Turning Sorrow into Joy: How Madelina Took Charge of Her Life

When Madelina was told by her husband to leave Khartoum and return to Juba in 2007, she thought her life was returning to normal.

In 1983, at 15, Madelina and her parents left Southern Sudan for Khartoum after the second war broke out between the South and the North.  At 18 she got married and gave birth to her first boy almost immediately.

Things were initially good between Madelina and her husband, until he married a second wife.

“When I asked for money to buy food, since I had devoted my life to being a housewife with no means of income, my husband would abuse me, both physically and emotionally. It came to a point where I would go months without seeing him since he spent most of time at the other wife’s place. Finally, one day, he came home and ordered me to pack my luggage and go back to southern Sudan, as it was called then. At this point I felt a sigh of relief as I was going to my family who had already left Khartoum and returned to Juba.” Madelina explained.

Madelina came to Juba in 2007 after giving birth to her last born. She started work as an advisor for religious affairs for southern Sudan.  Her husband followed a year later.

After South Sudan got its independence in 2011, the second wife decided to join the family in Juba. Their husband told Madelina that she needed to leave Juba and go to Kapoeta on South Sudan’s border. Their six children followed her two years later. At this point, Madelina realized she could not afford to take care of the children by herself. She decided to send two of them to Khartoum where they are still staying with one of her relatives.

After her recovery from cholera in 2017, Madelina knew that she could not continue surviving on in-kind donations from the Catholic Church where she had taken refuge. Madelina started baking and selling “mandazi”, an East African fried dough, which is usually eaten for breakfast or with tea. This small business helped her feed her children.

While selling her mandazi in the market, she learned about a workshop organized for women by the Kapoeta Development Initiative (KDI). Madelina embraced the opportunity.

This workshop is one of the many activities that KDI, a partner of IOM, undertakes to prevent, respond and mitigate GBV risks in Kapoeta North and South Kapoeta.  It aims at addressing gender inequality and eliminating discrimination and violence against women through awareness raising on GBV, women leadership and life skills training, and livelihood support through business skills development.

During the workshop, the women formed groups of six and came up with a small business proposal that KDI and IOM would help support.

“I immediately mobilized my new friends to form this group,” said Madelina.

“I knew this was going to turn my life around. I knew my children were going to have good life. I saw this as a blessing from God to get me back on my feet again,” Madeline exclaimed with a smile.  

Her group decided to open a restaurant, as there are not many restaurants in Kapoeta town. “We took the idea to KDI and they approved it. IOM provided us with startup capital. We already have one person employed as a cook”, Madelina explained.

Madelina and her colleagues can now pay their children’s school fees, buy them clothes, and ensure that they are able to eat healthily. Despite challenges including scarcity of vegetables in the market and the economic situation in the country, the business is already thriving. She advises her fellow women not to give up when problems befall them. Madelina even sends money to her two children living in Khartoum.

Madelina is one of the many women GBV survivors who are supported by KDI and IOM with funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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