Women, Peace and Security
The Leaders of Peace project aims to create a more empowering and inclusive environment in South Sudan, where women and girls feel safer, stronger and better able to realise their rights. Through community-based mental health and psychosocial services, HealthNet TPO helps women, youth and communities affected by conflict heal. Responding to these needs is essential for building peace, and the role of women in this is significant.
Harmful Gender Norms
Women and girls in South Sudan cannot fully contribute to local and national processes for sustainable peace due to high levels of insecurity and harmful gender norms. Ongoing intercommunal conflicts, a lack of work opportunities and high rates of alcohol abuse all have repercussions on the health and psychosocial wellbeing of women and youth.
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is one of the most critical threats to the protection of women and youth in South Sudan. Weak governance and high levels of impunity means that perpetrators of SGBV are not prosecuted. Survivors carry the burden of fear, stigma and often have sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
Psychosocial Focal Points
Psychosocial focal points (PFPs) are our local agents of change. As trained members of their communities, they support the mental health and psychosocial needs of women and youth in their communities. They are often the first point of call for women and girl survivors of SGBV, and support them at all stages to get back on their feet.
The role of the PFPs include:
- Mapping out the needs and services within their communities.
- Develop referral systems to connect people with health facilities, specialised support services for SGBV, legal support and protection services.
- Provide psychosocial support to women and girl survivors of SGBV and individuals with mental health concerns.
- Raise awareness of mental health through women and youth groups, schools and community outreach, and promote self-care and healthy living.
HealthNet TPO links formed community support groups to regional and national advocacy processes for peace and security in South Sudan, and accompanies them in the process following evidence-based approaches.
"After training to become a psychosocial focal point, I now support young girls in secondary school to voice their concerns. In my community, there are not enough female teachers who could listen to the young adolescent girls and the challenges they go through."
Alice, an Agent of Change and Psychosocial Focal Point in Nimule, South Sudan.
Modi is one of over 50 PFPs helping women and girls in her community in Yambio, South Sudan.
After surviving an abusive marriage herself, Modi left her husband and decided to return to school, all while supporting her daughter. Now, she uses her experience to help other women living with abuse in her community, and provides psychosocial support as a PFP.
Modi advocates for women’s rights and brings women together to share their experiences, form strong bonds and support one another. She has been creating awareness on issues of SGBV and believes that every woman deserves the opportunity to work and make a living for herself, free from violence.
“The training I received on gender-based violence case management and psychosocial support looked into most of the issues that are affecting our people in the community. I’m glad to have been part of this training because so much came up that I can reflect back to. Now I am equipped with the right knowledge to go help my people in the community.”
Self-care is an important part of feeling healthy, mentally well and able to carry out daily activities. For women living in challenging circumstances, practicing self-care equips them with the tools and techniques to cope better with daily stressors, allowing them to take a central role in their own health and wellbeing.
As one of the activities of the PFPs, community-based training on self-care is held with women and youth groups. HealthNet TPO staff with the PFPs, raise awareness to mental health conditions that might affect them, including anxiety and depression, and facilitate learning on understanding and managing stress.
During one training, women in Terekeka County were led through a deep breathing exercise, focusing on the breath to relax the mind and body – an exercise that they could practice at home.
This training is just one of the ways that HealthNet TPO is supporting women and youth at a community level to improve their wellbeing and mental health. By bringing women together through these groups, networks and support systems are made, fostering collective healing.
Champions of Change
Champions of Change engages with youth to promote gender equality and girls’ rights. Led by our partner organisation, Plan International, school activities empower girls to know their rights, engage with boys to promote gender equality and encourage peer-to-peer mobilisation on social change.
HealthNet TPO has established a School Health Corner within some of the primary and secondary schools, offering mental health and psychosocial services and sexual and reproductive health services to girls and boys.
Here, girls and boys can learn about their wellbeing, mental health and sexual and reproductive health. The health corner is creating a safe space for children and youth where they can find support during tough times.
Weekly sessions across multiple schools encourage discussions on gender, and girls and boys talk about some of the inequalities they may have seen at home and even in school. The sessions encourage girls and boys to build their knowledge, attitudes and skills based on their own lived experiences. By providing a mental health and psychosocial support element, HealthNet TPO is ensures the girls and boys are protected and supported throughout these discussions.
The Leaders of Peace programme is carried out under the framework of the Dutch National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security and as part a consortium of national and international NGOs, including Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA), EVE, PAX and PLAN International.