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Friday, 29 January 2016

South Sudan, another world

HUGS has been working with our partners in north Uganda for some years and the Lira Bables Home and Asili Girls Secondary School are our two projects.

But the Sisters have taken on a huge task in South Sudan and Sr Evangelista has just returned from a visit there.
This is her story.
South Sudan, especially in TOPOSA land, is where we have opened the 4th community of Sisters in Sudan. It is another world. The people are basically pastoralists who fight with other pastoral tribes like the Dink, in the same country and in other neighbouring countries, and this is the order of the day.

The major challenging factors in the area are:
The people of the area are hard to accept change, and are quite immersed in their traditions much more than you have or can imagine in Uganda!
Very high levels of illiteracy.
Women are objects and girl child is part of other property and has no say in anything.
A girl is even given off for marriage at birth and when she reaches the age of 14-15 she is married in return for 50-100 cows (dowry) which the brother has to use for marriage or the father to get the 5th......or 20th wife! These cows are obtained through raiding with a lot of tribal or clan fighting, a reason why civil /tribal/clan wars are persistent in South Sudan with a lot of people dying.
No Christian or other religious values. The issue is a tooth for a tooth. When a clan raids cows and kills 200 people then the other will go to recover the cows and kill 400 or more and that is Heroism in their thinking. Some men have marks/tattoos showing they are great fighters/raiders and successful killers! They also raid their counterparts in Kenya like the Turkana, the Kalimojong in Uganda etc
Hygiene is a story untold in the area, for example the use of toilets is not known hence the bush is everything.

While driving through, it is simple and normal to see a man emerging from the bush with a gun or to see a woman carrying animal meat (a thigh of an animal on her head). Being in a car helps because otherwise one would faint due to fear!
Women are not expected to bathe because their husbands will die!
They have rainfall once a year and that is when they plant little sorghum. Famine/hunger is part of their life and many die of starvation.

The common food eaten is animal meat because they hunt, Sorghum called Dura, milk (unboiled) and cow blood.

Amidst any challenges, we are ready to carry out education in the area.
In most cases when girls are in P4 and aged about 9, the parents organise for their collection for marriage in which case the bridegroom(s) comes to carry the bride from the school, with guns or as children go for holidays you don't see the girl anymore and only to be told later that she/they got married.

Most roads are poor. For example, we covered a 160 km journey in 6 hours instead of the normal 2 hours!

In this Riwoto area, we are in partnership with the St. Patrick fathers from Ireland who are working in some other parish in South Sudan where our Institute has worked in the area for over 22 years.
We hence have 2 communities among the Toposa in Torit and 2 other communities in another area called Rumbek where the Dinka pastoralists are the majority people.

HUGS is fully stretched with our Uganda and Rwanda work and are not being asked to get involved in Sudan.