Grace Dorong, a proud South Sudanese woman, dreamt of being a pilot from a young age. She wanted to reach for the skies and had qualified for a scholarship, but was denied the opportunity because of her gender. The officer in the scholarship office told her: “Young girl, this scholarship is for men only. Mamarasakit, you are just a woman. What will you do for us? This scholarship is for the men who will come and build this country.”
Grace grew up in tough conditions in South Sudan during a time of civil war and was displaced to Kenya as a child. She saw first-hand the discrimination, violence and hardship women and girls had to go through in order to survive in the country. Especially in the rural regions, women and girls are exposed to gender-based violence risks like being raped in bushes when carrying out duties to provide for their families. While the ratification of the Maputo Protocol – an African human rights treaty that protects and promotes the rights of women – in June this year signals a commitment to gender equality, the resistance from authorities remains and the silence and stigma are still strongly embedded in South Sudanese cultures.
Grace strives to change that. Despite the challenges she faced and having her childhood dreams dashed, she uses her experiences as fuel to prove that officer and everybody who doubted her wrong. In 2016, she set up Root of Generations to support and inspire young women in her country. Grace said: “I believe a woman is not just a woman. We are a root – a foundation of society. I don’t think we can have a society without women.”
Through her advocacy work, Grace and her team have worked with and assisted thousands of women and girls in South Sudan by supporting them to access their rights to education, healthcare, protection against violence and economic security. With the support of the Circle, Grace and her team aims to inspire and empower more girls and women, especially in the rural areas of South Sudan by providing them with the tools and opportunities to thrive.
“Feminism is not just a movement, but is a home for so many of us. This movement has created that opportunity to house and shelter some of us,” says Grace. She is leading for change in attitudes in her community, and envisions a safe space for women and girls in South Sudan to have equal opportunity to reach their highest potential.
Back to News