Yesterday we celebrated National Girls’ Education Day with our annual Careers Fair for secondary school girls in Juba. The celebration was held at Juba Day Secondary School, where over 400 girls participated, including girls from the the host, Juba Day, and 5 neighbouring schools.
What options are available to girls when they leave Senior 4? Unfortunately this is a question that most secondary girls can’t answer. Career advice is virtually nonexistent and “they (girls) don’t usually have the opportunity to meet and interact with potential role models”, GESS Team Leader, Akuja de Garang, highlighted in the opening speech. The Careers Fair aims to fill that gap – offering a safe space for girls to talk to successful South Sudanese women, representing a variety of sectors – law; journalism; development; medicine; engineering; teaching; and government, amongst others.
Guests of honour included the Honourable Undersecretary of Education, Michael Lopuke and Country Director for DFID, Becks Buckingham, both of whom stressed the importance of National Girls’ Education Day – a formal platform to pledge to continue trying to bridge the gap between boys and girls in education. “Our cultures tend to put girls’ and women’s rights at the backside of decision making and we need to challenge this because, as human beings, we are all created with the same reasoning, intellect and capacity”, the Undersecretary stated in his speech.
The day was made even more colourful from the presence of creative group, Ana Taban, who collaborated with participants to create a live pledge board – a vow to keep girls’ education on the agenda and, for the girls, an opportunity to pledge to reach their full potential. The Ana Taban collective, along with two budding artists from Juba Day, painted a live mural to commemorate the day, on the theme, ‘Let all girls go to school’.
The opening ceremony was concluded by an inspiring spoken word performance by Deng Forbes of Ana Taban. The poem, ‘Dear Little Sister’, was a plea for girls to see their worth and fight for their rights to an education, despite the many barriers South Sudanese girls face.
The next four hours were dedicated to affording the girls as much time as possible with the mentors. Some girls were looking for answers on how to push forward with current studies, whilst others mused on the pathways available to them after leaving senior school. The spotlight was also flipped back around to the mentors themselves – how had they achieved success in their respective fields?
Rain towards the end of the day couldn’t dampen spirits; smiles were erupting from each table. If even just a handful of girls left the day feeling inspired then the Careers Fair served it’s purpose. But the incredible array of incredible women in attendance, it would be difficult for any anyone to leave feeling anything less than uplifted.