Working Their Way Out of War

Thursday 17 January 2019

South Sudan's children building a future without conflict.

Student, Magen*, 20, checks the levels in his masonry class at Save the Children’s vocational training centre in South Sudan

It is now more than five years since the start of a brutal conflict in South Sudan, which has devastated the lives of millions of children.Some have been killed, maimed, subjected to sexual violence and recruited into armed groups. Over 70% of children are out of school and only 16% of girls over the age of 15 can read or write.

 But now children are overcoming the distresses of war and learning new vocational skills through Save the Children’s Youth and Livelihoods project. The programme in Rumbek reduces poverty and gives youth an alternative to join criminal activities such as cattle raiding, revenge killings, road ambush and combatants. It gives young people aged 14-25 essential training, education and vocational skills including carpentry, welding and hairdressing, so they can begin rebuilding their lives and carve out a brighter future.

 Salah*, aged 17, is a former child soldier shot in the fighting. He is now training as a barber. He says: “During the fighting, I saw many people shot dead. When you fight, the people you are fighting are human beings like you. When I was shot, in that moment, I was thinking I regret joining the fighting and if I die my siblings will lose a brother and my mother will lose a son – and I would not be able to help them.”

“I think my future will be good. For me and my sisters and brothers I will keep practising hairdressing. And I hope to earn money so I can return to school.”

 Theresa*, aged 17, trained as a welder to support her family. She says: “The conflict has hit us hard. In 2017 two armed groups took everything – our food and clothes. Two of my cousins were killed as they tried to defend our home…. I was lucky not to be there because they were looking for young girls they came looking, asking “are there any young girls in there?" 

"The first time I put on my overalls I was so happy. It was hard before, trying to do welding with one hand while holding your skirt with the other as you bent down! But now we feel totally free to get on with our work. Maybe no other girl has ever put on overalls and come to a place like this centre. I feel proud when I come here. This place is a place of freedom", said Theresa*.

 Save the Children’s Deputy Country Director in South Sudan, Arshad Malik said: “Many of South Sudan’s children have known nothing but war and suffering, in a conflict that has devastated millions of lives. The rights of children continue to be violated with impunity and their futures destroyed. By sharing the stories of these amazing children and what they have overcome in their lives, we want to provide a message of hope that this country so desperately needs. Young people are the future of South Sudan and we must invest in them and provide them with an escape from the cycle of violence engulfing their lives. We can’t change a child’s past, but together, we can change their future’’ 

 Over 1300 children have been through this programme funded by the European since 2013. More than 80 per cent of last year’s cohort have already found stable employment in their chosen trades. Thanks to our donor, the European Union.


Writen by: Tito Justin