As we wrap up the Humanitarian, Early Recovery, and Development program, which ended December 2023, we’re celebrating one of the peace achievements that happened as a result of the program.
In many of the countries where we supported partners through this program – South Sudan, northeastern Nigeria, and DR Congo, for example – peacebuilding and social cohesion activities are closely linked with development.
When conflict broke out between communities along the border of South Sudan and Uganda, Tearfund South Sudan (Tearfund) reported that for the first time, women were invited to join elders and other male leaders for inter-community peace negotiations.
Why? For three years, Tearfund provided their Transforming Masculinities training for men and community leaders, shifting perspectives on the roles of women and men in community decision-making. They also engaged women and men as gender champions – agents of change to model more equitable gender relations.
“We allowed the communities to select these people, based on the criteria we explained, so they were able to pick leaders that are the problem solvers and faith leaders of their community,” says Juan Roseline, Tearfund’s gender protection officer.
After training the gender champions on how to address and reduce gender inequalities, these gender champions “acted as our focal point,” says Roseline, and quickly gained the confidence of their fellow community members.
“We were pleased that women leaders were able to participate in the peace negotiation. That is the first of its kind happening here, and that really motivated me a lot… the community knew, these are people who make right decisions. The gender champions built the courage of their community, that if they are sent to participate in the peace negotiation, it would yield a positive outcome.”
The work of Tearfund South Sudan has contributed to a more equitable peace process. And, hopefully, a more equitable peace will result in greater stability and prosperity for the women and men of Kajo Keji, South Sudan.
“If I’m changed, I can inspire others, so we’re hoping this will remain a very big positive impact in the community,” says Wori Michael, Tearfund program manager. “It truly can be an impact that will stay forever.”
This story was originally published in the 2024 Winter edition of Breaking Bread. Download or order your copy here.