South Sudanese celebrities have vowed to use their influence to educate the public on harmful traditional practices and advocate against gender based violence in the country.
The group of musicians, comedians, radio presenters and masters of ceremonies were brought together on June 16, by Men4Women Organization to share experience, learn from each other and challenge harmful practices in the society.
The entertainers and celebrities emphasized a discussion on gender, power relationship in the society, Gender-Based Violence and how men and boys expressed their power in what is termed as masculinity.
Deng Abraham, popularly known as Dedisco 211, the host of City FM Breakfast Show says a man has a responsibility to build up his family to achieve a specific dream.
But he said this can only be realized if a man is supportive to his spouse and other family members.
“As learnt adults, we should be able to see what the society has put in place as a definition of what a man should be,” he said.
“A man can cook, a man can do other house work, a man can help his woman and sisters and daughters to become better people by giving them a space to express themselves [and also] the opportunities to go to school and all what a woman need to develop to be a better person.”
Presenter Deng, who is also an MC and Manager of an Artiste, said he intends to use his influence and platform to advocate for women empowerment and raise awareness on GBV issues.
“I will put in a little bit of emphasis on women empowerment, touch a few issues on gender based violence we know that it does not only mean women but of course it is both sides.”
“So I think I will give it a little bit of energy as well and the most important thing I will do is my recommendations after talk shows or after the shows I think the elements of a positive masculinity, gender based violence and all that.”
According to UN development agency – UNDP, more than half of South Sudanese women have experienced some forms of sexual gender based violence such as child marriage and rape in their life time.
The agency believes that the country still faces problems with access to justice for victims – with an increasing number of accumulated cases due to limited judicial and legal aid.
According to UNDP, this leads to lengthy periods of pre-trial detention, delayed justice and a culture of impunity.
While sharing his experience with Eye Radio, Samuel Moses or rather Sam’s Si Sam – a musician and content developer said he uses his voice to advocate for social justice.
Samuel, also advocates for the empowerment of young people, he said he wants to see a society where women and men live together in a cordial manner.
“Something that I have been always doing is promoting equality like I write songs that promote gender equality and one of the song is equal opportunities.” Moses said.
“There is a song which says we need equal opportunities and many others and now I wrote recent Kul Sawa.”
He said the ‘Kul Sawa’ track is about to be released and it talks about how men and women need to work together and empower one another for better sustainable growth.
“That is the only way our society can be able to grow when we understand our differences, but how do we put these differences aside and be able to unite forces to work toward one particular thing that can transform us?”
Experts describe Gender-Based Violence as an act committed against a person’s will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships.
It include threat of violence, force and can either be physical, emotional, psychological or sexual or take the form of denial of resources or access to services.
Reports suggest that majority of South Sudanese continue to embrace harmful traditional practices and violence committed primarily against women and girls.
However, Singer Moses said men also experience gender based violence such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and exploitation but are afraid to report the matter due to fear of stigma.
He appeals to men to report any forms of gender based violence that they might have experienced to the relevant institutions.
“As men we also need to speak up on the issues of gender based violence against us so that we are able to balance up the power.”
Media reports indicate rape, forced marriage, domestic violence and denial of women’s right to property ownership as some of the common cases of gender based violence perpetuated in the country.
Lotole Lo Isu popularly known as Comedian Lotole is the Chairperson for South Sudan Kilkilu Ana Comedy, a popular entertainment company in Juba.
He said they are working closely with other artistes and film makers to establish a toll free number to enable men report cases of gender based violence that they might experience.
“Men are crying in a dignified silence, men are suffering but they don’t want to come out and talk about it,” he said.
“Men need to tell the world that they are also suffering, men need to share their grievances across the globe so that it will be known and their issues will be addressed.”
Lotole says men should not cry silently but “we need to come up and tell the world we are also suffering in a given areas.”
“We have put in our plans especially this year onward we will be able to put in our films, we will be able to put in our music to the world to tell men how they should reach out and if you have problem, of course you don’t need to go to anyone.”
“Numbers will be shared you call that it is for free, you call the number and you will be helped out.”
In January 2023, a gender expert called on men and boys who are facing GBV and domestic violence to report the case to the Police Special Protection unit.
The expert claimed that men fear stigma which partly makes them not to report the case or seek a support.
On his part, Kaunda David, the Master of Ceremony for corporate events said the archetype of a man should not be used against women and girls in the society.
According to Kaunda, men are considered among some South Sudanese communities as a king in his family, a warrior, a magician which implies the wisdom he has and also considered a lover.
Kaunda said this strength should be used in a balanced way for the well-being of the community.
“We live in a very unbalanced society or World with unbalanced context that present itself every time to face us,” he said.
“We need to try as much as possible to balance these four archetypes of a man that we have in us so that we are able to create an environment where men and women exist peacefully.”
“But more importantly, I learnt that when we get the spaces as an MC, to MC a function, we need to take maximum advantage of those spaces and create some slots of awareness and sensitization on fighting GBV.”
During the meeting in Juba last Friday, the participants mainly men discussed the basic principles and power within the gender, stereotype associated with the men and boys character.
They also discussed how the entertainment industry can influence positive changes in the society.
Busiri Julius is the Sexual Reproductive health and maternal health officer at the UNFPA country office in Juba.
“Our society gives a lot of power to men, right from the time they are boys and again, they get more powers when they get into spaces where they broadcast information either as presenters in a Radio stations or MC or musicians or Comedians.”
“So in that sense, they have a stage and for some of them every hour, they are talking to thousands and thousands of people who listen to them for information, for education, for inspiration and for entertainment.”
“So as part of this training, our focus was to work with this group of people to ensure that as they do their work, they carry forward the message of women empowerment, the message of a fair society, the message of positive masculinity that require that men are supportive and ensure that the society is safe for both boys, girls, men and women.”
Over the past years, there have been several attempts by the government and development partners to end GBV practices, including by establishing a GBV court in Juba.
The court has so far tried and convicted over 100 felons, mostly young men. The most common crimes are sexual violence.
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