I wish to start by acknowledging the vision and efforts of my dad who stood by me and ignored the pressure from the society and the path of ordinary life in the firm belief that I should get an education to be able to stand on my own two feet.
And in order to do this, my dream is to be able to lobby the government of South Sudan, to adopt and implement laws in the country for free, mandatory, universal education for boys and girls at least up until the completion of secondary school education and provide Trauma Healing and Rehabilitation Centres for every child born and raised during the civil war lives with trauma and needs healing.
Education is the key to a structured society, government. If my country wants to become an important component on the regional and international level, healthy and an educated workforce is fundamental. And in this vision, gender equality is paramount.
My name is Deborah Awut Mayom, 26 years old graduate of Commerce from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.
In the year 1998, I lost my mother when I was 4 years old, two years later, my father heard of a nursery girl’s school being opened 15 miles away from our home village. As he was keen on me getting an education, he sent me to that school and I became one of the pioneers of Pancuai Girls’ Primary School, all because he dreamed to have an educated daughter. My father turned me into an experiment and an example to the community to value girls, I was made a champion of girls’ education in the Eastern County of Rumbek in South Sudan. I enrolled to Hope and Resurrection Secondary School in 2008, as one of the pioneers of the school, starting in a class of 69 students with only three girls in the class and in the whole school.
But it hasn’t been an easy path to finishing my education. My father didn’t have the resources to pay for my higher studies. However, an American Missionary Doctor in South Sudan by Name Clarke McIntosh helped me to pay for my university education with Support from other friends, the Like of Patrick Hill and John Clarke Jr.
Two years ago I was appointed the Administrator of Hope and Resurrection Secondary School: my former High School. This was for me another milestone in a list of ‘firsts’ when I became the first female to head a learning institution in Lakes States, South Sudan. My tenacity, resilience and determination through my journey in education has inspired many girls and parents today in my village, to accept that education is the key to life, and to perceive the importance that girls get an education as easily and as naturally as boys do.
At 26, I didn’t expect having such a huge responsibility so early in my life. When my mother died and left my 3 months old younger sister on my lap, my instinct told me, Mum left me with the responsibility of taking care of my siblings. Projecting that to the work I do today, the number of children I care for keep increasing and I find myself now managing a school which cares for and educates over 350 children. Lately, I realized my mother did not just leave me the responsibility of my siblings, but for many other less fortunate children in my community. This was my ‘Ah ha’ moment in life, when I realized what was my purpose and mission in life.
“I really appreciate my father a lot for giving accepting my responsibility. I lost my mum when I was very young. But my father has always been visionary about my education. He’s never lost hope on me and I never let him down.
In what South Sudan’s transitional constitution specific as the marriageable age, I could have been married off when I was a teenager before I completed my high school.
Still, my relatives and society sometimes put pressure on my dad trying to get me married off. But he always resisted this because he believes, my education is more valuable than the over 200 cows he would get as dowry. Proving to my relatives and the community about the vision my father set, I am now a role model in my village and the entire community. With my education and competency, I could have chosen to find a job in the big cities and live an easier life. But I chose to stay in my community encouraging other girls and parents to prioritize education. I felt it was my call to “Give back to the community working and support Girls’ education and empower women.”
In most parts of the country including Lakes States, many people think women can’t be good leaders because they are seen to be both emotionally and physically weak and can’t make critical decisions. I face challenges with my male students when exercising disciplinary majors, “Sometimes men see me as just a woman but don’t see the responsibility I hold as a woman.”
Nevertheless, I am ever determined to carry out my job. ‘’I didn’t back down on my responsibilities to look at myself as just a woman. My point is that gender does not matter, and the job can equally be carried out efficiently whether the administrator is male or female. Merit is the issue, not gender.