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What You Should Know About The Conflict In South Sudan And The Indians Stranded There

By Kriti Rathore:

The youngest nation is in commotion because of the conflict between two tribes – Dinka and Nuer. These two tribes are also responsible for the countries ascendancy and improvement. While the president Salva Kiir is from the Dinka tribe, the Vice President is from the Nuer. United Nations forces have been deployed in South Sudan for the protection of civilians and that is what they have been trying to do since South Sudan became independent in the year 2011.

According to reports, more than 300 people have been killed in the conflict. However, residents of Juba and locals have confirmed a much higher death toll. Near about 45,000 internally displaced people have found shelter under the protection of UN peacekeepers. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon wants the Security Council to take three important steps. These include imposing an arms embargo, placing more targeted sanctions on leaders and bolstering the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force. What is next for South Sudan? Is there any hope for peace or is a peace deal already dead?

A comprehensive peace agreement was signed by the both parties in the year 2015. Recently, the Vice President landed safely at the UN campus and decided to work with the president (Salva Kiir) in serenity and accord. The UNMISS (United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan) campus welcomed him with zeal and enthusiasm. Things were smooth until bullets and bombs were exchanged between the two armies loyal to either side. According to a UN staff member, UN staff had to literally hide under their beds to avoid being hit by bullets. Bulletproof jackets were given to them. They took shelter in the bunkers for most of the time during the past few days.

It is a known fact that women and children are the most affected ones. Murders, looting, rapes are what the conflict has led to. The World Food Programme had a stock in Juba that could have fed at least 2.2 lakh people for a month. However, the military did not spare this either. The whole of the warehouse has been raided which could have been used in times of crisis. Even a foreigner working with an NGO on condition of anonymity has claimed that she had been kidnapped by the army and released after 10 long hours. Those ten hours were more than ten years for her as she was badly harassed.

We must be grateful to the Indian government for taking immediate steps for the evacuation of Indians stranded in South Sudan. The mission has been named ‘Operation Sankat Mochan’. The brave step has been taken by the Ministry of External Affairs under the supervision of General V.K. Singh whereby two C17 aircrafts were sent to the conflict-hit country. This operation is basically for Indians residing in or working outside the UN campus in South Sudan. Approximately 150 Indians (non-UN staff) agreed to board the flight for India. During the second airlift session, many of them did not want to leave. Employment and business concerns were the main reasons that came up for the refusal to leave. Besides, the cost of living in South Sudan for Indians is very low.

The civilians here, however, seem hungry for each other’s lives. Bullets are sold in the market openly and most of the residents carry AK-47 rifles and fire them in case of a brawl. For the outside world, the fighting here may appear to be scary but the people living seem to have gotten used to it.

Although there is a temporary calm in Juba, people are expecting that Riek Machar, the Vice President who has probably escaped from Juba, may mobilise his militia from his ethnic Nuer community to create disturbances in the states of Jonglei (capital Bor), Unity (capital Bentiu) and Upper Nile (capital Malakal). These are oil producing states of South Sudan and if fighting erupts in these states it will affect the production of oil. This will further bleed the already faltering economy of the country. The economy of the country is solely dependent on oil and 95% of its export income comes from it. If the production of oil is hampered it will spell economic doom for the country.

The country is already reeling under a high inflation rate. With no strong manufacturing base in the country, the people of South Sudan are largely dependent on agriculture for livelihood, which again is being impacted due to these regular conflicts and the people are not able to cultivate leading to poverty, hunger and malnutrition. In addition to the deteriorating exports, the imports from neighbouring countries like Kenya and Uganda, have suffered to a large extent leading to a shortage of goods and commodities in the markets and skyrocketing prices. Inflation is increasing by the day and the purchasing power of the people is going down. The South Sudanese pound has depreciated considerably during the last few years. The country is in such a bad shape that its political elite in Juba cancelled the celebration of Independence Day this year that falls on July 9 due to the shortage of money.

South Sudan is the newest nation. When it got independence on July 9, 2011, the international community had high expectations from this youngest country in the world. With an abundance of oil and other natural resources and the support of the international community, everybody foresaw a bright future for this nascent republic. But the country has squandered such goodwill and support in less than five years of its existence. The leadership of the country has failed its people. They seem not to be concerned about the suffering and hardships of its people and are busy pursuing their political agenda. It does not comprise of only two tribes. There are numerous other tribes. It will be unpardonable to spread terror in the name of the tribes as other people also have the right to live here peacefully. It does not belong only to the Dinka or Nuer. This country belongs to every South Sudanese who wants to live in peace and harmony. The time has come for the international community to come together and reign in the political leadership of the country through sanctions, trade embargoes, a ban on the purchase of weapons and political pressure.

Featured and banner image credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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