Workshop participants gather on a Saturday in Juba, South Sudan to learn about advocacy and peacebuilding with civil society organization, Helping Hands. Photo: UNDP

How can people with disabilities effectively participate and advocate for their rights during ongoing peace, dialogue and governance processes in South Sudan?

Helping Hands, a local civil society organization working in partnership with UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion project, held a workshop on advocacy and peacebuilding for these groups to strategize and strengthen their skills in these areas. The workshop was funded by the Embassy of Sweden.

Organizations in attendance included the Association of Visually Impaired, the Union of Deaf and Dumb, the Association of Physical Disabled, the Wounded War Heroes and War Widows.

The training explored the meaning of key concepts in advocacy, conflict prevention and management. It sought to empower leaders of the organizations to participate in early warning and responses to various causes of conflict and prevention. Lastly, participants shared experiences and information for future engagement and cooperation in peace building and advocacy.

Esther, 24, a member of the Deaf and Dumb Union of South Sudan

Esther, 24, is a deaf member of the Union of Deaf and Dumb located in Juba, South Sudan

“Peace is paramount and it starts with you, the individual. When you have peace within yourself, you can then share it with your family, with your neighbors, and with others. People with disabilities are able to help build peace when they have access to information. We, in turn, can take the information we receive and share it with our groups, especially those members who are in the counties and states. I’m thankful for the opportunity to acquire knowledge which can help the members of the Union of Deaf and Dumb understand conflict prevention and management principles,” she says.

“Conflict is not good, as it separates people. Hearing impaired people in South Sudan are often not in school, or abandoned. Bringing us together is good because it provides an opportunity to share concepts of living well and of overcoming challenges."

Esther previously attended the National Dialogue advocacy forum [for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups].

"I felt truly included in the broader process," she says of her previous experience.

"We want to be included in decision-making and we want our voices to be heard. People with disabilities can be a force for peace but we face challenges with getting information, due to lack of interpretation services available to us. Now that peace has been signed, events like this one are a good step. This initiative provides us with a place to go and to start dialoguing," she concludes.

Philip, member of the Wounded Heroes organization

Philip, is a member of Wounded Heroes, an national organization for soldiers wounded in action.

“Our organization works to ensure that those involved and wounded in the liberation war before, are heard," he explains.

"We are interested in being involved in the advocacy for peace. We are very much concerned about making sure our own societies and communities know how important achieving peace is for our country. Many of our Wounded Heroes fought in the struggle in order to bring about peace for our people," he says.

"The continued absence of peace makes many of us unhappy, as it makes our sacrifice of our lives and our bodies nearly worthless. We have been searching for peace for too long. The people of South Sudan are witnesses to this struggle. The time has come for peace.”

“Many groups should be involved in the process of building peace and stabilizing our country. Our group alone, is large, we have over 60,000 members and are present in all of the states across South Sudan. Through the skills we are learning here, we are optimistic we can continue to improve how we message and advocate as a group, and we are confident our voices will be heard.” 

Facilitators from Helping Hands and participants from advocacy groups pose at the workshop, supported by the Embassy of Sweden. Photo: UNDP
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