Girls take on a leading role in South Sudan

March 7, 2013 by

Girls play volleyball outside a BRAC supported Adolescent Girls’ Club in Gudele neighbourhood on the outskirts of Juba in the South Sudan. (Photo: BRAC/Shehzad Noorani)

Girls play volleyball outside a BRAC supported Adolescent Girls’ Club in Gudele neighbourhood on the outskirts of Juba in South Sudan. (Photo: BRAC/Shehzad Noorani)

Ajah is nineteen, and attends Bor Secondary School in South Sudan’s remote Jonglei state. In a country with a literacy rate of just sixteen percent for women fifteen years of age and above, Ajah is an exception to the rule. And she is leading the charge to change the rules.

She is the leader of an Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) Club, one of 100 such clubs BRAC is running in the country, and one of 10,000 similar clubs BRAC is running under the name Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents, with more than 275,000 members in seven countries. 

Sitting in the club tukul (meeting place) with her fellow club members, Ajah says she wanted to become club leader because “sisters need to come up and build the country.”

AGI Clubs have 6 components: providing a safe space and peer support for adolescent girls; life-skills lessons (such as early marriage and sexual and reproductive health); financial literacy training; livelihoods training; a savings and credit facility; and wider community sensitization.

Ajah particularly likes the livelihoods training. Out of a range of market-specific options she chose training in goat rearing. She received two goats, and she’s planning to breed these and sell the offspring to fund her studies. As in a surprising number of poor countries, government schools in South Sudan require term fees, and there are also costs for transport, uniform and learning materials.

While hesitant to speak at first, other club members start to chime in with their stories.

Esther chose the tailoring training and inputs. In the run up to Christmas she made and sold items of clothing in Bor town market, making 1,200 South Sudanese pounds ($272).

Mary chose the agricultural training and inputs and grew aubergine, okra and tomatoes, keeping some to eat and selling the remaining vegetables for 85 pounds ($8).

Martha, cradling her baby of six months, describes with a smile how she received the salon training and inputs then set herself up as a hairdresser in the local community, making 2,000 pounds ($453) during the Christmas rush.

Ajah describes how it can be ‘difficult to collect everyone to attend’ the club with parents wanting their children to be at home to do household work. The community sensitization component of AGI is meant to address this social pressure. As part of the sensitization process, to mark International Women’s Day BRAC is organizing a volleyball competition in Bor, bringing together the girls from the various clubs, their parents and the wider community members.

As South Sudan begins the long process of building a peaceful foundation for its future, BRAC adolescent clubs are helping girls like Ajah to play their role and secure opportunities for themselves and their generation.