By Poni Jeremiah
A group of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in South Sudan, among them widows, orphans, and other women and children, have voiced out that they should be given a say by the media on issues that touch their lives. Severely vulnerable and disadvantaged groups appear to be hoping against hope since the end of the devastating two decade war on 9th January 2005 because they are still suffering and facing discrimination and marginalization in South Sudan.
Apollonia Mathia, Executive Director of the Association of Media Women in Southern Sudan (AMWISS) stated, “my organisation must fight for the rights of women, children and severely vulnerable groups through the media.”
Mrs Apollonia Matia explained that the genesis of suffering, marginalization, and discrimination of women and other vulnerable groups at home, in offices and public places in Southern Sudan can be traced to the negative effects of the long civil war as well as harmful traditional practices.
“We have come up with this organization to ensure that women make informed decisions when it comes to issues that affect their lives like the upcoming referendum for Self-determination of South Sudan”, Mrs Apollonia Matia said.
“This is the only way we can free women and other disadvantaged groups from marginalization and suffering and enable them to enjoy liberty, gender equality, democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law”, Mrs. Apollonia argued.
She said her organisation has adopted the approach of professional journalism training where gender sensitive reporting is incorporated to ensure women enjoy equal space and coverage in the media just like their male counterparts.
“Many times, especially in print media in Southern Sudan, or elsewhere, you will only find a picture of a woman on the front page of a newspaper when she is raped or butchered. But when she does a good thing, she is not recognized. This is typical marginalization”, she explains.
Apollonia appealed to the government and other stakeholders, especially the local and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), to support her initiatives financially to be able to cover the whole of Southern Sudan.
Former Member of Parliament and Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee in the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly, Mrs. Margaret Peter Abudi, urged media practitioners to be truthful in reporting and use the media as an effective tool to advocate for the rights of the marginalized, especially women, children and the most disadvantaged members of society.
Mrs Christina Jada, a widow whose husband was killed during the notorious Juba massacre of 1992, has been struggling for the last 18 years. Said she “The so called War Disabled, Widows and Orphans Commission has inadequately addressed the problem of the 1992 Juba massacre which claimed thousands of innocent lives, among them my husband.”
Above all, Christina said, several efforts by concerned government authorities to focus on the plight of widows have ended without results. According to Christina, the media should play a vital role in reporting unheard issues affecting marginalised groups like widows.She said that should the widows’ situation continue to be deliberately unaddressed by the authorities, she would equest that the Attorney General’s Chamber look into the plight of the widows of Southern Sudan.