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No Peace without Women

06-01-22

Gune Annet Mule Samuel, peace worker from South Sudan, participated in Danida Fellowship Centre’s learning programme “Conflict Transformation and Peace Building” 29 November – 17 December 2021.   We asked her to share with us her experiences, reflections, thoughts and concerns during the last twelve days of her stay in Denmark. Her story starts one week into the learning programme.

Compiled & edited by Arleen Sharon Pushparajah and Vibeke Quaade

I come from Kajo-Keji County in South Sudan, but I grew up in the Mabguru Refugee Camp in Adjumani District, Uganda. This was due to the war. My mother told me the family fled to Uganda when I was one year old. I came back to South Sudan in 2007 after I had finished my education.

Annet and her family. Photo: Courtesy of  Gune Annet Mule Samuel.
Gune Annet Mule Samuel
Thirty-four-year-old Annet Samuel aspires to become a peace maintainer. She is married and she and her husband are raising their four young children and supporting other dependents too. The children are living in Uganda for the time being because of the instability in their home region Kajo-Keji in South Sudan, while both parents are working in South Sudan. Annet holds a degree in Public Health from Mountains of the Moon University in Uganda. She has worked as a nurse and held multiple other positions within the healthcare system  in both South Sudan and Uganda for in total thirteen years before taking up her present position with DanChurchAid as a programme officer at the Department of Gender and Protection in South Sudan.

For the sake of the coming generations of children and youth, I wish to do my part in creating lasting peace in South Sudan. I work mostly with women and youth and, through my work, I strive to empower women. Empowering women is central to peacebuilding, and this can only be achieved by supporting and encouraging women to participate and engage in political life. Since I embarked on my journey to become a peace builder, conflict transformer, mediator and, ultimately, peace maintainer, I have always borne in mind the words of the Hon. Philip Pia from South Sudan’s Peace Ministry:

There is no country without a woman, there is no peace without a womanPhilip Pia
My narrative starts one week into the learning programme. The first week was an introduction to the course by our two facilitators, Mie Roesdahl and Bjørn Nygaard, and to the definitions of the various concepts that would be discussed throughout the programme. We were twenty people from different countries who participated in the programme. The twelve days I am writing about were full of group work and exercises to make us familiar with the concepts and tools of conflict transformation. This learning method and the action plan we developed during our training course will help us apply the new knowledge we have gained and implement our action plans in our work back at home.
South Sudan
South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, is facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world right now. Several years of civil war, conflict, internal displacement, and drought have left the population in acute distress.

Click on the date and link below to read about Gune Annet Mule Samuel day by day learnings and reflections during her time in Denmark.

Monday 6 December, Three Traffic Lights to Conflict Resolution
Today we learned about the theory of the “Three Traffic Lights to Conflict Resolution”, a tool to apply in a conflict situation where we need to change the power dynamics. Red light: Stop – do not get carried away by your emotions. Yellow light: Think about what to do. Green light: act by either finding a compromise or a win-win solution. I quickly realised that I was already practising this method both at work and in the family, especially with one of our maids. I always try to be calm and listen to their explanations before assuming and accusing anyone of anything. It was very encouraging that it is an acknowledged tool in conflict transformation.

Annet doing homework at her room at Danida Fellowship Centre. Photo: Arleen Sharon Pushparajah.
Tuesday 7 December, Mediation on the agenda
Mediation was on the agenda today. Shortly after the training we went into our groups and practised mediation skills. In my group, there were two people from Kenya, one from Mexico and myself. I was the mediator. I was asked to use my preliminary action plan on the conflict between the farmers from the Nubba Mountains and the pastoralists who are the host community in Yida. After the exercise my trainer applauded me and told me that I had understood the concept of mediation very well. It was such an interesting and relevant topic for me in terms of the conflicts that we have in South Sudan.

Annet at her DanChurchAid office.  Photo: Courtesy of Gune Annet Mule Samuel.
Wednesday 8 December, Stepping-stones for my action plan
Today I learned useful skills for facilitating conflict transformation. Again, this was relevant to my action plan on empowering women and youth and supporting them in becoming peacebuilders. Moreover, I learned about democracy and Deep Democracy. Deep Democracy is the belief that all voices must be heard to solve the problems that we face as individuals and groups. At the same time, it is a method for working with groups or conflicts. This becomes very relevant when working with women and youth, as it is often they who are disenfranchised and their voices we do not hear in decision making processes. This new knowledge is the foundation of change making. I will try to use it as a stepping-stone for my action plan because I truly believe that all voices, also the marginalised, must be heard for peace to prevail.

A lecture at Copenhagen University by Professor Jens Emborg. Photo: Arleen Sharon Pushparajah.
Thursday 9 December, Examples to disentangle land-dispute conflicts
I learn something new every day that I am able to use in my daily work in South Sudan. Today, the most interesting was the assessment and analysis of conflict. We also had a lecture at Copenhagen University by Professor Jens Emborg who impressed me – he has done extensive research on conflict resolution in countries in Africa. He spoke about conflicts concerning natural resources e.g. land disputes. I was inspired and I want to try to use these examples and tools in terms of conflict mediation in the context of South Sudan.

Outside Danida Fellowship Centre. Photo: Arleen Sharon Pushparajah.
Friday 10 December, My children are missing me
Today was nice. I got to speak in depth with three other course participants from Mali, Myanmar and South Sudan. It was nice to share stories about our personal lives. In the evening, I called my children. They are missing me and asking many questions. They want to know when I will be home again. My youngest daughter said, “I don’t want to speak with you because you won’t come and see me.” My oldest son said, “Can we come and stay next to your school, and then you can come home in the evenings?” It is not easy being away from my children for such long periods of time. However, I need to work to provide for my family and my relatives who depend on me.

Annet and her husband. Photo: Courtesy of  Gune Annet Mule Samuel.
Saturday 11 December, My daughter must go to the hospital
My morning started a bit hectic as I received a phone call from my family in Uganda telling me that my daughter Princess had a swelling on her lips, and it did not look too good. I got very worried. I hung up the phone and realised that I better use the “Three Traffic Lights to Conflict Resolution” tool that we learned in class on Monday. I called them back and told them to take her to the hospital that we normally go to and that I would get in touch with the nurse.

Annet at Danida Fellowship Centre, December 2021. Photo: Arleen Sharon Pushparajah.
Sunday 12 December, Relieved and encouraged
Sunday I woke up a bit later than usual. Our maid from home called and said my daughter was doing better. It was such a relief and it made me so happy. We have been very busy in class, and I have not had the chance to explore the facilities at Danida Fellowship Centre’s hostel, so I asked Julius, who is my colleague at Dan Church Aid in South Sudan, whether he would show me where the laundry room is. Later, when I went to do my laundry, I met a Danida fellow from Ghana who is doing her PhD in Human Resources. I was impressed by her, and our conversation encouraged me to do more studies. We arranged to meet again to talk more.

Annet with her colleague Woli Julius Nyombe from DanChurchAid, South Sudan. Photo: Arleen Sharon Pushparajah.
Monday 13 December, Power, rights, and interests
Today is the beginning of our last week here in Denmark. I was told that the doctor took my daughter for another procedure and that we should wait for the results on Sunday. Given the situation, my husband will go to Uganda to be with them. In class, the topic of the day was conflict transformation using the following: power, rights and interests. I learned that these elements can be applied in any given society and organisation. I have been most concerned about learning skills that I can use at country level. However, I have also learned how to use these skills at organisational level. I will be using this new knowledge to contribute to conflict transformation in our organisation by sharing this effective system with my colleagues.

Annet presenting in class. Photo: Arleen Sharon Pushparajah.
Tuesday 14 December, Excursion to the Danish Parliament
I woke up at 6:00 AM and got ready for our excursion to the Danish Parliament today. As we arrived at the parliament, we received a briefing from Mie and Bjørn. First, we had to go through security clearance and we had to show a negative Covid19 test. Moreover, meeting this member of parliament and listening to her experiences and why she joined politics also made me understand the topic of vertical and horizontal conflict transformation. It is important to include all layers of society in politics: from community level to middle class leaders, to top politicians. There will be no sustainable peace without horizontal and vertical collaboration in the country system.

Annet and course facilitator Bjørn Nygaard. Photo: Arleen Sharon Pushparajah.
Wednesday 15 December, Researchers and practitioners’ knowledge sharing
Today, after class, we had a dialogue meeting with two Danish researchers that Danida Fellowship Centre had arranged to bring together researchers and practitioners of conflict transformation so we could learn from each other, share knowledge and best practices and collaborate better in the future. One researcher’s work was about climate change, conflict, peace and security in Kenya. The other researcher’s work was about a project called “Everyday Justice” in Myanmar. After the presentations, it was time to have an open dialogue. My concern was directed to everyone in the room. How to get help and guidance to collaborate effectively with the Ministry of Peace Building in South Sudan when the people that we work closely together with have not received the same training? I wish more of the people engaged directly in South Sudan’s peace building process would receive the training we have had.

The dialogue meeting at Danida Fellowship Centre  for researchers and practitioners. Photo: Arleen Sharon Pushparajah.
Thursday 16 December, Gifts to bring home from my first trip to Europe
I woke up early to call my children on WhatsApp. I had to make sure that the driver had picked them up and taken them to school on time. Christmas is a busy time for everyone and although I am in Denmark and busy, I also have to make sure that, despite my absence, things are going well with my children. The activities in today’s learning programme were a continuation of a mediation exercise from the previous day. We continued to use actual cases from our home countries in order to create real life scenarios. In the evening, I went out to do a bit of Christmas shopping. My children and my mother are looking forward to seeing me again and will be expecting me to bring them gifts from Denmark.  Things are quite expensive in Denmark when you compare to South Sudan. However, it is my first trip to Europe, and I do want to bring back some memories and gifts for my family.

Annet’s family. Her daughter Princes is the girl wearing the pink dress.  Photo: Courtesy of  Gune Annet Mule Samuel.
Friday 17 December, Thankful for the opportunity
The course has ended and today we received our certificates. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to take this course on conflict transformation. The learning journey has been worthwhile. I have acquired new skills and tools that I can use in my daily work as programme officer in DanChurchAid South Sudan, but also skills that I can use in my local community when it comes to conflict analysis, mediation and facilitation to create a nonviolent environment. I will be sharing all this new knowledge with my colleagues. I want to try to transform our organisation and the way we have been doing things. I want to create a working environment that will encourage employees to become better workers in the future and to create a better working relationship between the employees and the senior management. It has been so enriching being together with colleagues from other countries, learning and sharing from each other’s experiences. I cannot help but feel a bit sad about having to say goodbye to everyone, but I cannot wait to go home too and be with my family.

Arleen and Annett. Photo: Vibeke Quaade

Danida Fellowship Centre’s “Conflict Transformation and Peace Building” learning programme  2021 was facilitated by Mie Roesdahl and Bjørn Nygaard, Nordic Consulting Group.

Read more about our learning programmes here.

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