Wenepaida Epaifura, a 42-year-old mother of three, is both a traditional birth attendant and a Boma chief from Timbiro Boma of Yambio County, South Sudan. She advocates against gender-based violence (GBV) and is a powerful changemaker in her community.
In South Sudan, a Boma is a small administrative unit designated by at least four villages. Wenepaida rose through the ranks of her local royal family from royal observer to women’s leader, and now to the elected position of chief of her Boma. Wenepaida serves as a mediator to resolve household conflicts, supporting community dialogues and negotiations. Not only is she leading the community, but as a birth attendant, she refers pregnant mothers for antenatal care and often conducts late-night emergency deliveries in her home, later accompanying the mothers and infants to the hospital for postnatal care.
UNICEF reports that GBV is one of the most critical threats to the protection and wellbeing of women and children in South Sudan. In Wenepaida’s community, GBV, including intimate partner violence and early and forced marriages, is widespread. IMA World Health leads the five-year, USAID-funded MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience project which is directly supporting the area to address GBV and improve health outcomes.
Through community mapping, Wenepaida was recognized as a critical partner for social and behavior change, as she and other leaders worked to prevent GBV and challenge harmful practices. Utilizing a GBV response referral system developed by the MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience Project in collaboration with other local initiatives, cases of GBV are now able to be referred to appropriate authorities and medical services.
By providing feedback on MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience’s South Sudan Social Norms Assessment, Wenepaida also helped to guide project work and programs across South Sudan. Her contributions to community action planning are supporting social and behavior change activities that champion youth engagement, health service provider coordination and community mobilization efforts. When MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience organizes community dialogues and outreach efforts to address GBV, Wenepaida ensures that they are inclusive and that at-risk families are in attendance.