From the persistence of brutal civil wars, to the rise of violent fundamentalist organisations like ISIS and Boko Haram – the women served by Women for Women International (WfWI) live in some of the world’s most dangerous places. Where conflict takes root, women often bear the brunt, targeted with sexual violence, increased domestic violence, oppression, or purely the daily struggle of feeding and clothing their families. WfWI is helping to change this situation. By teaching women about their rights, how to earn and save money, to have a better understanding of health and wellbeing, and teaching them the vital skills for income generation, WfWI empowers women with the skills to access livelihoods and protect their rights. By telling the world about women’s realities and achievements, the charity keeps these issues at the top of the news and development agenda. Since 1993, WfWI has supported nearly 429,000 women in conflict-affected countries to help re-build their lives.
Women in South Sudan have survived decades of violence, lack of opportunity, and traditional customs that curb their rights. As a result, only 16% of women are literate, 57% of female-headed households live in poverty and over half of girls are married before the age of 18. Funding from ICAP Charity Day 2014 in London has supported 140 marginalised South Sudanese women to take part in a transformative year-long social and economic empowerment programme and funded a pioneering programme to train South Sudanese men on women’s rights.
I am a happy woman after learning my new baking and business skills. I can now save money, pay for my kids school fees, and help my family.Kiden, mother of six and WfWI participant, Yei River County.
Women from the Yei River County took part in fortnightly life skills training sessions throughout the year. Topics covered included: how to earn an income, save, and manage household finances; how to prevent disease and improve their families’ health; women’s rights within the laws of South Sudan and becoming more involved in decision-making; and the importance of working together in groups and social networks.
WfWI-South Sudan extends our deepest thanks to ICAP Charity Day for their donation, which enabled us to reach many women and men affected by war in Yei River County of South Sudan.Agnes Comfort, WfWI-South Sudan Country Director.
Joyce, grandmother and WfWI participant, from the Yei River County said: “Through the training on women’s role in development, gender equality, advocacy, communication, numeracy, entrepreneurship, hygiene and sanitation, I realise that I was living in total darkness but now I am seeing a bit of light.”
Since attending this training my behaviour and my wife’s behaviour has changed for the better. There is more communication. We can now manage our family problems better. I am learning about the importance of allowing girls to finish school, and am against early marriage.Obadia, men’s engagement participant, Yei River County.
Alongside this, women learnt vocational and business skills so they could transform their new abilities into earning a sustainable income. Women in one community, who had trained in agriculture, came together to form a group business. They are now working to market their produce together so they can secure better prices.
WfWI has learnt that, if women are truly going to be able to flourish, it is essential to engage men as allies. Funding from ICAP’s Charity Day in 2014 also enabled the charity to develop a vital training programme and curriculum about women’s rights and role in the community for men in South Sudan. This programme seeks to encourage male partners and relatives to support women participants of WfWI’s year-long training to put their new skills into practice; provide male partners with knowledge on women’s rights and the vital role she plays in society; and alter men’s attitude towards women’s empowerment so that they speak up for gender equality in their communities. WfWI then piloted quarterly discussion forums and monthly training sessions with 661 South Sudanese men, a sample of whom completed tests before and after their training to assess changes in knowledge. After completing training, 74% of men rated their knowledge of women’s rights and roles in the family and community as high, compared to just 16% before training.
Below are some results taken from a sample of women who completed WfWI’s training programme in South Sudan in 2015. The data reveals that graduates reported making gains in their ability to earn income, participate in supportive social networks, improve their health and well-being, and actively participate in their families and communities. Specifically, upon completion of the programme:
- Women’s reported average monthly income rose from $8.17 at enrolment to $22.67 at the end of the year;
- 96% of women reported having knowledge of reproductive health, compared to 21% at enrolment;
- 83% of women reported that they participated in a local women’s association, up from 28% at the start;
- 88% of graduates reported participating in household financial decision-making, compared to 57% at enrolment; and
- 78% of women reported having knowledge of their rights, up from just 4% at enrolment, and 68% of women said they had shared this knowledge with other women.
ICAP’s donation has given a new lease of life to the women who have taken part, giving them the knowledge, skills and confidence to make real change in their lives for both their families and their community.
All images are courtesy of Charles Atiki Lomodong Photography.