Launched in July 2018 - Juba South Sudan under the theme “Learn, Lead and Change (LLC)”, the Incubator - Young Women Leadership Program (I-YWLP) is an initiative and signature project of EVE Organization. The project is very close to the heart of the Executive Director and Co-founder of the Organization, Ms. Rita Lopidia who is a sturdy believer in girls and young women.
Ms. Lopidia said “As young women in South Sudan begin to learn from the treads of the senior generation on their journey towards career growth and excellence, it is important that they are trained and mentored with positive and inspiring messages from role models” – this is important for the future of South Sudan.
The main goal of the Incubator is to train and mentor potential young South Sudanese women leaders and prepare them for future leadership in both the public and private sector. The target group is a mix of Secondary School girls and dropouts, University students and fresh graduates. The call for application for the first Cohort received more than 380 applications from all over South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. Most of the applicants met the selection criteria however only forty-five (45) were selected. The selection criteria include; an essay of 250 words elaborating interest in working in communities, commit to complete the two weeks training and able to actively participate in all activities of the program, should be fluent in written and spoken English or Arabic. Most importantly the cohort reflected the rich diversity of South Sudan. At the end of the incubator, participants were awarded certificates of participation.
Components of the incubator module included transformational leadership, Women, Peace and Security, conflict analysis and transformation, trauma counselling, Sex, Self Worth & Healthy Relationships, Career building and professional development among others. Towards the final days of the incubator, the participants were taken on exposure visits to both government institutions and UN Women Country Office. Participants were also required to work on a change project in which they would engage other girls in their communities to share what they have learnt. After the Incubator, partcipants were given two months to finalize their projects. Most submitted their change projects reports at the end of their projects.
Joice Diko, one of the incubator participants for instance utilized sports as her change project “Sports as a pathway for advancing lives of young South Sudanese Women”. From 27th July 2018, Joice reached out to 40 girls age 10 – 21 and engaged them in Sports. She established “Lady in Action (LIA)”, a platform for creating physical and mental health awareness meant to strengthen girls who will eventually be strong and powerful women in South Sudan. She made awareness of her initiative using FM radio as well as created a Facebook group. Joice, a very enthusiastic young leader said, “teenage hood is a critical stage in our lives. It can either make or break a young girl consequently determining the type of a woman she will be in the society. It is therefore important we engage them in sports.”
The signing of the revitalized peace agreement in September 2018, paves a way for a transition that would eventually stabilize the country if implemented in letter and spirit. This period also gives an opportunity to work with young women to close the gaps created by historic marginalization of women of South Sudan. Challenges that hinder young women leadership such as structural discrimination that evolved from negative cultural practices such as deprivation from education, early and forced marriages, lack of freedom of choice can be addressed through initiatives such as the incubator.
While the revitalized agreement provided for a 35% women’s quota, its implementation will continue to remain a challenge unless both those in the realm of power and well as the young generation of women understand the need and importance of inclusivity in sustaining peace and nation building. To realize this, collaboration between government institutions and civil society organizations is crucial and initiative such as the incubator needs to be supported.
In the meantime, we continue to be inspired by these young women through their change project reports, which is an illustration of their commitment to take charge and contribute to their communities. For us at EVE organization, it is a measure of success. We will continue to provide the necessary support to the next generation of young women leaders who will definitely change the narrative of women in South Sudan. EVE Organization hopes to develop a standard module for the initiative and carryout more incubators in the next three years at both national and state level.
Partners to the Incubator Project include the Royal Norwegian Embassy in South Sudan, the Ministry of Higher Education, the Women Parliamentary Caucus of the National Legislature, the National Transformational Leadership Institute at the University of Juba (NTLI), Isis Wicce – Uganda, UNMISS Civil Affairs Unit, the South Sudan Law Society (SSLS), SSUDEMOP, Religious Leaders, Kuru-Kowate Cooperative Society and UN Women.