Khot Deng is a State Department Fellow with the Community Solutions Plan and he is at GCWJ until December. The Community Solutions Program is a professional development program for the best and brightest global community leaders (fellows) working in Environmental Issues; Tolerance and Conflict Resolution; Transparency and Accountability; and, Women and Gender Issues. During this fellowship with us, he hopes to learn about programs to preserve children’s rights, and promote gender especially among women in fragmented society. Khot also wants to develop his skills and knowledge in areas of project design, project management and monitoring and evaluation. Upon returning from the Community Solutions Program, Khot plans to work to increase awareness on gender equity among different ethnic groups in his country by implementing gender awareness education seminaries and workshop. We are pleased to have him at the Global Center for Women and Justice!
As Khot grew up in multiple refugees camps in different African countries, separated by war from his family at age 7 for 20 years, his childhood experiences really inspired him to want to fight injustices for the rest of his life. He decided to work with vulnerable and marginalized groups after he graduate from high school. He began to worked with refugees youths to improve their lives, promoted justice and prevent them from drugs abuse and other harmful practices. He also worked to promote and create community awareness of rights for people with disabilities to be respected and considered by their community. He is a strong voice in his community because he stands up against the norm in a way that is very courageous.
After the signing of a peace agreement in his country (Sudan) which ended the 21 years civil war and led to secession of South Sudan (which is his country now), Khot started working with an international nongovernmental organization call “Right To Play” as a coordinator to help in the prevention of child abuse and promotion of child rights. He also helped in the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers back to their community in which he lobbied the concerning military departments to discharge children who are forced to serve in the military.
Through his experiences of working with marginalized women in his community, Khot discovered that the state is currently failing to ensure the policy of gender equality toward women implement it in the statutory courts and constitution. The constant devaluation of women is evident in the many cases of injustice and appear to be structurally rooted by direct subordination of women in the culture. This means that there is a possibility to making change and creating a revised culture of gender equity in the community. With the appointment of few women to customary court in most South Sudanese communities, it is evident that the traditional chiefs are now open to change for the equality of women’s rights and the promotion of women in decision making. This is a sign that there is a possibility to change the way a woman’s position is viewed in these communities and Khot believes it will only happen if “we” create more awareness and promote gender equality in the communities.
In 2011, Khot observed the injustice being done to women in his own community, especially in South Sudan where 85% of the population still follows traditional norms, customs and customary law. Women are considered to be property of their husband and harmful practices like forced marriage, under-age marriage and domestic violence are commonly happening to women, yet most men and women are unaware of the injustice their cultures has caused to women. Legal conflicts are taken to traditional courts or to elders’ councils that consist primarily of men. Khot formed a national nonprofit organization in which he now serves as project development officer to help in creating awareness on women rights and empowering women in his own community and in South Sudan as whole.
During Khot’s fellowship at Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University, he will be working closely to gain knowledge from private and public institutions within Orange County on how to prevent injustice, promote gender equality and then return back to his home country in South Sudan to help in improving women’s rights and equality in his community.