In Paringa’s First Grinding Mill Women Transform their Community
In South Sudan, it is typical to hear that a woman’s place is in the home where they are expected to cook, wash clothes and look after the family. But in one small village in Kapoeta, a group of women are turning these ideas on their head.
In Paringa village, Rosa Lokanwaka has managed to overcome the stereotypes and is the owner of a grinding mill business, which some in her community had said should only be done by men.
Since losing her husband seven years ago, Rosa has struggled to provide for her eight children on her own.
“When my husband got sick, I tried to do all I could. I even stopped farming because I could not leave my husband’s side,” said Rosa, a 45-year-old entrepreneur.
Today she runs Paringa’s first grinding mill for maize and sorghum.
Her mill is one of 30 businesses employing six women each, part of a livelihoods initiative run by the Kapoeta Development Initiative (KDI), in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to promote self-reliance of women in Kapoeta.
Rosa started the business after attending a workshop organized by the organizations to train women on gender-based violence awareness and support them in becoming self-reliant.
Even though she could not read or write, she was determined to take her new skills to the next level. While there, Rosa heard that they had the opportunity to form a group of six and develop a business idea which IOM would support with seed money.
She went back to her village and immediately called her fellow women to form a group.
“I told my friends that we should not die carrying charcoal to the market. I told them this was an opportunity for us to show that we, the women of Paringa, can also make it in the outside world.”
Rosa and her team members applied for a grant with KDI and were successful.
Today, Rosa’s grinding mill is not just supporting her team, but the whole village and surrounding communities. Before women would walk long distances to Kapoeta town just to grind their maize and sorghum to provide food for their families. A journey of about 12 kilometres would take them the whole day. With the risk of drowning in the river or being assaulted on the road, the women had no choice but to make these journeys to town.
“If we did not go, our children would not eat,” Rosa said. “You see in our village; it is a woman’s responsibility to look after her family.”
Before the grinding mill was built on their side of the river, the women would attempt to cross daily – even in the dangerous rainy season.
“In fact some of our friends never made it back because they drowned in the Singaita River,” she added. Singaita River is 150 yards wide and no bridge exists. When heavy rainstorms come so do the floods, making the river impassable.
“This grinding mill has saved the whole village. It is actually our savior because our legs can now rest from the long journeys with loads over our heads, crossing that big river looking for grinding mills,” Rosa concluded.
Rosa’s grinding mill has now created a small market, other people in her village, including men, bring their goods to the grinding centre to sell. Rosa says the place was a bush before, but the grinding mill has transformed it into a trading centre which she hopes will expand and bring people from Kapoeta town.
IOM works with a partner organization, Kapoeta Development Initiative (KDI), to support groups like Rosa’s with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
This story was written by Loyce Nabie, IOM South Sudan Communications Assistant