South Sudan, CAHR, Autumn 2012
Karak Mayik Denyok Miakol is from South Sudan. She was born in 1977 in the Nuba Mountains in Southern Kordofan state. Her struggle to help women started already in 1993 during the civil war, when she settled as an internally displace person (IDP) in Mayo IDP Camp in Khartoum. She volunteered in a primary school, at the Médecins Sans Frontiéres clinic center and teaching women in the evening at her place, which convinced the public committee and the community leaders to acknowledge her initiative and efforts and therefore recommended her to an International Red Cross (IRC) programme.
In 1998, IRC launched a women’s empowerment programme in Mayo Es Salam Mandella Camp in Khartoum were Karak was lucky enough to be recruited by the programme as a literacy teacher. Karak has since completed a Diploma in Business Management and Administration in Juba University, Khartoum, and completed her degree in Rural Development and Community Studies in Nkumba University, Uganda.
Karak is a social worker by profession and she is the founder of Diar for Rehabilitation and Development Association (DRDA). “Diar” means “women” in Dinka, Karak’s native language. DRDA is a local organization based in Juba, South Sudan that has helped to transform the lives of over 3,000 women through economic, social and political empowerment, peace-building and conflict resolution, human rights advocacy and adult literacy. Through Karak’s activities with DRDA, a 36 ha farm school has been established.
In 2004 Karak won the prestigious Van Heuven Goedhart International Award of €50,000 which she donated to the women of the Nuba Mountains. It is an award given to an individual who has made a tremendous effort in fighting the difficulties of refugee life, has shown great courage and talent to overcome the difficulties, and is able to inspire other refugees to take their lives in their own hands again.
In 2008, as a Country Director for Women for Women International Sudan chapter office, Karak established 90ha of land as a commercial farm in Pacing Rumbek Lakes State. The farm promotes the life of over 9,000 women who are war survivors. On the farm the women are undergoing training in agriculture, a cooperative/business programme and adult education .The women are thus able to buy food for the home, pay school fees for their children and overall there has been a reduction in household conflicts as a result of women’s greater independence from their polygamous husbands.
In 2011 Karak founded the Women for Rehabilitation and Development International Foundation (WRDIF) with the vision of trying to expand the ideas and knowledge of being self-reliant through human/women’s rights programmes targeting the women and children in the neighboring countries, in northern Uganda and western Kenya.
In June 2012, Karak reached out to the youth who had frequently approached her in search for jobs with a proposal for establishing a “stand for your community” volunteer programme which has now 50 youth participants. It is a programme challenging the youth to make a difference in their community, explore new areas of interest, and widen their horizon and see the world with a purpose.
Despite all the success in her work, Karak finds that “Physical violence and the threat of violence continue to be inhibiting factors for women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in carrying out our work. Women activists in many parts of the African continent have to operate in an environment that exposes them to high risks of violence. Mainly due to the threat that WHRDs pose to traditional society, we are often subjected to violence. These challenges affect me in my daily work.
Moreover, finance is a recurrent problem. More grants are needed to achieve goals and provide programmes/services and for DRDA to become a mainstream and more effective women’s /human rights organization. Lack of transportation poses a issue as most people live far away, which makes ithard to reach them. Finally irregular staffing due to lack of education is something we face as well.”
So far during the Fellowship I have received tools and knowledge to promote and protect the economic, social and cultural rights of women which provides a unique opportunity to link with strategies for defense of civil and political rights of women and children.
I have also had the opportunity of building alliances between women’s rights groups and human rights groups. In addition I expect that, it is important to support linkages between women’s groups and other social movements that work in the area of economic and social justice.
By the end of the fellowship I expect that we will have links to national governments, regional and international community as these have a role to play in ensuring the protection and safety of Women Human Rights Defenders.
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