“We are, because she is”
The above statement is with reference to the women of South Sudan. The women of South Sudan have been the greatest and yet the most silent support system for South Sudan from the Liberation struggle to the current Peace and Nation-Building processes. As the world celebrates women on 8th March every year, the day passes unnoticed to majority of South Sudanese women.
On this international Women’s Day, CREW is celebrating those women who don’t make it to Nyakuron Cultural Center to join the rest of the women celebrating the day because they have to put food on the table for their families to eat. That woman that woke up today at 5am to go to her garden and collect something to bring to the market, controlling traffic on the streets, in the house doing house chores, in her office because she has no day off.
“We celebrate and Crown you; woman of strength, of courage, of heart and wisdom… your presence is a blessing to our nation.”
The two main activities (events of the day) were the Roadshow and a radio program. The 6hour Roadshow was within Juba and its outskirts with stop-points in all the seven main markets namely: Gudele1, Munuki, Custom, Jebel, KonyoKony, Sherikhat and Juba Town market. This was to simply recognize, appreciate their tirelessly efforts and also just interact with these women and find out what women’s Day means to them. It wasn’t surprising that some of these women had no idea it was Women’s Day or what it’s even about. Poor and limited facilities in the market (stalls for women to place their items/vegetables, some sit under the scorching sun with little or no shade over their heads), no access to loans, no associations, the income they generate is too little to even get them thinking about saving… are some of the few repeatedly mentioned challenges these women face.
The distribution of t-shirts and customized handkerchiefs with motivational words was what made the roadshow even more exciting to the women. Never underestimate the power of a simple gesture of appreciation. The jubilations from the women walking on the streets, selling their tea and snacks by the roadside, controlling traffic as we made a couple of stops to give them t-shirts and handkerchief was all the satisfaction there is.
The team ended the day with a one-hour Radio talk-show (discussion) on “South Sudanese women participation in the Peace and Nation-Building Processes” on Radio One Fm. The show focused on women’s movement, contributions in the current ongoing South Sudan Peace negotiation process and the role of women entrepreneurs in shaping the future of South Sudan.
To build on our findings from the women in the markets during the roadshow, we were honored to have been joined by two inspiring women entrepreneurs on the show. Mama Esther Simbe, a single mother who has been taking care of her children by making and selling cookies since her husband passed on in 2013, and Yom Rebecca, a young woman who runs a General Service Company. Both women in business at different levels but facing similar challenges.
This year’s international theme being: Press for progress and South Sudan national Theme being: “Time is now, press for progress to transform rural women and girls’ lives”, Women entrepreneurs at all levels have a great role to play in this country and there is need to support women doing different businesses as these initiatives directly benefit vulnerable women, their families and the economy at large. In South Sudan, women both in rural and urban areas are intensively engaged in entrepreneurship in different forms. We cannot progress as a nation unless women are recognized, given opportunities and supported to realize their dreams. Let’s act together to transform rural women and girls’ lives, this cycle of dependence on men needs to be broken and TIME IS NOW.