Even within families, the effects of conflict and hunger can be very different. Often, women are primarily responsible for childcare, the collection of firewood for cooking, and feeding their family. In conflict, this can make them particularly vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence, as well as less visible forms of violence and discrimination.
In discussions across Bentiu’s PoC, women consistently reported that they face the risk of rape if they venture out of the site in search of firewood. “Sometimes women go to collect firewood. When they go outside, people attack and rape them,” a woman in a mother-to-mother support group told Concern. Tragically, this is a near-daily task for many women, who collect firewood both to use for their own household cooking, and to sell or trade for food within the site. Because of this, many of the women had experienced this threat multiple times.
In spite of all the hardships they face, mothers remain hopeful for a brighter future, and focused on the well being of their children. One young woman visiting a Concern nutrition centre supporting mothers spoke for her group when she said: “Our hope is that the country will be at peace. Peace brings good life and good health for children”.
Women can also face less visible forms of discrimination and violence. In Aweil North, a 21-year-old mother recounted her experience of the economic strain the crisis in South Sudan had put on her family, and the resulting violence she had experienced:
This example shows some of the hidden ways that women and girls suffer as a result of conflict.
The accounts above highlight the profound needs and challenges facing communities affected by conflict and hunger – from the direct impact of violence restricting movement and preventing humanitarian access, to the indirect consequences of conflict on community coping strategies and gender roles. However, the stories also reflect the strength, resilience and hopes of communities who have survived extreme violence and are committed to building a brighter future. It is important to remember that even people who have been victimised in violent conflict remain active agents in rebuilding their lives and a more stable, prosperous future for their families, communities and country.