2020 was a profoundly important year in South Sudan, as a ceasefire was called following a seven-year long civil war which caused massive instability and insecurity, especially for South Sudanese children. Tens of thousands of children had been recruited and used as soldiers during the war, making South Sudan one of the highest rates in the world.
In response to this extreme vulnerability children were facing, the Dallaire Institute chose South Sudan as the home for its very first field office. Operations began in 2018 with priorities to:
- Build capacity among the national military and police to protect children from being recruited and used as child soldiers
- Ensure a Children’s Rights Upfront approach would be used in the peace process
- Mentor journalists and women-led organizations to mobilize community actors around recruitment prevention
Over the years, great strides have been made to achieve these goals. The Dallaire Institute has formed partnerships with security forces (South Sudanese police and military as well as UN peace operations forces) to prevent recruitment by increasing security forces’ understanding of vulnerable children, especially girl children, and enhance their tactics and skills in the field. In 2020 alone, the Dallaire Institute field office in South Sudan conducted training to over 4,000 unified security forces personnel, providing them with critical information on protecting children from violence.
Gender-responsive training during a global pandemic
2020 saw the Dallaire Institute’s South Sudan office hire its first Child Protection and Gender Advisor who helped create training curriculum on preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers from a gender responsive approach, specifically in the South Sudanese context. The South Sudan office has used that curriculum to hold Basic Training as well as Professional Development Training for military and police, refresher trainings to journalists, Civil Society Workshops on prevention of recruitment to women-led civil society organizations, and worked closely with stakeholders in the community.
For example, the Dallaire Institute partnered with local community leader Mama Sarah to train women-led organizations on women’s leadership in stopping the recruitment and use of child soldiers, conducted community dialogues with chiefs and other local opinion leaders on community action to prevent children’s use in violent conflict, and helped lead a consultation with women civil society actors and female soldiers and police on how women can build alliances across sectors to strengthen the protective environment for children.
Building the Capacity of Civil Society Organizations
With the breakout of COVID-19, the Dallaire Institute’s South Sudan office introduced a monthly radio program called “COVID-19 and Children.” The program engaged the Dallaire Institute’s partners in the Security Sector, NGOs and civil society to talk about the protection of vulnerable children from recruitment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our South Sudan office also partnered with the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) to inform and train 100 secondary and primary school teachers and 50 journalists and activists around the country about the progress of the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement and the prevention of recruitment of child soldiers.