An unfamiliar subject line on the monitor read: A confluence of moments.
As representatives of Community Foundation Sonoma County, many of our inboxes have a rich archive of eloquently titled emails that tug at the heartstrings, pique our curiosity, or both. However, this particular message came to us from Taya Levine, a member of our Healdsburg Forever Board writing from Amman, Jordan. In a beautiful statement that is impossible to convey secondhand, she shared an article that prompted her reflection on current events and the recent International Day of Women elevating her attention to the power of women in setting the tone in our society. This article by The World Post, titled – ‘Strong Women Cannot be Shaken’: South Sudan’s Refugee Sisterhood – illustrate dynamics around the world that demand our continued presence.
Opia Joyce, who is a women’s affairs leader in Boroli (one of 18 refugee settlements in Uganda’s Adjumani District) is the focal point of the article along with other female leaders and refugee women in Uganda who have become warriors for peace. Over 1 million people have fled to Uganda from South Sudan since December 2013, when political power struggles erupted into civil war. The majority of these refuges are women and children who have lost the men in their lives to war.
The large numbers arriving from South Sudan are testing the limits of what is possible. Uganda’s refugee policy is designed to help refugees become self-reliant, but in reality many are hungry and so are their children. Drought during the last growing season led to failed harvests, and food rations last year were cut in half for many refugees. In late February, the U.N. declared a famine in parts of South Sudan, and refugee women and their families continue to pour into Uganda in a last ditch effort to survive. More people keep arriving in Uganda while calls for funding from the international community go unanswered.
Women in the Ugandan refugee settlements often now rely on each other more than they do on foreign aid or humanitarian support. They are joining together to build a different kind of support system. “These women have energy. They’re the ones who take all responsibility of the house,” Joyce said. Joyce’s work (aside from raising 14 children) is to band the women together and help them persevere, despite food ration cuts and limited aid. “Women who are strong, cannot be shaken,” Joyce said. “The good thing is that God created me as a woman.”
Our Board member was in South Sudan in 2013 and departed the day before the civil war erupted anew. This is the ripple of her digital wave, reminding us of the one degree of separation between each of us and women like Joyce and the nearly 1 in 100 people worldwide now displaced from their homes (Pew Research). The awe-inspiring resilience of these words are striking -“Women who are strong, cannot be shaken,” Joyce said. “The good thing is that God created me as a woman.” In the words of Ms. Levine: Our collective ability to call on our own resiliency, and resourcefulness, in support of and collaboration with each other feels more important than ever.