#WomenHumanitarians - "Helping people claim their rights to dignity is my life’s purpose"
On the occasion of World Humanitarian Day 2019, we are honouring our #WomenHumanitarians who staff risk their lives every day to ensure a life in health and dignity for vulnerable people around the world. Emmanuela Gore, our project officer in South Sudan, is one of them. Read how the 36-year-old went from being a beneficiary of aid to a humanitarian in one of the most dangerous countries for aid workers.
Growing up in Juba was quite miserable because of the political instability Sudan was facing at the time. The civil war broke out in 1983 when the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army tried to establish an autonomous South Sudan, and by 1988 famine had hit the whole country. I saw firsthand how many families struggled to feed their children. During my first year in school in 1989, I would walk long distances to school on an empty stomach. After narrowly escaping an attack in our neighborhood, my family fled to the capital, Khartoum. It wasn’t easy for us in the beginning, we lived in camps for internally displaced people, and had barely enough to eat. Luckily, my father registered me and my sisters in a school in the Khartoum, where I spent the rest of my childhood years and finished my basic education. In 2011, South Sudan finally gained independence from Sudan.
Investing in education for a better future
For a long time I have dreamed of going to study abroad, and getting a good job to support my poor parents and siblings. I have always believed that better education was the key I would use to break the chains of poverty. So I started to search for opportunities to further my studies abroad. One day, I came across the DAAD scholarship program, and after I applied, I got the offer to study in Germany.
As a national of a country considered a war zone, my initial plan after completing my studies in Germany was to return home, and contribute to the development of my country.
Similarly, having been a beneficiary myself, I understand how the aid system works, and have witnessed what happens when aid and development projects don’t reach people in need. So I decided to always help or support those in need whenever the opportunity presented itself. Here I am today, working for Malteser International, playing my part in bringing hope to vulnerable people.
Facing security issues as a female humanitarian worker in South Sudan
However, the security situation in South Sudan is unstable and quite unpredictable too. Road ambushes, shootings and direct attacks are reported almost on a daily basis. Even as a South Sudanese, security concerns still represent one of the most challenging issues I face as a humanitarian aid worker. Earlier this year, local staff members of an international aid organization were kidnapped by armed rebels in Meyendit town. A couple of days later, a humanitarian convoy was attacked in Yirol East resulting in the death of a health worker and a patient. Six aid workers were also killed in an attack on their way to Juba from Pibor. Working under these conditions can be saddening and demoralizing.
As a woman, far more worrying is the growing incidence of sexual harassment and violence against female humanitarian aid workers. In 2016, a group of soldiers raped several aid workers in Juba. Since then, the government has put some measures in place to ensure improved security in the city, but so much more has to be done in other parts of the country. Despite my trainings on personal safety and security, I still feel scared at the realization that anything can happen at any time and at any place.
Nevertheless, I have the privilege to address the overwhelming humanitarian needs in my country with Malteser International. I am strengthened and inspired every day by the resilience and fortitude shown by the people who receive our support. Because I know what it feels like to be in need, helping these people claim their rights to a dignified life has become not just my work, but my life’s purpose.
August 2019, written by Michael Etoh
"the security situation in South Sudan is unstable . . . nevertheless helping these people claim their rights to a dignified life has become my life’s purpose."