Trading a childhood scarred by conflict
They said she couldn’t do it.
They told her welding was a job for boys, that it would be too hard and that she was wasting her time. But Tina*, 16, refused to be discouraged.
“The first time I put on my overalls I was so happy,” she says. “It was hard before, trying to do welding with one hand while holding your skirt down with the other! But now we feel totally free to get on with our work.”
Tina is seven months into a nine-month welding course run for young people affected by conflict in South Sudan.
Life hasn’t been easy for Tina. When she was 14, her home was raided by militants. They took everything. Livestock, food, clothes… Had Tina been home at the time, they’d likely have taken her too.
“I was lucky not to be there because they were looking for young girls. They came looking, asking ‘are there any young girls in there?’. Sometimes, they wait for young girls in the bush and grab them.”
Tina attends the course after school with her best friend Maisie*. They hope to one day set up a workshop together.
“We’re the only two female welders in town,” Maisie says. “We’re role models for other girls. We’re the only two girls doing welding - it makes our community proud.”
Violence has forced a third of South Sudan’s population – mostly young people – from their homes.
Save the Children’s Youth Livelihoods Program gives young people aged 14-25 essential training, education and vocational skills. It offers courses in agriculture, masonry, hairdressing, baking, carpentry and other practical trades and was initially created out of a need to reintegrate former child soldiers back into their families and communities.
Since 2013, 963 young people been successfully trained. 82% of last year’s graduates have already found employment.
Tina wears what she feels on her face. She’s tall and strong and has an imposing presence. Everything she does, she does with a fierce determination. There’s little doubt she will go on to achieve her dreams. She says nothing will stop her from going on to university to study medicine.
“I feel proud when I come here,” she says of the training centre. “This place is a place of freedom. If you think of something you want to do, you just come here and you do it.”
Images: Hanna Adcock/Save the Children
*Names have been changed