Insecurity from conflicts, economic downturn across the country, gender-based violence. When you think about it, it is difficult to envisage any positive progress for women in South Sudan.
However, a journey of a million miles begins with the first few steps and that is the spirit of determination embodied by women across South Sudan who have the odds stacked against them. For example, groups of women participating in the Manna Microfinance project have shown great resilience in business and economic development despite numerous setbacks. One such group is ‘Holy 2’ which has five members who registered in Manna Microfinance and walk together through their journey of resilience and hard work. They all met in the same church in Lologo, a suburb of Juba.
One of the members of this group, Safiya Nunu, joined Manna Microfinance in 2015. She started by saving 10 South Sudanese pounds per month (roughly 6p in GBP) and received her first loan from Manna in 2016. Just a few months afterwards, conflict flared up in South Sudan but Safiya continued to operate her bakery business from home despite this. People who knew her walked to her house to buy bread which was scarce. Even with all the challenges of insecurity and conflict in Juba, Safiya was able to repay her loan and received another in 2017.
By then security had relatively improved but the country was experiencing another challenge – economic crisis, which is very common in areas mired in conflict. It was difficult for Safiya to buy flour and oil because these materials are exported from Uganda and Kenya, which requires hard currency:
‘The inflation rate went high, it was impossible buy flour and sell bread, we had to increase prices of bread. That really affected our business, the bakery business became hard and harder every day.’
After facing great difficulty operating the bakery, Safiya Nunu took the decision to open a restaurant alongside it:
‘Every business has its own challenges, when I realised it was difficult to buy the food to sell, I started up a small farm where I grow my own greens and other vegetables.’
Running her own farm gave her the breakthrough because she didn’t have to buy the greens and vegetables at high prices, leading to increased profits. Now, with the profits from her bakery and her restaurant she is able to educate her eight children – she can pay school fees and has even built a home:
‘Now my children have a decent place to sleep, I have been able to build a permanent house worth 300,000 SSP for them.’
Safiya Nunu is the true definition of the resilient woman of South Sudan, who overcomes all challenges to provide food, shelter and education to her children. Her journey started with just 10 SSP of monthly savings and has arrived at a future for her children.