After a Year in South Sudan

Written by Grant McDonald, Program Manager of JHR’s South Sudan Project


Looking back to over a year ago when I first stepped on the blistering tarmac at Juba International Airport in South Sudan I can say with confidence, I had very little idea how Journalists for Human Rights would be received.


Would our collaborative approach work? Could I truly understand the challenges local journalists face? Would there be a strong connection?


After one year on the ground, I do hold one belief for certain; we are all connected by the fundamentals of human nature itself; our hopes, our dreams and our momentary failures.


With this knowledge it becomes clear, that those often forgotten corners of the world are home to people with the same hopes and the same dreams.


Journalists for Human Rights is a uniting factor between those often suffering in silence and the media, which can shine a powerful light on that suffering. It challenges the very idea of indifference, and forces us to realize that our values call upon us to care about the lives of people we will never meet.

Grant McDonald running JHR's third workshop in the first year of our South Sudan Program.
Grant MacDonald running JHR’s third workshop in the first year of our South Sudan Program.


To all those who have supported JHR’s work on the ground in South Sudan, from our local partners, local staff, international media trainers and to our everyday champions of the cause; we are all part of this.


We are all together, and from what I understand –
as long as all of us are together, fighting for a common cause, a common belief; there’s simply nothing we can’t do.


The first year on the ground taught me some valuable lessons and because of them I hold the understanding that change is possible through Journalists for Human Rights. I believe this because I’ve seen it.


I’ve seen it in Parach Mach, a young journalist working (at the time) for The Juba Telegraph who refused to have his article on child prostitution censored and was able to convince everyone involved it was too important of a story to be swept away. It ran as a full feature.


I’ve seen it in the courage of Mary George, who challenged her community’s cultural beliefs while highlighting women’s health rights in a country where one in seven women will die due to pregnancy complications.


And I’ve seen it in the eyes of each of journalist who stood by as the body of one of their own – Peter Moi – was brought to the morgue after he was fatally shot. A look of unity I will not forget.


It is because of inspiring determination by the media in South Sudan that JHR will be expanding its work in that country. Our work will shift away from standardised workshops.


Instead, we will introduce the highest calibre media trainers to work within existing media houses. This ensures the training is built around a realistic understanding of the daily challenges within a newsroom in South Sudan.


As we mark International Development Week we can be humbled by the idea that change comes when we collectively decide.


When the wheels of the plane touch down once again in South Sudan as a new chapter begins for JHR in east Africa, I’ll go in understanding what connects us all, and how Journalists for Human Rights strengthens that connectivity.


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