When we come out of our “container” sleeping quarters we are hit in the face with 110 degrees of humidity. We have respite when we are back at the camp along the Nile with a hot breeze but at least the air is moving, These residents along the river definitely have the right idea!
People in Juba wear long sleeve fashionable shirts and sport coats all day. Dignity in dressing is very important to them. Cory and I scrambled to find the best of our limited wear to head out to our meetings. The more we had a chance to speak to both Sudanese residents and Sudenese foreigners the more educated we have become about the situation in Juba and the surrounding communitities and States. Sudenese who live in Sudan are extremely positive about the changes they have seen over the past few years. With paved roads they can now get from town to town when in the past a simple 1 hour ride might have taken a whole day of travel. I had expected the new growing city to be much further along in development but I have already learned that the tiny steps of growth like a tile ceiling or concrete wall in place of a restaurant under a tree is huge progress here. On the contrary, Sudanese foreigners seem a bit fed up with the lack of growth and development they see directly affecting the people outside of Juba.
After breakfast we met with Alaa, Program Coodinator for a maternal and child health training program associated with Mass General Hospital in Boston, where Cory is a nurse. Alla discussed ways in which they train front line health care workers in rural villages to provide emergency care during child birth.
The program works by village elders selecting those in the village most capable of administering the program. Due to the lack of literacy in most of Sudan they have put together a picture icon training booklet that will direct the provider in understanding emergency situations. The trainer is supplied with a package if basic medical equipment that can actually save a life during birth. They have trained 72 master trainers in 10 States in South Sudan who have reached over 700 front line health care workers.
Next we went to Roots center for Women’s Empowerment. Here we had the opporunity to discuss how a program training women to make jewlery has created economic growth within rural villages. The program works mostly within communities close to Juba but hopes to expand to include other States of South Sudan.
It was inspiring to see how the women were stringing beads using bamboo and other local resources. Women are brought to Juba in groups, trained in jewlery making in the workshop, and then sent back to villages with materials to work by themselves. We will keep this opportunity in mind as we evaluate the business possibilities for the women in Ariang.
Cory and I were happy to support the women by purchasing a few gifts!
In the evening we were treated to dinner on the Nile by Gabriel’s Cousin and Director General for the Ministry of Gender /Child Social Welfare, Santino Majok Deng. Mr. Deng has been overseeing a 4 million dollar womens’empowerment program funded by World Bank since 2009. The program grants $400,000 to each of the 10 states in South Sudan for financing entrepreneurship for women. Groups of women apply for the grants. The women’s businesses range from sewing for school uniforms to agriculture and cultivation. The advancement of women is a huge priority in the newly formed country. Although the funding for this project has ended, Mr. Deng was extremely interested in The Sudan Canvas Project and our business initiative with women in Ariang village.
We also discussed the challenges facing the government, specifically the oil crisis, food shortage, border violence and tribal conflicts. I felt an incredible sense of committment to peace from Mr. Deng. Although these issues keep them from focusing on the development of important programs, they are committed to peaceful resolutions to these conflicts.
We are so excited to now embark on the most important part of the trip, experiencing life in the village. We are leaving the compound in Juba to board our flight to WAU. Hope there’s a breeze there!