Friday, August 31, 2018

Following on from the South Sudanese International Women’s Day conference in March 2018 at RIMT, Initiatives of Change Australia supported community worker Temar John to host the South Sudanese Women’s Empowerment Conference on 11 August at Armagh. More than 50 women attended the event to take part in workshops on mental health, inner peace, empowerment and healing.

Personal development coach Katinda Ndola opened the day with strong messages on female empowerment: building confidence through finding your purpose and believing in yourself, your life experiences and your worth; realising the brilliance within each of us and our ability to impact the circles in which we operate, as a basis for creating change in the world.

Rev. Amel Manyon, Creators of Peace facilitator and the first South Sudanese woman priest to be ordained in South Australia, led a session on inner peace and creating new narratives. Amel shared openly on letting go of the past and instead focussing on building what you want for the future in community. She spoke about the need for love and peace to overcome tribal differences and separation, as well as the importance of bridging generational misunderstanding and increasing communication and listening between mothers and daughters in the South Sudanese Community. As a Dinka, she shared openly and honestly about her Nuer husband and how he supports her, attending mass in her Dinka congregation and how the congregation welcomes her husband in turn.  She also spoke of accepting and supporting her daughter’s marriage to a Muslim Iranian man and the importance to look beyond differences and value people as humans. One participant responded,  ‘I was inspired so much by Pastor Amel, her openness to people and new things is inspiring.‘  

Breaking into small groups led by Creators of Peace facilitators, women discussed what inner peace means to them, the qualities needed to create change, the narratives that are needed to create change, mental health, dowry systems and generational misunderstandings.  Said one: “I enjoyed the conversation with people about what’s going on in my community, and listening to the other women’s personal experiences.”        

The day ended with discussion of mental health, what it means, what the signs are to recognise it in others, and how we can talk more about it and support people who are dealing with mental health issues.  Wilma Madut spoke about a new ‘South Sudanese Mental Health & Wellbeing’ Facebook page she has created with a small team to disseminate useful information and raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing. Women took part in smaller conversation groups to share their knowledge and experience in recognising the signs of mental illness, discussing ways to offer support to those who are struggling, finding the courage to speak about mental health needs to family members, and knowing when and how to seek professional help.

The day ended with traditional food and celebration of all the women who attended.  The event was run by South Sudanese women with South Sudanese MC and speakers and attendees, highlighting the skills, experience and wisdom this community has to offer each other and the wider Australian community. A community of talented women of all ages and tribes coming together - sharing, connecting and inspiring each other in their pursuit to overcome challenges and build a brighter future.  - Kirsty Argento

South Sudanese Women's Empowerment Conference at Armagh


Quotes from participants:  

"It helps break barriers, and it brings to light issues we don’t discuss. It is fun being around people of different age groups and listening to them.”

“I feel good, more forums like this are needed, there’s so much to learn from one another.”

Photos courtesy of Temar John