The Program taught me about the importance of building alliances with the national and international community. I also learned that I can make my advocacy stronger through storytelling, doing a proper analysis of the problems and consider the causes, consequences and solutions in all strategies.
All women and women’s rights defenders in my country should work together and with other international communities to make our voices louder. By working as a team rather than competitors our campaigns for our rights will be stronger and better. We should apply power mapping in our struggles and identify our supporters, opponents, and the political context within which we are developing our strategies. We must do this prior to beginning our campaigns in order to make them successful. We must use social media to build a bigger network and increase the number of women in the campaigns so as to make them more impactful.
I also learned a lot through communicating with international audiences especially through attending meetings, radios interviews and panel discussions. This boosted my confidence in all areas, especially public speaking. I learned it is important to be prepared with relevant factual data prior to the meetings. For example researching about the people I was to meet, who they were, and what they did. I also learned it is important to prepare briefing notes so as to save time for officials as they don’t have a lot of time at their disposal.
The audiences were receptive to my key messages and showed that they were willing to help by asking me what they could do to change the situation. What surprised me at times was that some people didn’t know much about the context of my country especially what women and children went through. They were in shock when I mentioned rape is used against women as a form of revenge.
Overall the most important lesson I learned was humility magnifies people’s souls. Most of the people I met were humble, welcoming and ready to listen to whatever I had to say. And this was incredibly humbling for me.
Women’s rights in South Sudan are not at their best. The war has eaten the heart of the country. It has made women vulnerable and they have little hope for their rights. However, with what I learned from the Program a lot can be changed.
The Program has played a big role in reshaping my career and my life. The Program has made me look at life from a more hopeful perspective because it broadened my understanding and knowledge. The Program has also made me consider going back to school to study Conflict Resolution so that I can help reshape my country. Everything I learned was a takeaway for me.
Riya joined us in Ottawa for the 2015 Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program. She completed six weeks of communications and advocacy training alongside two young women activists from Burma and Honduras. Riya is now continuing her work to promote women’s rights in South Sudan.