AVSI is currently implementing the project “Women as Agents of Peace in South Sudan (WAPSS)” with local partners such as the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek (DoR) and Women Welfare Agency (WWA), a local women’s rights organization.
Cueibet County in Lakes State, South Sudan, accounts for a highly disproportionate share of recorded conflict incidents within the country. Almost all conflict incidents in Cueibet are intercommunal, related to cattle and revenge raids between various Dinka Gok clans and sub-clans predominating, in addition to occasional cross-border attacks between the Dinka Gok and other groups. The Dinkas are mainly agro-pastoral people, relying on cattle herding at riverside camps in the dry season and growing a variety of grains in fixed settlements during the rainy season.
Cattle raids and revenge killings have developed into a cycle of violence driven by intense resource competition among the county’s overwhelmingly pastoralist communities, an entrenched local honor code, a multi-generational time-horizon for revenge attacks, the widespread diffusion of small arms over the previous 20 years, and an inability of national, state, and local government to enforce the rule of law – including frequent government complicity in local conflict.
While cattle raiding is the most economically disruptive form of violence in the area and a primary source of revenge-claims, incidents of Sex and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) are not only detrimental to individual victims and families, but by eliminating the potential marital value of a female, subvert the dowry system. This dowry system, in which cattle are given from the extended family of the groom to that of the bride, is by far the largest non-violent source of cattle exchange.
In this context, cattle can be considered as illiquid, yet physically mobile, household assets with a socio-cultural importance that raises their monetary value significantly above expected livestock market rates. AVSI in turn views both cattle raiding and revenge killing as complementary maladaptive practices – mutually reinforcing negative coping strategies for resource scarcity drastically altered from pre-conflict norms.
The goal of this two-year project is to contribute to inclusive, just, and sustainable peace in Cueibet County, Lakes State by working with credible local actors, such as the local Catholic diocese, and leveraging traditional forms of non-violent conflict resolution, such as community-based mediation. AVSI seeks not to establish new means of peacebuilding, but rather to support and facilitate those that already exist. In doing so, AVSI is working to increase protection for women and girls from SGBV and the promotion of female leadership and participation in peacebuilding at all levels of Cueibet County, with a strong focus on local peace institutions at the lowest administrative levels.
The intervention will cover the entire county and reach 9,124 beneficiaries, directly and indirectly, including local authorities and with a special emphasis on women and girls’ empowerment and leadership.
WAPSS is focused on accomplishing its objectives while empowering local women and the WWA to participate more actively in local peacebuilding institutions and processes. In doing so, it also seeks to improve identification, reporting, and response to incidents of SGBV at the local and county levels. Two themes are the foundation of all activities:
These themes inform all project activities. WAPSS seeks to use innovative methods to identify and track conflict to better allow empowered community members to mediate it in their own way using what already exists. There are three main components: