International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Girls in the world's newest nation answer your questions

Today (October 11) is the International Day of the Girl: 

The world welcomed a new nation on July 9, 2011 when South Sudan seceded from Sudan after a long and brutal civil war.  The International Rescue Committee has been providing humanitarian assistance in the region for more than 20 years, with a special emphasis on working to protect and empower women and girls.
 
Despite the optimism that blossomed with independence, South Sudan remains one of the world’s toughest places to be a woman. As IRC country director Susan Purdin explains, it’s a country that has “some of the world's highest maternal and child mortality rates, lowest rates of literacy and where women and girls suffer alarming levels of violence, abuse and oppression.”

So what’s it like to be a girl growing up in South Sudan today?  Recently we asked IRC supporters what they would like to ask South Sudanese girls about their daily lives, their hopes and dreams, and the challenges they face. We then shared the questions they posted on Facebook and Twitter with groups of adolescent girls we work with in Juba, South Sudan’s bustling capital city; Malualkon, a rural town in Northern Bahr el Ghazal province near the Sudanese border; and Rumbek, the capital of rural Lakes State in central South Sudan. [map]

What did the girls want to talk about most of all? School. Some of them are older than their classmates because they had to start their education later: The civil war kept many children out of the classroom – and after the conflict ended their parents found they couldn’t afford school fees, or that they needed their daughters to help around the house or to tend to the family's livestock in cattle camps out on the plains.
 
Some of the girls said they also worry that they will have to leave school early to get married. Forced marriages are common in South Sudan and are often arranged in exchange for a dowry of cattle – an important currency in a country with few banks. 
 
Here are the girls' own answers to some of the many great questions you asked: 
 
Q: What is your everyday life like?  Asked by Jessica Brickey Pitzer 
 
I wake up early in the morning and clean the compound, sweep and wash the utensils. Then I go to school.
 
- Mary Ciguen,16, Rumbek
 
When I wake up in the morning, I cook tea for the family and sweep the house and compound. After that I go to the market to buy food for the family and then I come back to cook. After I finish cooking, I wash clothes for the family. And then in the evening I cook dinner and I go to bed. 
 
- Monica Anoc,14, Malualkon 
 

Q: What are your favorite foods?  Asked by Bill Bullock
 
I like eating groundnuts, rice, and milk

- Helen Sora Majok,14, Rumbek
 
Rice, beans, pizza and hot dogs

- Nancy Belly,11, Juba
 
Beans, bananas, oranges and mangoes

- Gloria Diaingwo,14, Juba 
 
 
Q: What makes you feel happy? What brings you the deepest joy in your life? Asked by Emily George
 
I feel happy because I am in school and my parents are helping me.

- Susan Aker, 17, Rumbek 
 
What makes me feel happy is that I wake up healthy in the morning and go to school without any problem. I am happy with the time I share with my brother and sister at home.
 
- Monica Anoc, 14 , Malualkon
 
When I read storybooks, watch cartoons and listen to music

- Clara Poni,14, Juba 
 
When my father encourages me to study hard.

- Grace Isaiah,16, Juba 
 
When I pass exams.
 
- Agnes James,17, Juba 
 
 
Q: What games do you like to play with your friends?  Asked by Ali Corbacio
 
I like playing volleyball and joking with friends.

- Susan Aker, 17, Rumbek 
 
I like to play clapping games with my friends.  We go and make the younger girls laugh and also teach them how to play.
 
- Asunta Nyimeda,14, Malualkon 
 
 
Q: What in your life is most precious (or important) to you? Asked by Bonnie Moseley
 
That my parents love me and support my education.

- Sarah Banasuo,16, Juba

There’s nothing more important to me than education. My parents encourage me to finish my education and become someone important.

- Monica Anoc, 14 , Malualkon 
 

Q: What is the biggest health problem or need where you live?  Asked by Susan Pfretzschner
 
The biggest health problem here is malaria which has been breaking out since the rainy season. Also there are complications in pregnancy, and diseases like HIV/AIDS.
 
- Susan Aker,17,Rumbek 
 
We have a lot of people suffering from malaria, cough and TB, and a lot of diarrhea cases sometimes.
 
- Monica Anoc, 14, Malualkon 
 

Q: Do you speak freely, without any fear, to your parents, brothers, sisters, and relatives at home? 

I speak freely with my mum about boys who are bothering me.

- Vivian, 17, Juba 

Yes, I speak to my mum about education and what I want to become in future.

- Hellen Emmanuella, 13, Juba 
 
 
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up? Asked by Abebe Kebede and Alex Christensen
 
 
I personally want to be a doctor. I would like women to be involved in politics as well.
 
- Mary Ciguen, 16, Rumbek
 
Sometimes there are no jobs, so when you finish school you help the parents at home. I want to be a minister for finance.
 
- Helen Sora Majok, 14, Rumbek
 
When I finish my school I will become either a pilot or a doctor.
 
- Monica Anoc, 14 , Maluakon 
 

Q: What are your greatest challenges to achieving your dreams? Asked by Dave Huish and Kristin Ruether
 
I would want my parents to continue paying my school fees and allow me to complete my education, rather than giving me to men for cows.
 
- Mary Ciguen, 16, Rumbek
 
 
Q: Do you notice many differences between life in South Sudan and Sudan, or are the borders the only thing that has changed?  Asked by Kjersten Kruzemissile
 
Yes, there is a difference because now girls have been enrolled in schools, which did not happen before.

- Susan Aker, 17, Rumbek
 
 
Q: What are your hopes for your country in the next 5-10 years? Asked by Traci Schwartz
 
I would like South Sudan to have some chance as a new nation -- no more conflict like in the past that kills a lot of people. I want education and good living conditions for everyone.

- Monica Anoc, 14,  Malualkon 

I would like South Sudan to be a good nation that gives every girl like me access to education and health services, and a peaceful living environment in good living conditions.

- Regina Anger, 11,  Mulualkon 

I want our country to be developed like Uganda. We can make it if men and women cooperate.

- Mary Ciguen, 16, Rumbek
 

Q: How can you participate in that change?
 
When I have a better education then my voice will be heard.

- Asunta Nyimeda, 14,  Malualkon
 
 
Q: What is the most important thing that you would want the new South Sudan government to do for women and girls? What role would you like to see women play in the development of your new nation?   Asked by Dawn Perrotti and Rachael Felix 
 
 
I would want the government of South Sudan to involve women in jobs – and to help them in developing the nation to be like other developed countries, like Uganda and Kenya.

- Helen Sora Majok, 14, Rumbek
 
 
Q: What does it mean to be a South Sudanese woman?  (How do you think South Sudanese are different from other women?)  Asked by Tony Metz
 
There is respect among South Sudanese women.
 
- Clara Poni, 14, Juba
 
The IRC is working with communities in South Sudan to raise awareness of women’s rights and to end practices like forced marriage and early pregnancy that are harmful to women and girls.  Through girls’ clubs the IRC is helping teens build confidence, leadership skills and financial savvy, and learn about ways to keep themselves safe. We also provide counseling, medical care and legal support for women and girls who have experienced sexual violence, and encourage conversations between men and women about ways to prevent violence at home. Learn more about our work in South Sudan.>>
9 comments

Comments

Hello, any South Sudanese

Hello, any South Sudanese girls want to exchange questions and answers about Australia (we are getting many refugees from South Sudan here now.

If you got to move anywhere

If you got to move anywhere in the world where would it be?

It's not right that these

It's not right that these girls are taken out of school and get married against their will at such a young age. They are literally trading their education for a cow. >:(

It's not right that these

It's not right that these girls are taken out of school and get married against their will at such a young age. They are literally trading their education for a cow. >:(

That is soooooooo unjust. I

That is soooooooo unjust. I don't think that girls should have to be taken out of school and trade their education for a cow literally and get married so young. :(

That is soooo unjust and

That is soooo unjust and wrong that girls are pulled out of school to be married for a cow at such a young age.

How is your food situation in

How is your food situation in your country? Do you have enough or is it really hard to get it.Wanter situation?

This is a very interesting

This is a very interesting article. I enjoyed reading about the hopes and dreams of South Sudanese young women. I pray they stay strong in their hopes for their future!

Hello All, It is afternoon

Hello All, It is afternoon here in Southeastern U.S. I hope you all are doing well. My question is: What job would you love to have and what job would you not like to have? and What is a job or career that you think would help you and your community in Sudan? Stay safe and warm Best wishes, Vanessa

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