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Why TEDx in South Sudan?
Emerging from a two-decade civil war, the world’s youngest nation faces many challenges. The event will promote south-south collaboration, innovation, knowledge sharing, and bring together dynamic thinkers in South Sudan. A country where over 50% of the population is under the age of 18, the event offers tremendous opportunity for engagement and development for its people.

First TEDxJuba took place on 13 of July, 2012. The theme was NEW NATION, NEW IDEAS.
 

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Warille Benjamin Warille | From Local to Global


Warille, CEO of IMATONGAS, was born in 1974 in Juba town. After the break of the second civil War, Warille's family was forced to relocate to Khartoum, North Sudan, where he went to school and joined Khartoum University and eventually graduated in 2000 as an Electrical Engineer. From graduation till the signing of the CPA in 2005, Warille worked for the Ex- Mobil and PETRONAS Marking both multinational companies operating in distribution of oil products in the North. In 2005, Warille resigned and decided to come back to Juba and to contribute in the post-war development. He founded IMATONGAS in 2006 and since then he has been managing the company.
 

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Jok Madut Jok | South Sudan searching for its soul


Jok Madut Jok, Under-Secretary Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport; Co-Founder Sudd Institute; Professor of African Studies, Loyola Marymount University, California and author of many books on South Sudan and North Sudan. He speaks about the importance of culture in nation building, emphasizing the celebrations of cultural diversity and importance of national heritage to create national identity. He believes young people are the vehicle for national cohesion and the focus for a strong future.
 

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Joseph Abuk | The Theatre: an Agent for Consciousness


Joseph is the father of the new South Sudan national anthem, a prominent author, playwright, cultural critic and co-director of the South Sudan Theatre Company. He translated Shakespeare's Cymbeline into Juba Arabic, which was performed at London's Globe Theatre, developed southern Sudanese street theatre, and founded the Skylark Dramatists' Association in 1979.
 

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Rachael Alek | The Vision of the Young Dreamer


Rachel Alek, Editor, SHE South Sudan's first women's magazine. SHE tells stories and features from a female perspective about life, development, fashion, politics, economics, environment and society. The aim of the magazine is to provide information women need and which is taken for granted in societies with an overload of information, but is lacking in South Sudan. Rachel strongly believes the women of South Sudan need female journalists to be able to explain their interests in public, and has recently written about the efforts of women in Jonglei to end the conflict peacefully. She is studying journalism at Juba University.
 

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Alek Wek | Education: The Key to South Sudan's Success


Alek is a former Sudanese refugee and a supermodel who marks the one year anniversary of independence with her first journey home since the historic referendum. She brings with her a message of peace, hope and inspiration for the young nation. Her firm commitment to innovation in education, creative business solutions and passionate belief in the young people of South Sudan as contributors and recipients of innovative solutions for the future, will be the theme of Alek's presentation. She will talk about her journey to success as a supermodel and how she hopes her story will inspire the youth of this budding nation to strive, in spite of so many challenges, to reach their personal dreams. Alek not only rose to fame as one of the first African supermodels but she has become an emerging voice for refugees. Alek has worked with numerous groups over the years utilizing her fashion platform to lend a voice to critical humanitarian solutions.
 

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Eunis Elisama | Lulu; Changing the future of South Sudanese Women


Eunis, better known as "Mama Lulu", is the Marketing Manager of Lulu Works. She takes us through her life journey in transforming the life and future of women of South Sudan, with Lulu (Shea nut) as a source of opportunity, self-reliance, resilience and hope for the women of the new nation.
 

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It's been a long road for the Republic of South Sudan as its residents continue the hard work of establishing Africa's newest independent nation. The effort is bittersweet for Peter Biar Ajak, one of Sudan's storied Lost Boys. As a small child, Ajak saw his village destroyed by soldiers, survived a brutal attack at a refugee camp and walked hundreds of miles in search of safety and freedom before banding together with other child soldiers in the SPLA's Red Army. Later, Ajak made his way to the U.S. and Harvard University and has now returned to home to help establish the budding, young nation of South Sudan.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
The Word on Women - TEDxJUBA South Sudan: A new nation draws strength from cultural heritage

By Rebecca Fordham


Mer Ayang. Photo credit: Rebecca Fordham


‘I’m an Acholi, a Dinker, a Nuer. I am South Sudanese,’ singer and writer, Mer Ayang, 29, told me during a break at the inaugural TEDxJUBA in South Sudan where she was performing. ‘We are a new nation, but we are not a new tribe. It’s our turn as young people to carry the flag but many young people don’t understand their roots.’

Mer Ayang, who had recently returned to her homeland after fleeing with her family during the civil conflict, is part of a small but diverse group of women using cultural ties to rebuild the fledgling nation. Together, these women are utilizing traditional and contemporary artistic pursuits, to forge their shared histories into creative expressions of their hopes for the country’s development.

Entitled New Ideas, New Generations, TEDxJUBA was hosted by UNICEF to mark the one year independence anniversary. Cultural heritage and innovation were themes woven throughout the talks and performances, which ranged from incredible personal journeys; to private sector entrepreneurs and leading members of arts.

The energy and belief that creativity can help to overcome some of the enormous challenges faced by the people of South Sudan was repeatedly reinforced throughout the event, echoing the optimism spilling out of communities celebrating the independence. Indeed, it was a thread that bound both the TEDxJUBA participants and many of the women I spoke to in Juba who are involved in a diverse range of activities.

The new nation is grappling with serious challenges, made even more difficult with the government led austerity measures. Starting from a very low base rate it has some of the worst child and maternal indicators in the world: a quarter of all children are underweight and there are only 11 midwives in the whole country. Its population is also one of the youngest amongst all nations, with 50 per cent of its population under 18. The adult literacy rate stands at 27 per cent, and 70 per cent of children aged 6-17 have never set foot inside a classroom. Creative ways of approaching the challenges are vital to build community-led approaches in a country where people have been through years of war and exclusion.

Jok Madut, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, South Sudan, spoke about the importance of showing the similarities of cultural artefacts and artisanal tools that were previously used against each other. For example, knives and hunting materials have as much similarity in terms of their functionality and need as they do differences. Despite lack of government infrastructure, and dwindling international development funding, he is trying to build a cultural centre so that young people can explore their heritage.

“There is incredible talent and commitment here in South Sudan. It just hasn’t had a platform before, people were fighting to survive in the shadow of war and distrust,” Kad Ali, Deputy Director Roots Project told me, “We are helping to create a sustainable way of living through skills that are already here.”

The Roots Project in Juba a non-profit dedicated to empowering the women and children of South Sudan through skills training and also supporting the work of local artists. The Roots Project was recently invited to showcase their work at the Santa Fe International Craft Market, a huge honour and testament to the beauty and global appeal of the work.

Women-led projects are expanding across the nation, often drawing on traditional roles which were in existence during the conflict but were overtaken by high profile politics. The Women’s Peacekeeping initiatives are an example of this, where women are drawing on their knowledge of communities and relationships to try to negotiate peaceful resolutions to local confrontations before they escalate.

I attended a meeting of the women in Juba who said they really just wanted recognition. Without that they would not be taken seriously and the male led fighting to resolve an issue would continue to destabilize the country. Pulling herself up to her full and stately height, Mama Joy proudly said she felt better able to be a role model for her daughters and granddaughters because she was being given a chance to play a formal role in her society.

This sentiment was echoed by Eunis Koi, Marketing Manager for Lulu Works. The sustainable business she works with provides an income for 400 South Sudanese women, helping them maintain a healthy houseful with money for food, clothing, education and medical care. Sustainable living, coupled with a wide variety of productive investments, is contributing greatly to the development of the local economy.

‘I looked at what we had and realized the soul of the nation is the Lulu – the shea nut – soldiers used it for washing,’ Eunis told me, ‘We have beauty and resilience already within us, we should harness this.’

The spirit of the women was incredible. Against the backdrop of years of neglect, creativity and self-belief were profoundly important to these women, values that colour everything here in NY and so why not in South Sudan. The women and their beliefs were a testament to the power of beauty and the arts to transcend hardship and brutality.

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