accessibility & help

Shelter from conflict

It's a busy scene. Red, gold and green fabrics are bathed in light from the setting sun. Women care for children and organise household essentials. Men queue at the perimeter wall alongside signs relating to security, weapons and gender-based violence. The picture is framed by barbed wire.

What can students make of the scene? What is happening and why? How might those pictured be feeling? Reflect and explore.

By the end of this activity students will be able to:

  • identify some of the ways people behave in a stressful situation such as leaving their homes because of conflict;
  • describe in their own words how women are affected by armed conflict.

Download the powerpoint image and say to students that they are about to see a photograph, briefly. Their task is to look at it, and remember what they can see. They should try to avoid, for now, interpreting the picture.

Show the image for around 30 seconds. Ask students to spend the next few moments recollecting what they can see.

Discuss what students can recall. Invite open responses or use prompts and questions, such as:

  • In the foreground of the picture, were there mostly men, women or children?
  • Did you see a barrier which might injure someone who passed over or through it? What was it?
  • What was there to sleep on? What colour was it?
  • Did you notice a blue board towards the rear? What was on it?

After discussion, show the photograph again. What things were easy to remember? Now students can see it again, are they surprised by anything they missed?

After observation, move on to interpretation. What is happening? Why are the people and belongings there? What might be on the other side of the fence?

Explain that the photograph was taken in December 2013 at a compound set up  by the United Nations (UN) in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Locals left their homes after rumours that anti-government armed forces were approaching and ready to attack. They went to the UN compound in search of shelter.

  • Two of the women seem to be speaking to each other. What might they be saying and thinking? They could be relieved to get to the shelter, apprehensive about what might happen next or just thinking about practical arrangements. Share ideas and try to agree what is most likely. Ask students to justify their thoughts based on their own experience of how people behave under stress.
  • The people pictured would not usually be described as refugees, because they are still in their own country. Governments and aid agencies instead use a jargon phrase - often abbreviated to IDP. Do students know what this stands for? Can they find out? Are IDPs more or less common than refugees worldwide?
  • Many people brought possessions. Explore students' priorities with a "what would you take with you?" activity. As a variation, ask students to imagine they had left their homes with nothing - just what they were wearing. What items would they most want to acquire? List them in order of priority. Is having a source of music more important than being able to brush your teeth? A charity greeting new arrivals at Juba gave out bags containing a plastic sheet for a tent, a kitchen kit, a mosquito net, blanket, mat, water can, two buckets, a piece of “kanga” cloth and six pieces of washing soap. How many of those items were on students' lists?

Women in conflict

Who noticed the banner on the left of the photograph? Many words are obscured, though the date 10th December can be seen.  It announces a campaign of activism against gender-based violence.

The theme is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women” .

Discuss how that might make the women who approached the compound feel. Explore and list different ways women are affected by armed conflict.

Why have rules?

The blue board in the photograph has a series of rules. They're designed to help keep people safe and well. Working in small groups, try to explain clearly why each one matters. What might happen if the rule was breached? Remember that armed conflict makes people fearful and nervous.

  • Slow down. Bumps ahead
  • Dim your lights during darkness
  • Switch off engine for security check
  • Display your ID visibly
  • Visitors to report to security reception
  • No weapons in UN compounds

New nation facts

South Sudan is a relatively new country. Ask students to say if they know, then research, answers to key questions. How many countries are part of the United Nations? When did South Sudan join them? Where is it? What are its neighbours? What is its flag and emblem? Find the three words written on the coat of arms and say why you think this motto is important.

Look too at the emblem of the UN. What does the olive branch symbolise?


This resource was written by PJ White of alt62 and published in January 2014. 


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