My name is Riya William Yuyada and I come from Mundri in South Sudan. My project is a mentorship program which I prefer to call ‘’I Am My Sister’s Keeper’. This is because we take the place of big sisters to our mentees from different schools in the country. This project aims to encourage the girls to remain focused in school even amidst many challenges like poverty and lack of sanitary towels.

Mentorship and Exposure

During the mentorship sessions, we bring mentors to meet and talk to the mentees in their different schools. They have discussions on different topics as requested by the mentees like academics, relationships, importance of sexual health education, teen pregnancies, among many others. We ask the mentees what problems they are facing that hinder their progress in school. We then link them to the right mentors who have also gone through similar problems as they were growing up, and the we host one-on-one mentorship sessions.

We also screen short inspirational films for the girls. These films show them the realities out there so as to inspire them to stay in school. We are planning to distribute menstrual hygiene kits which will include sanitary towels and other essentials that will help the girls stay in school and perform better.

The State of Education in South Sudan

I started ‘I Am My Sister’s Keeper’ to promote and improve on girl child education. My goal is to challenge the status quo of women in South Sudan. South Sudanese women are still considered second-class citizens. They are not given enough space to take part in national decision-making processes. Girl-child education in South Sudan is amongst the worst in the world with only 27% of the population being educated. Only 16% women are educated.

What makes it alarming is only 1% of girls are able to finish primary school.So for us to get close to gender equality and involve more women in decision-making processes of the war-torn country, we realised the need to push for the education of girls so as to improve on the quality of women that will be changing our country through mentorship programs. To achieve this, we need to keep more girls in my country in school and close the education gap.

Fear of the Unknown

I heard about Akili Dada from a friend I met in a feminist leadership conference in Nairobi. We had just founded a women’s organisation called Crown the Woman — South Sudan. I had the passion and ideas to create change but I didn’t know where to start; from management to resource mobilization.

She told me about how the fellowship program would help me and my initiative grow. I looked up the fellowship program up, and I knew that this was the right time for me to acquire more knowledge, confidence, and scale up on my network. Indeed it is.

On a Lighter Note

In my free time, I like listening to loud music and playing basketball. In my lifetime, I would love to visit Greece and experience its history.