By Cameron Ward
At the heart of mother’s and father’s minds is providing for their children. Providing for anyone is an act of love: to make sure thirst is quenched, bellies are full, rest is plentiful, and that there is an opportunity for education. However, being a provider is no easy responsibility, and people across the world understand the difficulty of this effort. Still, for Matha Akur the act of providing for her children is a task she struggles with daily. As a South Sudanese refugee living in Uganda, Martha is working to start a new life amidst constant struggles. Her story is moving, and shows the will a mother has to provide for her children. Matha’s story is far from an anomaly though, with there being over two million South Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers and upwards of 850,000 residing in Uganda (2019, UN).
South Sudan is the world’s newest country, established by referendum in 2011. In 2013 civil war broke out due to fighting between ethnic groups. In the past year, temporary peace has been established, although war has left the region hostile, with most citizens armed and enduring famine (2018,BBC).
Martha is the mother of four children, ages seven, five, two, and six months. Originally from South Sudan, she was married at nineteen and is now 25. Her life was turned upside down when her sister and husband were shot and killed in 2013 as they all fled to Uganda. This left Matha with two children, pregnant with another, and lacking support. She traveled between South Sudan and Uganda seeking support from extended and direct family. For a time, her late husband’s father was able to support her; however after falling ill she became dependent on her husband’s younger brother, age thirteen. In Matha’s culture, women are married at the desecration of the father, and marriage is passed between male siblings if one dies. Cultural traditions left Matha unable to break off the marriage with her husband’s younger brother. She then found herself fleeing South Sudan permanently due exponential amounts violence.
Now permanently residing in Uganda, Matha lives in a single room with her four children and uncle. Through Uplift, she hopes to become a business owner to support her family. She also studies English at HCU, in efforts to be able to read and write. She says, “A mother can do anything for her children”.
In a notable demonstration of the strength in community in Gulu, Matha says that her neighbors are an essential support system for her, and does not desire to return to South Sudan despite her brother and father still residing there.
Matha’s story is one of impeccable strength. Torn from her homeland, as single parent she strives to create a new stable home for herself and children. Matha’s effort embodies the love and resolve a mother has to provide a happy and prosperous life for her child. Put under extraordinary turmoil, the successes and triumphs of South Sudanese people, especially women and single mothers, deserve a spotlight.
Martha and Deng Elijah at her home in Kasubi
Photography by Eddie Power
By Cameron Ward
“Operational Portal.” Situation South Sudan, UN, data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/southsudan.
“South Sudan Country Profile.” BBC News, BBC, 6 Aug. 2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14069082.