's peacebuilding efforts. The new centre will specifically help the women and broader communities conduct time-sensitive peacebuilding activities regardless of weather conditions.

Age-set youth violence leads to retaliation and revenge killings, and all are common in the area. Following cycles of cattle raids and child abductions, social cohesion and reconciliation amongst neighbouring communities has fractured.

The Kabarthe women took up the challenge of disrupting this pattern. Together they advocate, amongst other things, for the disposal of weapons and the return of abducted children.

“If there is peace in the country, there shall be no fight between neighbors. If there is peace, children will grow up in a good way: they will go to school, they engage in farming, they will eat, and they will have peace of mind -- if there is peace in the country. This is the benefit of this centre, which we were looking for, so that we can have a space to converge and conduct our meetings,” said Joice Arkanyjilo, head of the Kabarthe Women’s Group and one of the managers of the new peace centre.

Women receive the keys to the new peace centre in Pibor. Photo: UNDP

In 2019 alone, more than 54 children were traced and reunified with their families by the Kabarthe Women’s Group. The women work in coordination with the Greater Pibor Administrative Area’s government and report criminal activities within their communities. At times, the women engage with local leaders to mediate with different parties involved in crimes and conflict. In instances of child abductions, the women work diligently to negotiate handovers of abducted children free from conditions, so families can be reunited.

The peace centre is intended to be a safe place, where the Kabarthe women can grow their effectiveness and expand their reach. The centre will serve as place and platform for the Greater Pibor community to strengthen social ties, pursue productive economic opportunities, and live peacefully.

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