Vivian Amuna – Empowering women and young people at Rhino Refugee Camp in Arua, Uganda

“Women are the backbone of our societies. South Sudanese women are the foundation that holds homes together. At Rhino camp when men are caught up in duties that involve protecting us, women are feeding the children, and ensuring they grow up to be functional adults.”

These are words spoken with passion by one Amuna Vivian who knows no other home apart from Rhino Refugee Camp in Arua Uganda.  Vivian works with the Youth Social Advocacy team at the camp and we caught up with her for a chat.

“My work involves working with women, children and young people,” she says with a chuckle.


What made you choose to work with the Youth Social Advocacy Team?

I have always wanted to work with numbers and people, that is why I am the Finance and Logistics lead for the team.  I was born here I have grown up seeing the struggle a lot of people go through. With such an environment you grow very empathetic and want to change the community around you. For me that’s the camp. I have grown up here and I know how hard it can be so if I can make the transition to camp life easier for anyone I gladly will.

Did you go to University/college to study finance?

No, I did not but I wish I did. I went to primary school at the camp and high school in the nearby towns. I did not go to university because I do not have anyone to support me with the school fees. If I found a way to go to university today I would study financial accounting. I live with my mother and my cousin at the camp and my mother doesn’t have anything to use to take me to university and I don’t make enough to support myself.

What does your job entail (what do you guys do as the Youth Social Advocacy Team)

We do peacebuilding through organizing workshops and training on peacebuilding.  We also engage in trauma healing and conflict resolution. We also have open-air concerts which we use as platforms to extend the peacebuilding agenda.

You mean there are conflicts even at the camp?

There have been tribal conflicts in the past and we have worked to ensure they do not recur. Now they are not common but we cannot stop advocating for peace because peace keeps us safe. It ensures a camp is a livable place. #defyhatenow

How would you describe life at the camp especially for you being a woman?

It’s easy for me that’s because I have never known any other home so it’s fine. It’s the only canvas I have ever drawn on I know there is a different life from life at the camp but I have never lived anywhere else so I have nothing to compare it to. Not to say it is easy because I have seen new women in the camp struggle to fit in. Women who arrive without any male family member struggle to construct houses. At the camp, only the elderly and a few women and children are helped to fit in. It is difficult to help everybody so one has to struggle to settle in their own time. Unless you are a miracle worker you cannot help everyone.

Did you say, children? Are there children who come alone?

Yes, there are children who have no parents or relatives. They are basically orphans because they also do not know what happened to their parents. They live alone in their own houses. They get support from some NGO’s but not sufficient since they are still children. Sometimes it is not safe for them to live by themselves but there isn’t much we can do at times. We help where we can, as I mentioned earlier you can only do so much.

Are there hospitals and amenities that women can access at the camp for maternity or any other person?

Yes, there are health centres. They are not state of the art but they serve the purpose.

What changes would you like to see at the camp especially towards supporting women?

I would like to see women engaged in projects that uplift their livelihoods and children getting a better education because these children are tomorrow’s adults. I wish women had better job opportunities even here at the camp, opportunities that help them see they are more than wives and mothers. As important those roles are there is so much more outside the home that women can do if they are empowered. We need to keep reminding the world that. #PressforProgress

What does peace in South Sudan mean to you?

It means I can finally go home. The home I have never belonged to. I can build a new life I can have an identity. Like you said IF only there is peace.

On this International Women’s day what would you like the world to know?

Women have the biggest role of raising children who are the future generation and they need to be treated with equality and dignity. #PressforProgress