What Independence Really Means: A Story from South Sudan

Building a brighter future after conflict and displacement in South Sudan

The Impact of Civil War

Armed conflict, war, and the fear of violence have left their mark across South Sudan. After gaining independence in 2011, many South Sudanese had great hopes and dreams for what the future may hold. Yet since 2013 much of the nation has been gripped by civil war, with more than four million people displaced from their homes - many fleeing to neighboring countries. The vast majority of displaced are women and children.

Thankfully, there are signs that peace is now beginning to return to South Sudan. As leaders reconcile and seek to work together, families across the nation are wrestling with their own question of what independence really means. What does it mean to chart one’s own destiny? And what are the responsibilities that can safeguard peace and usher in development? For families recovering from the trauma of displacement, there is a longing for more than temporary shelter or food aid, they yearn for tools to heal and rebuild their lives. This is the story of one young mother:

A water point serving village residents in South Sudan.

A water point serving village residents in South Sudan.

Journey to Independence

“Hello, my name is Awien. I used to live with my husband and our four children in the village across the river. In May 2016, our village was attacked by the armed youth from the neighboring community forcing most of our close relatives to run to seek protection in the main town. I decided to come to my uncle’s house in the village and he accommodated me in his place and allocated a land for us to build a [mud and stick] house. Starting life again after I lost all my belongings was very hard.”

Inside a village tea shop in South Sudan.

Inside a village tea shop in South Sudan.

In her new home Awien joined a small group of women and men who met in a local church. Members shared their stories, encouraged and prayed for one another, and learned how to start and develop their own businesses. Many families had experienced great loss, yet each member had hopes and dreams to create a brighter future for their children. The group members agreed to meet, pray, and save together weekly and use their savings as loan capital to start new businesses.

Awien took her first loan in 2017. Starting with just $20 she set up small tea business in her community. Serving tea to her neighbors provided a source of income as well as security. Awien’s tea business now brings her profit of $5 per day, enough to keep her children fed and in school.

During her resettlement, Awien relied at times on food assistance from the World Food Programme. While she is grateful for the support, she notes that "even if people are going to get small food from [donors], many needs like your children's education cannot be met by that small food. The savings program helps us to educate our children and it helps us to become independent.”

Partnering for Peace and Development

Five Talents is proud to work with tens of thousands of women and men like Awien in South Sudan. While hardship and hunger are still widespread, and peace is yet fragile, communities are beginning to experience the first fruits of their independence.

Learn how you can get involved in the Journey of Hope for South Sudan.