How one journalist has fought for better health outcomes in South SudanShare
Written by: Taban Robert Aggrey
Juba, South Sudan
People tell me that I should leave my current work to find another job that it is less risky – I understand why they worry. People are arrested, tortured and killed every day in South Sudan for doing what I do. But I always tell them ‘death has no escape’.
I am a passionate journalist and I love what I do. I am motivated by the important role media play in our community, especially engaging young people on sexuality education in a country that faces both high HIV prevalence and very low school enrolment.
The story of my life often takes a little bit of
time to narrate but today I will shorten it so that I may allow the donkey to rest. Let me begin with how I came into this world. I am a son to a man I don’t know by name and my mother is called Victoria Juan, a very humble, loving and caring illiterate woman. I grew up with my grandparents, uncles and aunts as I was manoeuvring through the rough part of my life, exiled in Uganda during the civil war.
In my community it was uncommon for parents to discuss sexuality issues with their children. Even though the majority of people are aware of HIV and how to prevent it, they still oppose the use of condoms. They perceive that by using it, young people’s immorality is encouraged.
I even remember the night when my aunts were almost raped by armed personnel who had stormed our compound. The soldiers threw me out because I was only young then and was making too much noise. I still remember that night when there was too much darkness that I could not even see any light. It was really a darkness of terror. I vowed that this should never happen to a woman again.
There are many superstitions and false notions in South Sudan – that young people are the ones in the community without HIV; that if a girl lets a boy touch one of her breasts, it will grow fast and bigger than the other; or that having sex with an older person could burn human cells. These stories have marked my upbringing and I believe still affect other young people today.
I remember running away from my first visit at a Voluntary Counselling and Testing centre. One of my aunts was the counsellor and I was afraid that if I was tested HIV positive, she would spread the news around our local community.
With these experiences in life, I see how important it is that young people receive better information than I did – that they get more accurate information to protect themselves from vulnerabilities, including judgement and discrimination, gender based violence or HIV.
I hope to continue using the power of media through my role as a journalist to debunk the myths and false notions around our sexuality and share accurate information instead; discuss human rights and gender equality; and encourage parents and guardians to have more proactive discussions with their young people on sex, sexuality and relationships. Finally, to empower our young people with values and decision making skills that protect themselves against the HIV epidemic.
When we provide accurate information, we can change lives.
About Taban Robert Aggrey
Taban Robert Aggrey is a South Sudanese journalist who has been trained by the BBC World Service Trust, the United Nations Human Rights Commision (UNHRC) and most recently, with UNESCO on delivering comprehensive sexuality education. Motivated by personal experience, he believes that the media plays a crucial role in sharing life-saving knowledge and skills to young people across the country to eliminate stigma and discrimination.
Editors Addition (24 May 2016): Shortly after this post was published, Taban Robert passed away suddenly on 3 May 2016. He will be dearly missed by the Young People Today team. Taban will always be remembered for dedicating his life to championing the cause of young people.