RUMBEK, South Sudan – “The first time I heard there was fighting in my village, I felt sad. I wasn’t expecting this to happen,” said Christine Makuer Bol. “I’m trying my best to teach people not to do this again. I call myself Lady Peace to bring peace to South Sudan.”
Bol, 19, began writing and recording music in 2013 under the name Lady Peace. This was before South Sudan’s civil war began. For the past three years, she’s been singing to stop the spread of violence in her young nation.
For now, a fragile peace agreement is in place, but everyone is afraid the fighting could start again. Lady Peace is encouraging South Sudanese to forgive one another and move forward to build the country.
And she’s not just speaking out as a musician; she’s also an aspiring journalist.
“I want to be on radio and television so I can show South Sudanese girls anything is possible. This is why I joined Loreto journalism club,” she said.
The Loreto Secondary School girls formed a journalism club in 2014. It’s founder, Aruai Kedit, is no longer attending Loreto. Last December, her family forced her to leave school to marry a young man in the community.
Run by Catholic nuns from Ireland, Loreto has a rule that once a girl is married, she’s no longer allowed to return. Kedit’s parents were aware that by marrying her, she wouldn’t be able to continue her studies there.
“It’s so hard to find a Dinka girl reaching 16 or 17 without being married. If your family is Dinka they will pressure your parents and ask why are you letting your daughter get old,” Aruai Kedit said in 2015 during a storytelling workshop hosted by Internews.
Lady Peace regrets seeing Kedit leave school for an arranged marriage and an uncertain future.
Media training for Loreto J-Club
The future of the Loreto Girls Journalism Club is uncertain. I went to Rumbek last October to spend some time with the club’s members, and found a group of energetic young women looking to learn about how to make change through media.
They spoke about the need for girls to receive an education in South Sudan, and the negative effects of early childhood marriage on young women. They also spoke out against inter-communal violence among Dinka clans in Rumbek.
I returned to Rumbek in July to find a group of girls no longer sure of how to continue the journalism club without Kedit’s organizing skills. They had not held any club meetings since the last time I was there.
Over the course of two days, I did workshops in basic journalism guidelines and interviewing skills. I played them Thembi’s Aids Diary, a powerful story about a young South African woman suffering from HIV/AIDS.
I hoped this would inspire them to share their own stories. A few of them had done so last year while I was with them, sharing and recording a mix of personal and traditional stories during the storytelling and introduction to radio workshops.
“I really want to be a journalist,” said Jamsina Manasseh in 2015. “All I want is society to see that this little girl from the village will be heard on the radio and seen on the television.”
Jamsina assures me she still wants to be a journalist, but is now doubtful that it will happen. I reassured her that if you’re passionate about something, and strive toward it, it should always work out.
Loreto Girls ‘Report from Rumbek’
I knew I had to show the Loreto girls how fun reporting in the community can be.
On my last day at Loreto, the deputy principal and I arranged to take 18 girls from the journalism club to Rumbek market. In South Sudan, markets are the only true public space and forum for people to exchange news and information.
It’s also a place crawling with police and military carrying AK47 assault rifles. So we had to be extremely careful, given the explosive nature of violence in Rumbek.
Lady Peace and Jamsina led the group to interview many women traders at Rumbek market with a Zoom recorder donated by Internews to the Loreto journalism club.
“I haven’t been to the market in over one year,” Jamsina said. “I can’t believe these women are struggling so hard to sell with prices so high. Very few people are buying basic food items.”
Lady Peace spoke to a woman selling milk. “She told me not many people are able to afford it with the cost now three times what it was a few weeks ago. This situation in South Sudan is affecting everyone.”
A few members of the Loreto girls journalism club told me they want to do more reporting in the community. They hope to arrange more outings on weekends to interview Rumbek area residents. Stories they would like to focus on are how to stop local violence, and how to keep girls in school.
Internews supports Loreto Girls Journalism Club with training, resource materials such as books, and a Zoom H2N audio recorder to encourage these future leaders in South Sudan to use media, especially radio, to make change in their communities.