Students dance excitedly during the Family Open Day event in Yambio.
They clapped, they danced, and they sang.
Hundreds celebrated Human Rights Day with the theme “United for Peace”, at a day-long festival where students and their parents danced and sang side by side.
“You have come out as students to give us messages about peace, and about human rights,” said Antonina Okuta, a Human Rights Officer from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). “We need to put what we say into practice,” she challenged the youth. “These messages only lead us to progress if we implement them,” added Okuta.
Drawn from eleven different secondary schools, the ‘Family Open Day’ has purposefully brought the family unit together.
For those whose parents could not attend, messengers of peace are on the ready.
“I am going to tell my parents that peace should start first at home,” says Pamela Anna, one of the students.
At the event, artists and comedians performed. Their acts comforted and inspired those present at the day-long festival, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in collaboration with the State Ministry of Education, Gender and Child Welfare.
During the event, there was a chance to ask questions. Tough questions.
“What is the relationship between the number of states and implementation of the peace agreement?” asked one of the parents.
“I cannot answer this question it is for the political leaders to answer the questions [on] the number of states and boundaries, but do not lose hope,” responded Isaac Sebulime, from the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM).
“Why was UNMSS established?” asked one of the students.
“UNMISS was established following a request from the government of South Sudan, it was mandated to help in capacity building,” said Felix Katie from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
“Later, when crisis erupted in South Sudan, [the] UNMISS mandate was changed to protection of civilians,” he explained.
With these questions answered, a brainstorming session on the UNMISS mandate and the Revitalized Peace Agreement signed in September 2018 gave those present more insight about some of their doubts.
Discussions also highlighted various ways to fight gender-based violence within the community.
“We remain committed to work with everyone towards protecting women and children,” said Okuta, the Human Rights Officer,” as she spoke at the event.
She urged the crowds, to embrace peace, and to respect human rights, reiterating the need to eliminate gender-based violence.
“I want to urge all of us to be ambassadors of peace, and to work together to ensure that we have a peaceful nation within which, we can protect women, we can protect children and we can protect the rights of everyone,” added Okuta.
A team from the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) also speaking at the event stressed to the students the need to understand the contents of the revitalized peace agreement so as not to be misled.
“Do not lose those books, and do not misinterpret them,” said Sebulime referring to copies of the agreement which were distributed.
“Get the right answers and understand the details. Be hopeful for peace,” he said.