A step toward collective action to end Sexual Exploitation, Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence in South Sudan

Image of Caroline.

Caroline Kibos is the National Associate for the South Sudan Hub. She is a lawyer with a passion for human rights, peacebuilding, governance, transitional justice and security sector reforms. Caroline has worked in the civil society sector for years. Her interest in safeguarding is to help build a safe work environment where everyone feels comfortable and equal despite holding different positions.

Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment (SEAH) is a relatively new concept in the civil society organisation communities in South Sudan today, but what exactly is SEAH?

Sexual exploitation is the actual or attempted abuse of someone's position of vulnerability to obtain sexual favour.

Having sexual affairs with people depending on you for their daily needs, such as food, is considered one of the severe cases of sexual exploitation. It also refers to the abuse of differential power or trust to obtain sex from subordinates, including offering jobs or money in exchange for sex.

Sexual abuse is the physical coercion of others into sexual activity, including rape, sexual slavery, child abuse, and sexual assault. 

While sexual harassment is any unwelcome looks, words, advances, and acts of sexual nature that offend and humiliates another. It includes cat calling, groping and threats of sexual violence, and rape. Where SEAH thrive in the workplace, it creates a hostile, intimidating and offensive work environment.

Considering the damage it can cause, we can see that SEAH encompasses all forms of sexual violence that can have lasting, harmful effects on victims and their families, friends, and communities. It is therefore essential to stop it from happening at all levels. 

Patriarchal norms that rate women lower than men and where men oppress women is the most significant factor contributing to the prevalence of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in South Sudan. The harmful practice is widespread among humanitarian and development organisations and UN agencies. Weak legal systems to deal with sexual violence as a crime and workplace cultures that expose women to abuse and make reporting them very difficult to victims have entrenched the practice within organisations. For instance, the UN's whistle-blower system for reporting abuse is bureaucratic and has frustrated victims. There is also a lack of protection for victims if they come forward, exposing them to retribution from their perpetrators. This is common for temporary and casual staff who end up choosing to keep silent to protect their jobs due to poverty and widespread unemployment in the country. 

SEAH is strongly related to other forms of sexual violence, such as rape rampant in South Sudanese communities. Over 50% of women aged 15-64 in South Sudan have experienced one form of sexual violence or another in their lifetime. Breakdown in the productive family structures caused by years of wars and conflicts have contributed to sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment in South Sudan. Young women engage in practices such as prostitution due to unemployment and lack of opportunities. Conflicts have also exposed migrant populations like IDPs to too many forms of sexual violence. Sexual harassment also happens when women travel miles searching for water and other services. 

At the organisational level, SEAH is predominantly down to corporate cultures that don't provide a safe space for victims to report abuse. Toxic workplace cultures create hostile environments that breed sexual violence fatigue, the state of feeling of helplessness and frustration by victims. This results in a lack of upward mobility where victims don't report abuses.

"Addressing SEAH related issues requires strengthening organisational leadership that creates and sustains a protective environment where everyone can feel safe. Organisations should also provide more opportunities for younger women by addressing the factors that make them vulnerable to harassment. Providing better job security for temporary or casual staff reduces their vulnerability to sexual abuse. Organisations should also cultivate a healthy practice of achieving workplace diversity in terms of gender, age and ethnicity. Aid agencies must put checks and balances in place to ensure they do not harm all levels of their service delivery."

 

Recent blogs

The RSH Nigeria Hub had mentors assigned to mentor selected organisations during the second batch of its six months mentorship program which took place from October 2021 to March 2022. The mentors helped to steer these organisations in the right direction with regard to safeguarding and helped to…
The Syria Resource and Support Hub delivered a 3-day training to representatives from 11 different Syrian organisations in Gaziantep, Turkey in August 2022. This training was a sequel to an initial training held in March 2022.  While the first training  focused on the basic tenets and principles of…
What are the differences between Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment (SEAH) and Gender-based Violence (GBV)? What is safe recruitment? and what are the roles of leaders in ensuring safeguarding? RSH South Sudan Hub National Associate Caroline Kibos and Data Emmanuel, a mentor for the hub,…
Safeguarding has become a more critical part of Jireh Doo Foundation’s (JDF) programmes and is being mainstreamed across JDF thematic sectors and areas of operations across Nigeria. To ensure compliance, a member of JDF’s Board of Trustees has been given direct oversight after an in-depth capacity…
The safeguarding journey for Hope for Family Development Initiative (HFDI) started with the Resource and Support Hub (RSH) in February, 2021. This journey has benefited not only HFDI, but also other civil society organisations (CSOs) in Osun state. This is due to the fact that RSH recently made it…
Our safeguarding journey with the Resource and Support Hub (RSH) span over five months between October 2021 and March 2022. NGF360 was selected for this life-changing mentorship training organised by RSH, and Kabati Baba Tokara (Gender and Safeguarding Specialist) led the mentoring sessions. The…
In the struggle for social recognition, equality and inclusion, a large number of organisations of and for persons with disabilities encounter challenges which interfere with progress towards accomplishing their goals. One of these challenges is the need to design avenues and means of keeping…
Safeguarding is a new concept for many civil society organisations (CSO) in Yemen. CSOs have expressed interest in integrating, developing, and implementing safeguarding/ protection from Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment (SEAH) in the workpace, including policies that meet international…
In October 2021, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the second batch of RSH mentors and learned a lot as a mentor. I learned that organisations should safeguard their beneficiaries, ensuring their safety and protecting them from exploitation while they are vulnerable. I also realised…
Looking back on the six-month legacy we have created together, I am ecstatic. This has been a time of growth for us all, and we are grateful to have participated in the entire learning process. Supporting our mentees at this juncture to strengthen our approaches to safeguarding against Sexual…
Writing on behalf of the Albinism Cluster's South South geopolitical zone, I believe the RSH and JONAPWD's research dissemination so far has been historic. It is the first of its kind in Nigeria's history. The atmosphere was delightful and friendly, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the…
I facilitated a training for BBC Media Action (BBCMA) partners on safeguarding as part of a cooperation between RSH and BBCMA. The training for different partners in Abuja and Calabar brought me up close with media practitioners and the gap in knowledge on safeguarding matters. Safeguarding has…
Recently, the Safeguarding Resource and Support Hub (RSH) facilitated a training for WEWE staff and partners on safeguarding. The training topics ranged from introduction to safeguarding and risk management, to the role of leadership in promoting safeguarding in an organisation. The training also…
As part of the RSH Nigeria mentorship program, I recently facilitated a two-day Staff Safeguarding Awareness Training for a civil society organisation (CSO) I mentor, Community Support and Development Initiative (CSADI) in Kano State. The aim of the training was to increase the safeguarding…
Mentoring is a two-way trusted relationship where both the mentor and mentee learn and grow on a personal and professional basis. It is a reciprocal process of mutual growth. Mentoring has provided me with a great opportunity to lead and inspire people on and increase knowledge of safeguarding. In…
Closing a 6-month investigation mentorship, the RSH recently celebrated the graduation of 8 mentors in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Safeguarding consultant Lucy Heaven Taylor, who developed the programme’s case studies, joined the celebration virtually from the UK and thanked the Ethiopian facilitators…
Aberra Wondimu is the Safeguarding Focal Point in Hiwot Ethiopia. He has more than 15 years’ experience in the humanitarian and development sector and has worked for various local non-governmental organisations. He has experience in capacity building, HIV protection, child protection, care and…
The RSH MENA Hub took civil society organisations on “A Safeguarding Journey” in three different locations, Syria, Yemen and Jordan, in March 2022. The purpose of the interactive training was to improve local actors’ safeguarding knowledge. Participants highlighted that the journey effectively…
Safeguarding has been a topic of interest since the 2001/2002 food for sex scandal in West Africa. Policies have been written and employees sign to upholding these policies, but the question remains: why do safeguarding concerns still often occur in the aid sector? Keep on reading as safeguarding…
Having worked in the humanitarian and government sector, it’s not presumptuous to point out that South Sudan has a challenging environment, particularly for children, women and those with disabilities. Safeguarding challenges increase the risk of harm towards these vulnerable groups. Sexual…
Phil Collins once said, “In learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn.” Mentoring is a great way to contribute to others by dedicating yourself to uplifting your mentee and building confidence. To me, mentoring is about building a relationship founded on shared interests and goals…
What is safeguarding and what is needed for it? Caroline Kibos, RSH South Sudan Hub National Associate has answered listeners’ questions on air with Miraya FM radio station in Juba. Listen to parts of the recording that aired live on the Miraya Breakfast Show with host Sebit William in January 2022…
I joined the humanitarian world in 2015 and had some knowledge on safeguarding. Due to my work experience related to Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) and HIV/sexually transmitted infections, and engaging youth on employment-related concerns, I began to hear issues of Sexual Exploitation,…
The news of the rape of Aisha Umar, a female internally displaced person (IDP) by a male aid worker in Borno State, Nigeria has re-emphasised the need for safeguarding as an essential tool to ensuring that the “Do no harm” principle is imbibed in the work we do. Our primary objective as aid…
Join RSH mentor Oluchi Ihedoro as she shares in this vlog some safeguarding reflections and learnings gathered during an exchange meeting she facilitated for civil society organisations (CSOs) in Lagos, Nigeria. The Safeguarding RSH Nigeria Hub rounded off its first phase of the mentoring…
Prior to watching the What is safeguarding? animation by RSH, I confused safeguarding with protection, thinking safeguarding is about protecting beneficiaries from abuse and negligence inherent in the community. The animation helped explain in simple terms what safeguarding really means and the…
All of us can do our part in eliminating Violence against Women and Girls, Nigeria Hub Senior Advisor Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi said on Click Naija FM on 10 December 2021. Dr. Nwadinobi discussed 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, and the mission of the RSH Nigeria Hub. Wearing orange…
What’s the difference between protection and safeguarding? What are some essential steps organisations need to take to become safer? Oge Chukwudozie, RSH Nigeria Hub National Associate has answered key questions on air with Kapital FM radio station. Watch the interview and understand the basics of…
Broadly speaking, safeguarding means preventing harm to people in development and humanitarian assistance delivery. Persons with disabilities are a major segment of the community, who are prone to many abuses and exploitation. Apart from sexual abuse and other harm, persons with disabilities…
RSH: What interests you most about safeguarding? Accountability! I am very excited about the awareness that safeguarding is creating which makes everyone, irrespective of position or job description, to have a sense of responsibility in ensuring a safer work environment for all, and in seeing that…
With the new round of the RSH mentorship program kicking off in Nigeria, I’d like to tell you my experiences and what I have learnt from managing the mentorship program. The mentorship goes for 6 months and aims to support organisations to strengthen their safeguarding systems and practices. The…
Involving stakeholders in decision-making may inform safer programming, Farida Umar Jauro has learnt. Following the recent graduation of the RSH Nigeria Hub’s safeguarding mentorship programme, we asked mentee Farida about how her safeguarding knowledge has developed through the mentoring. RSH:…
RSH: What interests you most about safeguarding? The fact that it creates a healthy and safe environment for people to work. Safeguarding is about creating an environment where people are not only safe from harm, abuse, and exploitation but also where they have choice, control, and information to…
The RSH Nigeria Hub has recently had a roundtable meeting with leaders of civil society organisations (CSOs) and asked about the benefits of having a good safeguarding system. The participants also discussed challenges and their own role as leaders in strengthening and promoting safeguarding…
Semhal Getachew is the National Associate for RSH in Ethiopia. She has an academic background in law and social work and has over 18 years experience working on gender equality and women's rights in Ethiopia. Most of her work experience combines carrying out practice-based research to support…
What interests you most about safeguarding? I have a passion to advance and protect children and vulnerable adults from all forms of abuse and sexual exploitation. What are some recurring safeguarding questions/topics in your region? In consultancies I've undertaken, both inside and outside of…
Manu Samuel Seth is giving us an overview of the risk assessment and management tool developed by the RSH Nigeria team, and top tips on how to make the most of it. Download the risk assessment and management tool and the guidance on our page here. To view the recording and slides of the Live Q&…
RSH: What interests you most about safeguarding? The possibility of creating sustained behavioural change and an alternative way in envisioning the wider change in our ultra-conversative communities. RSH: What are some recurring safeguarding questions/topics in your region? We have a number of…
I’ve had some mentoring and coaching experience in the past, and I believe that for the benefit of the mentees, you have to put your feet in their shoes, especially when they are facing challenges. The Safeguarding Mentoring Training provided by the RSH has helped me to be more confident in…
Meet Lola Adeola-Oni, Chair of the safeguarding National Expert Board Oge Chukwudozie is the National Associate for the RSH Nigeria Hub and a safeguarding/protection professional, with over 15 years experience in the aid sector. During her career, Oge has worked in various thematic areas but her…
The RSH Nigeria mentors have a virtual monthly meeting to celebrate progress and problem solve safeguarding challenges. In April, mentor Julie Adegbesan described how a lack of dedicated donor funds made it difficult to access funds for safeguarding training. Listen to Julie ask mentor Oluchi…
Safeguarding is a journey and wherever you’re on it, there’s always room to pause, reflect, assess, improve, and repeat. The idea of the RSH mentorship programme is to support organisations whether they’re just starting out or improving their practices to efficiently safeguard the people they seek…