“She is energetic and strong, a hard worker” (Proverbs 31:17).
I met Bako Jackline by pure coincidence as I was shopping in the Yambio market one day. Jackie is a confident, self-made woman. She speaks very good English, which is rare in the Zande area, and she caught my attention right away with her ready smile, no-nonsense business sense and her engaging personality. Jackie can speak Launguado, Lubara, English, and basic KiSwahili from her days in Uganda. After moving here she taught herself Zande and Arabic. That is six languages for a woman who has only graduated high school!
Jackie was born in Arua, Uganda. She graduated from secondary school with very good marks and in 2012 she married a Zande man and moved to Yambio, South Sudan. Jackie, who is a faithful Catholic, got a job as a teacher at St. Mary Primary School. However, the pay was not very good and since her husband was not working, she decided to branch out with her market business. In fact, Jackie had no prior experience in business and yet she struggled through many challenges to not only become successful at this but also to make many contacts for the future.
When she started, she had very little money. She actually got her first food stuffs through credit from other marketers. There were many difficulties in the beginning as she had no experience in buying and selling. She was cheated at first with rotten or bad produce. Since no one knew her, she had a hard time building up a customer base. She was considered a foreigner and the local government tax collectors gave her a hard time.
But Jackie meets challenges head on, and it did not take long for her to learn the tricks of the trade. She would add a few South Sudanese pounds to the price and sell. It didn’t take this hardworking woman long to pay back her loans, accumulate a larger capital base and even have enough to put a little aside. She began to buy in larger and larger quantities, which allowed her profit margin to increase. Today Jackie is one of the more respected and knowledgeable women in the market.
But this success wasn’t enough for Jackie. Wanting to improve herself more and be able to help others, she enrolled in a midwife course at the local hospital. Jackie brought her niece from Uganda to mind the market stall while she is studying. Every day Monday through Friday she goes to class and then rushes from there back to her market stall to finish up selling. She is doing all this without anyone else supporting her. In fact, her husband does not want her to study, as he is jealous of how much she makes compared to him. He has discouraged her a lot, but she is determined to succeed. Jackie’s idea is to open a clinic of her own to serve the people.
Jackie’s sharp sense enabled her to get a contract with the local Christian Brothers acting as a food purchasing agent for their HIV-AIDS support program in Yambio. When I asked Jackie what advice she would give to others, she said that young women should learn to save and plan for use of their money. They should not give up in the face of difficulties but trust in God. She says that South Sudanese women are really suffering as they are the ones supporting the family and holding it together.
Jackline represents the women of Africa who do not easily give up. They are fighters and they take on massive challenges in terrible situations. Africa is a better place for these strong women. I am blessed to get to know such individuals.
Gabe Hurrish is a Maryknoll lay missioner working as the Projects Officer for Solidarity with South Sudan in Juba, South Sudan. His responsibilities include advocacy, administration and finance. He previously taught at the Solidarity Teacher Training College in Yambio, South Sudan.
Photos courtesy of Gabe Hurrish