On South Sudan’s Independence Day, its women rise as symbol of resilience amid the hunger crisis

Just like a hen that is not afraid of an eagle snatching her chick, women in South Sudan have proved that even in the toughest moments, there is always a way to get through. We are still living in the protracted, even never-ending, crisis.

This is worsened by unsustainable livelihood systems, poor food security practices causing hunger, flooding leading to displacements and breakdown of structures like the health care system leading to high mortality and maternal deaths.

Amidst these tough conditions, the South Sudanese women are always in the frontline defending and protecting their families. Through the years, they have devised positive coping mechanisms and support structures to strengthen each other.

Instead of complaining, they find ways, act and engage. You see them manage small businesses and maintain gardens at home to supplement their husbands’ meager income.

In some communities, on their own initiative, the women formed small saving groups called “rabita” which means a “link”. An agreed sum of money is collected on a weekly basis then the group identifies the most basic need of each one of them and the money is used to buy those needs.

Through this homegrown and very creative strategy, I have seen many women getting empowered, independent and are able to provide their children’s needs. Most of the time, the goal is not for themselves but for their family.

Women in South Sudan played, and continue to play a crucial role in the country’s independence. History tells us how women could provide meals and take roles to care for the family when the men were away, especially during conflict.

Today, these strong women in our communities and in the government have elevatd their roles as advocates, to speak up against gender discrimination, violence and inequality.

Through their efforts, the women representation in South Sudan’s Parliament and government offices have increased. Most humanitarian organizations like World Vision have given more priority and opportunities to women and increase their number in employment.

World Vision have supported many women through livelihood projects and their lives were transformed. We have seen families that barely afford a meal in a day could now have something to eat, children who are malnourished are able to recover, and young girls who were given access to education.

Many of the women were trained on leadership skills and received psychosocial support when needed. I am not trying to overshadow the roles men play in our community, but I am just looking at the perspective of equity where we should all live in a world of equal opportunities.

It is not just based on an assumption that women and girls are more exposed to vulnerability than men and boys. All these factors are attributed by our biological set up and the gender norms assigned by the society.

Today as we celebrate South Sudan’s 11th Independence Day, we should acknowledge that women are not “mara sakit” which means “just a woman”. She is a proud South Sudanese who can contribute productively for her country.

As Eleonor Roosevelt said, “A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. A woman can make change happen when you give her the chance to act!

Happy Independence Day South Sudan!

Blog by Betty Adong, Advocacy and Protection Manager I Photo by Scovia Faida Charles Duku, Communications Coordinator