Female chief brings hope to South Sudan village

by Because I am a Girl

What an amazing story! A woman in South Sudan must leave her home when her and her family's lives are in danger. Ten years later she makes the journey back home and takes on an admirable role

“Myself, my husband and my 2 children aged 10 and eight come from Ilgum Village, South Sudan. We left Ilgum in 1995 to go to Khartoum, because it wasn’t safe to stay in South Sudan. Many relatives stayed behind. Many were killed during this time.

When peace came to South Sudan, we wanted to return home. Life was ok in Khartoum; I had work as a cleaner, but had to pay for my children’s education. This was hard.

My family and thousands of others came by boat to Torit [a city three hours outside of Juba]. IOM (International Organization for Migration) organized the trip. We brought dried food (meat and grains) with us for the journey. The journey took three months and 17 days and many people died from malaria and other illnesses. IOM had a doctor, but he was only able to conduct first aid. When we arrived we were given some basic items and walked home to our villages.

When I came back to Ilgum [in 2005], many people did not remember me. It was difficult. There is not much work here except farming. I have tried working in the small fields but there is nothing to do. But this is my home. Even if times are hard, I am happy to be here and I will stay.

Soon after I returned, I, with the others in the village would be called for meetings with NGOs. Plan called a meeting to agree on where to site the borehole. Most women don’t want to come to the meetings as they have too much work at home. I wanted to. That way I could raise issues. I spoke out a lot and they voted for me to be the chief. I am now responsible for dealing with women’s problems at home and for protecting the borehole. I clean it every day to give the other women an example. I want to lock it at night so people don’t waste the water.

I do this work voluntarily. There is no money but I care about the issues and want to help. I am happy but there are many problems in the community and I want more support for women like me to improve things."