Cultivating hope and resiliency in South Sudan

March 3, 2022 by Emily Enders Odom

Nyapan Gai no longer goes to sleep hungry.

The widowed mother of six children, whom prevailing customs and societal traditions prevented from inheriting her late husband’s cattle, had no choice but to work whatever jobs she could find to feed her family.

Today, thanks to a partnership between Hope Restoration South Sudan (HRSS) and the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) — both beneficiaries of gifts made through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog — Nyapan is one of some 200 women who have been trained in agricultural production and farming skills.

The Presbyterian Giving Catalog — which is available both in print and online, in English, Spanish, and Korean — is filled with a wide variety of gifts that provide real and positive impact around the world, including aid for refugees, access to clean water and the help to end hunger.

The Giving Catalog invites Presbyterian support of International Women’s Day, March 8, by offering such gifts as a community garden, women’s empowerment project and health for mothers and newborns, among others.

In South Sudan, gifts through the Giving Catalog also enabled HRSS to distribute vegetable seeds and provide tools to all 200 women to start home gardens. As a result, the women of Mayendit County, where Nyapan lives with her family, have been able to establish their own farms.

“There are many benefits to prioritizing women’s economic empowerment,” said Eileen Schuhmann, PHP’s mission specialist for International Hunger Concerns. “PHP has supported a lot of work that builds the agricultural skills and access to seeds and tools for women so that they can ensure the food security of their families and also gain some income to send children to school and pay for healthcare.”

Schuhmann also points to the direct relationship that exists between food insecurity and gender-based violence (GBV). As incidences of food insecurity grow, GBV also increases.

“Climate disasters, conflicts, and of course the pandemic have stressed the global food supply and put women at greater risk of gender-based violence,” Schuhmann said. “Empowering women to produce their own food and earn income is essential for their resilience, adaptation and active participation in society. The capability of producing food close to home shields women from wildly fluctuating prices on the market for goods, protects women from travelling long distances in search of food, and eliminates the necessity to trade sex for food.”

Nyapan, who joined the program in 2021, has been diligently working the farm since then. While the produce it yields is primarily used to feed her children, she also puts some aside to sell at a stall in the local market.

She says, “I do not sleep hungry and neither do my children thanks to HRSS. I hope as they grow older they will be able to help me in the farm or in the market. I would like my children to have a better life than me. I will do my best to try and send them to school.”

Such are among the aims of International Women’s Day, March 8, “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women,” which also “marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.”

The goals of this century-long observance are more important now than ever, in large part because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has laid bare global issues of gender inequality in much the same ways that it has revealed other forms of inequality.

A Hope Restoration South Sudan staff member purchases a product from Nyapan’s market stall. (Photo courtesy of Hope Restoration South Sudan)


“We have seen that women have experienced disproportional economic harms when compared with men,” Schuhmann said. “According to UN Women and the UNDP, the pandemic is widening the gender-poverty gap, which was already biased against women before the pandemic, pushing more women into extreme poverty than men. International Women’s Day is meant to raise awareness against bias, which is why this year’s campaign theme is #BreakTheBias.”

This International Women’s Day, the Giving Catalog seeks to do its part in breaking the bias by improving food security in South Sudan and other parts of the world.

“The generous support we receive from Presbyterians through the Giving Catalog goes a long way to improving the standard and quality of life for thousands of women and girls across the globe,” said Valéry Nodem, associate for International Hunger Concerns with PHP. “Whether they and their families are displaced by conflict and seek protection, whether they need individual family toilets that protect them from disease or violence, or whether they simply need the reassurance that through equitable access to land their families will be able to produce enough food to meet their food needs and enable them to continue their education, women and girls occupy a prominent place in our work.”

This was published for Presbyterian News Service on March 3, 2022.

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