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My Name Is Susan: Defying Family and Communal Pressures

War has taken so much from Suzan – loved ones, financial security, stability – but she has always fought to protect her children. When her daughter became pregnant and faced forced marriage, Suzan dared to defy her family...

I grew up in the bushes during the Second Sudanese Civil War and didn’t get the chance to go to school. So, I became a farmer. I was farming until my husband passed away, and that’s when I moved to Yei town with our three children – because everything now relies on me.  

In the Liberation War, I also lost some of my brothers, and some of them left behind little children who have been under my care until today. It is many people to provide for. I started selling small food items at the local market but I struggled in many aspects of my life. I would sell from morning to night, but still I wouldn’t make any profits. Even on days when I made little profit, it would get used so quickly. 

During the war in 2016, my market store was looted and armed men came looking for me in my house. Some suggested they kill me and others said I am just an innocent woman. In the end, they left me – but only after taking everything.

I was depressed and my financial situation was very bad. Paying tuition for my children was so difficult. I would cry most days in my life, and there was no one to support me emotionally.  

Susan and family
Susan with her family. Credit: WfWI.

I received counseling from some women affiliated with Women for Women International, and I was so impressed with how it helped me. When I heard later that the organization was registering participants for their program, I immediately joined. I hoped their training would strengthen me, and I was right. I learned how to run my business properly, and I am able to save some money for tuition for my family. It has helped me a lot.  

Now, I feel mentally empowered and happy. With or without anything at hand, I know how to manage and make sure my children eat. I no longer face extreme depression, and when I am faced with a challenge, I am always looking for solutions instead of worrying. 

The training made me self-sufficient, and it also boosted my self-confidence. I decided I would never choose a new man over my children. No one can convince me now or trick me to abandon my family and go for another marriage, or to leave them to find an easy life.  

When my daughter became pregnant and my family tried to force her into early marriage, I dared to stop it. During the fight with my family, all that was on my mind was that I personally never went to school. I would do whatever it takes to make sure my daughters get an education. This girl was my first born. I told her not to be scared or worried that I would abandon her. I guided her to take care of herself during her pregnancy and kept on praying for a safe delivery. I told her once she gives birth and weans her child off breastfeeding, she would go back to school. All that is in mind is to do whatever it takes to make sure they finish their education. I take my grandchild as my own, my last born, and treat them the same.   

For my family, I am now able to save money and sustain my home. And for my community? I help other families and community members to solve the conflicts in their life. Now, I am brave. I no longer pay attention to gossip and hearsay.  

A woman, Cinama, stands and smiles proudly. Behind her is a foundation of bricks
Your monthly gift of $35 provides a woman with skills to support her family and creates sustainable change.