Joyce’s Story: “When a girl is educated, she is a blessing to the family”

It’s a sunny Tuesday afternoon at CARE’s Nutrition Centre in Mankien, Unity state in South Sudan. Joyce* is sitting on the tiled floor breast feeding two of her children: Peter and Rose, 12 month-old twins. Joyce is visiting the Nutrition Centre today so CARE staff can check on the progress of tiny Peter, who had been enrolled in the nutrition program for several weeks.

Joyce is not sure of her age but she thinks she’s in her early 40s. Like many South Sudanese, her birth was not recorded. Joyce is the mother of six children, and grandmother of two. She says she struggles to take care of her children’s needs: the twins take breast milk but it’s not enough. South Sudan’s food crisis, a by-product of almost two years of conflict and displacement, is now affecting almost 4 million people, roughly a third of this young country’s population.

“Before the conflict began, I worked at a restaurant,” says Joyce, “but when I gave birth there was no-one to attend to my children so I had to stop. I tried to plant some maize in my village but the area was flooded during the rains.”

It’s a month since Joyce gathered her children and her few possessions and moved to Mankien, a town in Mayom county about six kilometers from her village. She made the move in order to be able to provide for her children. Her husband went way to fight in the war and Joyce has not heard from him for many months.

“I come from Ngop village. We have very little there. I never went to school and neither do my daughters,” says Joyce.”In my community girls are deprived of the chance to attend school. Boys are given the opportunity but girls are prepared for marriage, bringing cows as dowry to their husband’s family.”

Joyce’s story is a common one in South Sudan. In rural areas in particular, husbands, fathers and sons have gone to fight the war, leaving women to fend for themselves, to provide for their children, to struggle as best they can.

Joyce’s move to Mankien has brought her closer to health facilities supported by CARE: the Primary Health Care Centre and the Nutrition Centre currently tending to baby Peter. The move has also begun to change Joyce’s perceptions of women’s roles.

“Last week I saw a woman in a t-shirt with a CARE logo,” says Joyce. “I may not know her name but seeing her has made me realize the importance of sending girls to school.”

“There are many women working in the health facility here, helping us to get better,” she continues. “I am sure they could not be here without education. When a girl is educated, she is a blessing to the family, she will bring many things. This is what I have learned here in Mankien.”

* All names have been changed to protect privacy

Learn more about CARE’s work in South Sudan and the urgent need.