The RRP is a five-year initiative (2005-2010), including four years of implementation. The largest and most comprehensive recovery programme in Sudan, the RRP is managed by UNDP on behalf of the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan with funding of € 55.8 million; € 49.75 million of which comes from the European Commission, and € 1.5 million from the Government of Norway. A total of 44 national and international NGOs are working together in 10 areas across the country (Blue Nile, Abyei, River Nile, Red Sea, South Kordofan, Northern Upper Nile, Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Warrap and Northern Bahr Al-Ghazal) concentrating on institutional strengthening, improving livelihoods and basic services.
This month’s issue will focus on RRP work in Eastern Equatoria, the richly forested and culturally diverse gateway to Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Although this region of Sudan is beautiful, the lush habitat is marred by the memory of conflict. Torit, and it’s surrounding areas served as the front lines during the war and the reminders are everywhere; from the abandoned trucks and artillery that line the side of the roads, to the ubiquitous landmine warning signs and countless barracks.
Frequent cattle raiding and ambushing increase insecurity; and when the rains come, these dirt roads are simply impassable. Lack of electricity further complicates project implementation in some of the localities. In the absence of mobiles and internet people must travel for hours on the difficult roads just to find someone to arrange a meeting.
But despite these immense challenges, the consortium in Eastern Equatoria, led by Catholic Relief Services, with Merlin, AVSI and the Cathlic Diocese of Torit; continues to focus on basic services; namely health and education. Through close relationships with the communities and a thorough understanding of the unique challenges this region faces, they are showing positive results.
Most notably, the RRP life skills centre in Hiyala is bustling. The programme provides training in literacy, tailoring and carpentry for community members who never had the chance to receive a formal education. The practical skills they are gaining at the centre allow them to create income; and improve their lives.
The consortium has also built schools and hospitals; and provided seeds and training for agricultural activities. With agricultural extension workers from the government on board, many localities are harvesting cassava, and other vegetables to help provide food during the hunger gap that grips this area in the dry season.
RRP aims to reach out to those most in need; and here in Eastern Equatoria
many of these rural communities are isolated, have little support, and
struggle to meet their most basic needs. But because the will of the communities
is strong, the potential is great for the RRP’s successful realization
of peace dividends.
Future Doctors and Engineers Must Include Women
“Women are for cows and marriage”, says 58 year old Luke Mariang, before breaking out into a deep, hearty laugh. He recognizes the absurdity of this statement but also can’t deny that in much of rural South Sudan, it’s true.
In this region women are simply not expected to pursue professional careers, adds Mariang, on a serious note. Culture dictates that they stay at home and take care of their families; and because of this, many young women miss out on education, he says.
Twenty-six-year old Judith Acholia Joseph wants to change these stereotypes and help young girls break the cycle of staying at home. And the RRP teacher training programme in Torit is helping her to do just that.
The workshop, directed by Mariang and called “Strengthening Math and Sciences in Southern Sudan” was designed to train teachers to teach math and science; practical subjects that are key to the successful development of a country.
And subjects that are traditionally pursued by boys and men.
As one of only three women attending the workshop with a total of 50 participants, Joseph feels that it is her responsibility to encourage girls to continue with their education after they get married. And to do that she is equipping herself with the knowledge she needs to teach girls how they can contribute to the development of Sudan.
“I want to fulfill my role as a teacher so that girls in South Sudan can become doctors and engineers, says Joseph. “During the war I was taken to Uganda; where I had the chance to complete my education. When I came back to Sudan I wanted to keep that up, and to encourage others to do the same.”
The workshop is part of a wider effort to overhaul the entire education system in South Sudan, says Mariang.
“Before there was an anything goes attitude,” he says. “But now we are cleaning up education – now teachers looking for work will need to provide certificates like the ones these participants will receive –and it will make it much easier for them to get jobs.”
The workshop, which is funded by the RRP and facilitated by the Ministry of Education, is helping ambitious young teachers like Joseph make a difference in their communities and across Sudan.
Literacy Classes Inspire Soldier’s Search for Better Life
Seven years ago, 18-year-old Majak Boss said goodbye to his parents as they boarded a plane in Khartoum. After almost twenty years living in the capital they finally felt safe returning to their home in Jonglei State.
Since they couldn’t afford to send the whole family by air, Majak was to follow by road, and meet them there; but he didn’t make it.
“The bus I was travelling in was attacked by SPLM soldiers,” he says. “They tied us up and took us to the field. “I have been a soldier ever since.”
Moving from one barracks to another Majak eventually found himself 2 km down the road from the RRP life skills centre in Hiyala; and realized that he might finally have the chance for a new beginning.
“I heard some people talking about the adult literacy classes at the centre and I immediately wanted to go,” he says.
“If I can learn to speak English I have a better chance of getting out of the army, and returning to live with my family. I am not interested in being a soldier. There is no support, no education, and no opportunities for a better life.”
Majak, now 25, is one of the many young adults who come here three times a week for English literacy training. There are two levels; beginner and advanced, and anyone is welcome to join. For Majak and others, this centre offers the only opportunity to gain new skills and forge a better life after the devastation of the war. Many people in this region missed the opportunity for a formal education and the centre fills the gap by offering practical training in not only literacy but in carpentry and tailoring. It also provides a space for people to socialize and make friends from other communities in the region.
“Before this centre was here there was nothing at all,” says Majak as he sits in one of the classrooms inside the centre. “I wasn’t sure if I would ever see my parents again – but learning how to read and write in English gives me hope that I can get the support that I need to leave the military.”
Majak will continue to attend the classes for as long as they are offered; and hopes that activities will continue as planned after the RRP phases out. “I will have nowhere to go if the classes stop, he says. And without this knowledge that I am gaining here I will not be able to gain the skills I need to change my life.”
Signs of Hope in Imatong
Soon after the sun rises in Imatong, the sound of flutes comes floating from deep in the forest. As women carry water up the hills to their homes, children’s laughter can be heard as they begin to wind their way down towards school, their blue uniforms standing out against the lush green background. A woman is setting up sewing machine machines outside the RRP life skills centre. “Students in the tailoring programme should start arriving at around nine”, she says as she looks at her watch.
Years ago there was little to no normal activity in and around these hills; there was only conflict. During this time, residents of Imatong hid in the mango groves, the hidden nooks, the remote peaks; anywhere they would be safe from the violence that gripped their communities.
In the absence of proper sanitation systems, little food and no opportunities to create income, life in the hills proved tough and unsustainable, but the fragile peace and shelter that the landscape provided kept communities living there even after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005.
now, people are finally coming back down; and the Recovery and Rehabilitation
Programme has played a key role in helping these communities feel safe
on the ground.
Inside the centre, young men gather to learn to how to read and write, and outside both men and women are learning how to sew. The RRP constructed school, is full of students – both primary and secondary, and the brand new health centre is waiting to be staffed.
Other entrepreneurial spirits have taken the increased movement in the centre as both a sign that it is safe to move about freely and as an opportunity to create income. On the path that leads towards the centre of Imatong, women who have gathered grass are carrying it to sell. A man carrying a chicken follows close behind. “I will find somebody to buy it down there, he says. There are more people and my chances are better.”
In spite of the painful past and current hardships, the people of the Imatong hills are cautiously taking steps towards a stable future.
RRP News :
- In River Nile, a training session was given on date packing. Twenty three representatives from seven villages attended.
- In Upper Nile, following the great success of the RRP mortar biosand filters; 11 staff members were trained on how to build metallic biosand filters.
- In Central Equatoria, 19 people were trained on the tenets of the CPA and are now educating their communities as part of a peace building exercise.
In Gogrial East, prototypes of cow stop circles were installed at 2 boreholes to avoid cattle destroying the water troughs.