"I Feel Empowered"
Finding a calling helping others
Nyabang had lost everything.
Originally from South Sudan, the 30-year-old mother of seven fled to Ethiopia when the conflict in her home country escalated, forcing her to seek refuge in Jewi Camp, in Gambella.
“We used to have a good life back in Paloclt,” Nyabang says, recalling her village in South Sudan.
“My husband and I made a decent living for our family. He used to be a police officer and I ran a small shop. My children used to assist me after school.
“The conflict took everything from me. I lost a son, a sister, a brother-in-law, a sister-in-law. To this day, I do not know where my parents are.”
Nyabang now lives with her husband and six children in the camp, burdened with chores and struggling to make ends meet.
In recent years Ethiopia has seen significant economic growth, declining poverty and an improving food security situation. Yet, it remains vulnerable to climate-related shocks – drought; flooding; outbreaks of disease and movements of refugees from unstable neighbours.
In the Gambella region alone, nearly a quarter of a million people from South Sudan have sought sanctuary from the ongoing conflict that continues to take lives in their own country.
“Life in the camp was extremely difficult for us," Nyabang says. "But one fortunate day everything changed.
“One day as I was on my way to fetch water, from a distance I saw a group of people, both women and men. As I approached, I realised that they were having a meeting and one of the participants invited me to join in the discussion. They were discussing gender-based violence.
“I was scared and did not know what to say – after ten minutes I had only told them my name.”
Nyabang, who previously hadn’t known that such services existed in the camp, continued attending the talks every day on her way to pick up water. “As I continued to participated, I learned more and more with each day. I learned about our rights and the services available.”
Through financial support from the European Union, International Medical Corps is providing case management, counselling, psychosocial support and advocacy services to survivors of GBV from the refugee population in the Jewi and Pugnido camps – and leading awareness raising and outreach activities to disseminate information about available services in the Pagak reception centre.
Nyabang is one of countless women who has become an active participant in the International Medical Corps-run ‘friendly spaces’ for girls and women. She is currently part of a women's network group composed of 40 women, representing the camps of Gambella.
After receiving training on gender-based violence prevention, Nyabang has started sharing what she has learnt with her neighbours in the camp.
“The space has become my sanctuary.
“I received a lot of training, which has empowered me to be more active in the discussion and sharing what I have learned with others.
After all the violence and loss in her past, Nyabang now sees hope in her future.