The Path to Recovery: Returnees in Mazmoom Community

UNDP Sudan
300 girls and boys are enrolled in Mazmoom primary school. Photo credit: UNDP

In Mazmoom community, located in Sennar State, the situation continues to be tense.  The combination of  nearly 3,800 returning Sudanese, including 1,800 former fighters, who are trying to establish new homes, farms and find pastures for their animal herds has made the situation for the Mazmoon difficult.

The surplus in population had inevitably created limited local resources and diminished pre-existing basic social services.  Such a situation had the potential to threaten local community security and increase tensions.

In an attempt to remedy these potential threats, a Community Security and Arm Control (CSAC) project was implemented by UNDP DDR program in 2012, in coordination with Sudan Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (SDDRC).  Interventions in Mazmoom community aimed to enhance the local community infrastructure and services, address tensions between existing community members and newcomers and make livelihood alternatives available. This was done, in particular, by emphasizing focus on unemployed youth and youth with conflict carrying capacities. The primary school and community centre that was constructed in 2012, by UNDP has not only served to provide valuable educational resources for this target group but has doubled as a meeting space for local community activities.

To date, a community security and arms control committee (CSAC Committee) has been established and trained in conflict management, small arms control as well as community development skills. Peaceful reintegration of returnees has not been without challenges though; nevertheless, community members are more equipped to face these challenges head on.  One such challenge was literacy training and the inclusion of female returnees. In an attempt to remedy this issue, nearly 80 women returnees participated in, and completed, literacy classes utilizing the REFLECT approach; awareness-raising on peaceful co-existence played a large part of this training. Another challenge was a surplus of unemployed youth and youth with conflict carrying capacities; fears surfaced that a high volume of unemployment would build tension within the community. After community consultations, it was decided to introduce vocational training. 33 unemployed youth engaged in this training equipping them with the necessary skills to start their own small businesses.  Many of these unemployed youth have, at this point, managed to engage in income generating activities, such as: opening small businesses at Mazmoom market and working as mechanics. Most are able to secure a daily income of about 80 to 100 SDG.

In addition, 31 youth - males and females - were trained in civic education and women’s empowerment. By the end of their training they rolled out the message of what they had learnt to over 200 beneficiaries. The active participation of Mazmoom youth created a positive impact throughout the community, especially due to the high prevalence of GBV within the area. The community was able to realize the importance of youth as peace-builders.

Most recently, UNDP and SDDRC were able to participate in a monitoring visit to the Mazmoom community. The visit revealed positive progress being made amongst community members and returnees, which can be exemplified by the fact that 300 students – both returnees and existing community members - have been receiving primary education at the local school. Mr. Ali, Project Coordinator at DDR Commission, Sennar State, stated “…school in Mazmoom is connected and in direct supervision by the Ministry of Education in Sennar State. The school is able to provide high quality educational services.”

With this partnership in mind and the high level of competency held by the CSAC committee in Mazmoom, social relationships and community interactions have been able to spread a culture of peace.

Mr. Nour Altahir, Head of the CSAC Committee pointed out “…now, the community in Mazmoom is enjoying social coexistence and harmony in life.” He further remarked “…membership of returnees in the CSAC committee include both women and men. Both are energetically participating in community related issues. We often exchange visits and share our happy and sad news. Furthermore, the CSAC committee has been registered as a community based organization (CBO) by the Ministry of Social Welfare and, in the future, is expected to be engaged in community development issues.” The CSAC committee is currently collecting contributions from community members to construct more classrooms as more returnees have arrived in Mazmoom. The CSAC committee is fully engaged with the local authority to meet this additional demand for educational opportunities.

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