THE BLOG

A Story Of Survival

11/07/2017 14:48 BST | Updated 11/07/2017 14:48 BST
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24-year-old Nyawal is learning crocheting and beading and has recently enrolled in numeracy and literacy classes, where, she proudly explains, she has already learned how to write her name.

But it was not long ago that the young woman's life was drastically different - and she thought that death for herself and her daughter was her only escape.

Originally from Akobo East County, in Jonglei State, South Sudan, Nyawal was happily married - and it was not long before the couple were blessed with a daughter.

But after only two years, things started to go wrong.

"My husband started over-indulging in alcohol," Nyawal recalls. "He would often come home drunk late in the evening. He would beat me, yell at me, call me names and even chase me away from home. Sometimes, he would beat me if I did not cook on time."

Nyawal's husband also started taking the money her friends and relatives had given her. If she tried to resist, he would beat her and take the money with force.

Neighbours, friends and relatives who saw Nyawal with injuries and bruises on her face and other parts of her body tried to ask her about them - but being deaf, the young woman had to resort to sign language. And when she tried to communicate, Nyawal explains, her husband would always quickly interject, justifying his actions by saying that he beat her only because she did not provide food like she was supposed to.

"This continued for a long time. I felt helpless, depressed and traumatised. I often thought of getting a divorce but could not muster the courage."

After several more incidents of assault, she decided to kill her daughter and run away from her husband. "I believed this was the only way to be free of him."

When Nyawal's neighbours heard that Nyawal was planning to take her daughter's life, the baby girl was taken away from her and sent to Nyawal's grandmother. Meanwhile, the violence continued; there were times when her husband would beat her until she became unconscious. Nyawal's life became so miserable that she started contemplating suicide.

Unfortunately, Nyawal's story is not unusual. South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, has spent more time at war than it has at peace. More than 3.6 million people -- almost a third of the population -- have been forced to flee their homes. This has also led to an increase in gender-based violence in many communities - with little access to much needed services for those affected.

One day, Nyawal saw a group of women visiting a centre in Akobo and decided to enquire about what was happening there. When the security guards outside told her that the centre is a place where women who have suffered from gender-based violence can get support, she decided to report her case.

These centres that provide psychosocial support services are part of International Medical Corps' gender-based violence prevention and response work in South Sudan. With support from UK Aid, International Medical Corps has established two centres that act as safe spaces for women like Nyawal.

In addition to psychosocial support, Nyawal was referred to and treated at International Medical Corps' hospital for her bruises and minor injuries.

To ensure Nyawal's safety, International Medical Corps staff continued doing follow up with Nyawal in her home, providing further psychosocial support services and engaging with her husband - who decided to quit drinking.

"After that, his behaviour towards me improved a lot," Nyawal says.

Nyawal continues to participate in activities in the centre, learning new skills like crocheting and beading alongside other women. She is also enrolled in the literacy and numeracy class provided by the International Medical Corps' GBV programme.

"Now, I can write all the letters of the alphabet and even my own name without difficulty.

"My life has improved significantly."