Stitch by stitch: Young women create a brighter future

March 8, 2020

Zuid Sudanese meiden die borduren
Today, on International Women’s Day, Nyayoo(17), Nyachwad (18) and Nyaou (18) are joining millions of women and men, girls and boys worldwide in empowering themselves to bring about a brighter future.

Young women take on new roles

The three young women are among 27,000 people living in a cramped internally displaced people’s (IDP) camp along the River Nile in South Sudan. Their homes are little more than plastic sheeting, corrugated iron and hammered tin, packed together with virtually no space between them. The entire camp, enclosed by high walls and watchtowers, is patrolled by UN soldiers, protecting them from the violence beyond.

The women have been here for more than six years since escaping an outbreak of violence in their hometown Malakal, just a few kilometres away. Malakal is now desolate, many of the houses ruined or burnt down. They won’t be going home soon.

Nyayoo, Nyachwad and Nyaou are among thousands of young women and children who now make up the majority of the people in the camp. Many of the older men and women died in conflict, leaving the young women and children to care for large families and their siblings.

Learning life skills for strength and power

With War Child’s support, thousands of other young women and children are now able to learn new skills - and take their future in their own hands. One of the many ways we do this is by providing them with easy and regular access to Safe Spaces where they can find a place and time to learn new life skills in a safe and inspiring environment.

Having become the main providers for their families, the three young women will today exhibit their colourful handiwork, which they have been creating over the past few weeks, to generate some much needed income.

‘I have embroidered PEACE AND LOVE in South Sudan,’ says Nyayoo, ‘because we need peace here. Peace will come when we love one another.’ She also knitted a jersey for ‘one of the little girls who doesn’t have any clothes’.

The life skills extend to encompass broader social, cultural, economic skills. They learn to work collectively, plan their exhibitions together and collaborate on specific projects. Here they find strength and power in their ‘collective individualism’ - the theme of this year’s global day - uniting for a brighter future.

Zuid Sudanese meiden die borduren

Nyayoo, Nyachwad, Nyaou and the other women preparing their colourful embroideries.

Photo: Alex McBride

Inspiring and supporting one another

The Safe Spaces also give them a place and time to just be children and young women again. Every morning, in the midst of often complex and demanding lives which require them to adapt to broader family roles, they have a bit of time and space away from their families. Here they can meet with other girls of their age, feel inspired by others’ successes and share experiences.

Today, on International Women's Day, we celebrate the collective efforts of millions of women like Nyayoo, Nyachwad and Nyaou around the world who are taking on new roles and contributing towards a more equal world - while also calling for an acceleration of gender equality. Collectively, each one of us can help make this happen. Join us and let’s be #EachforEqual.