Maria is a 46-year-old single mother living with her 8 children and 7 grandchildren in Yambio, South Sudan. Maria is the sole breadwinner providing for all her children and grandchildren.

Maria attended a Sustainable Livelihoods Skills Training (SLST) from October 2019 to June 2020 (3 months program but was interrupted by Covid-19) and made it through successfully. The program was funded by the Government of Netherlands through United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and was facilitated by Star Trust Organisation (STO).

After the graduation, Maria and other beneficiaries formed an association and opened a restaurant (Animomu) with supports (start-up kits and the sum of $100 USD per two beneficiaries) through STO. With an extra savings of her own from farming, Maria decided to open a branch of the restaurant in Masiya (hasn’t named it yet) and has been managing it herself. Maria has 4 paid staffs supporting her with the daily operations of her restaurant.

Maria has described her life prior to attending the training and starting her own business as hopeless and very difficult. “Life was too hard, finding school fees was near impossible as I relied heavily on farming to cater for my children and grandchildren”, Maria said.

Maria explained how her life has changed since completing the training and commencing her business. She has managed to send her children to school including one who is in senior 2. Maria also mentioned that she has been able to purchase a piece of land (plot) and has managed to complete its payment. Maria stated that the training facilitated by STO opened her eyes and that one of her future plans is to open another branch (restaurant) somewhere else to expand her business.

Maria highlighted some of the challenges that she experiences while running her business which include rent as the price is a bit too expensive, lack of appliances such as a refrigerator for refreshments and other equipment to facilitate her duties and improve her business. Maria encouraged the community to buy local products and balance their diets with local foods to support local businesses. Maria further encouraged NGOs and organisers to contact local businesses to supply foods and drinks at their functions and events as this will help improve their businesses.

Maria expressed her gratitude to all those who contributed towards making her dreams a reality. Maria conveyed a huge thank you to the donors and encouraged them to avail funds for such initiatives to continue as many women are sitting idle but have the potential to do something. Maria further encouraged other women to attend such trainings to build their capacities and increase independence.

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