Achai Monychol Bol Bulabek,
Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed for South Sudanese Human Stories. Your drive for education and family life is amazing. The following questions are tailored to inform the public about your story and your position as a role model in the community. We have a lack of professionals visibly in STEM. I hope this interview inspires young people to become their best selves and chart new career paths.
What is the meaning of your name in your mother tongue?
Honestly, I do not know the meaning of my name (ACHAI) and would love to be enlightened if anyone has any idea of its meaning. Growing up, I was told stories by my father, mother, uncles and aunties about our greatest Achai also known as "Achaiwìir, Achaijòok, amongst many other nicknames" and the significance of the name to Pajòok/Padhìeu subclan who originally hail from ABYEI. The story narrated was that she "ACHAI" made it possible for her people to safely cross over to the other side of the Nile (Just like the story of Moses and the Israelites in the bible). Unfortunately she never made it back safely to her people like Moses did, as she was taken by the gods of the river as a sacrifice and she was an only child. In her honour, a new tradition was adopted whereby every first daughter of Pajòok/Padhìeu was to be named after her.
What kind of childhood did you have?
It was a bitter sweet childhood, I must admit. I wouldn't say I had the best childhood, as many of [South Sudanese] children born and raised during the civil war would concur with me. Being deprived of a peaceful and stable upbringing where all your immediate family and close relatives lived under the same roof is what most if not all of us experienced. "Absent fathers" was typical for most households, as they were preoccupied by the civil war. Getting the necessities of life became burdensome for our mothers who had to bear the burden of both their duties and responsibilities as well as those of our fathers.
Our mothers worked beyond expectations, just to provide for us. I remember times when my siblings and I were sent home due to unpaid school fees. I had to grow-up fast, as my mother decided to teach me (since I was the elder daughter, my siblings second mother) embroidery so that we as a team would make [South Sudanese] traditional bed sheets known as "Malayat" and chair covers or tablecloths "fuoth" (not sure of the spelling). These were popular and would sell quick to those travelling or have resettled overseas. Working alongside my mother taught me a lot about "adult-life" and instilled in me the values and work ethic I have today. I comprehended the importance of hard work, having hope and never giving up in life. I learnt that "hard work always pays ".
What values were you taught?
From the very early years of life, my parents inculcated in me HARD WORK and its importance . My mother taught me to be grateful and to have self-love, be kind, have integrity and courage to always do what I'm required to do. She always reminded me to treat people the way I would want to be treated. My father taught me to forgive others and to not hold grudges. Dad would say that "do not consume your energy and time on things that don't matter to your life, don't allow petty dramas to steal your joy and happiness". He continues to remind me to focus on building myself for my own betterment and to not get distracted by people who have no impact on my life.
Why is education important to you?
Well, education has been very vital in my life as I have seen it transform me completely from inside and outside by changing my mind and personality as well as improving my confidence level. It facilitates quality learning and enables one to explore beyond imagination as far out of this world and beyond the galaxy . Education encompasses social and economical statuses of life which are necessities in our everyday living. See, education instills knowledge, values, skills, beliefs, and moral habits that society can use to tackle and gradually eliminate ignorance as well as discrimination.
Malcolm X eloquently States that “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” I do have a belief that education is the ultimate way to get victory over all our personal and social issues.The first thing that strikes me about education is knowledge gained and how it's applied. Education gives us a knowledge of the world around us, however applying it in a way that would enhance and revitalize the already disintegrated relationships among our human race is very crucial.
It develops in us a perspective of looking at life and builds confidence in us, for instance it helps us build opinions and makes us capable of interpreting things, among other things. It is one of the greatest tools in humanity and I wish that getting adequate education would be the birth rights of everyone, be it poor or wealthy, boy or girl........
How was your experience in undergraduate and postgraduate studies?
No one [inclusive of nerds] can ever attest to having had a smooth ride throughout their university studies. Without over-exaggerating, just imagine studying a practically demanding course and being a mother. I must admit that my experiences [undergraduate or postgraduate] were indeed tough and I encountered many hurdles along the way. There were days when my babies were sick, but I still stayed up late to study and complete assignments or prepare for a test/exam. I kept striving as I had instilled in me the eager beaver mode and was not ready to give up!
Women are rarely seen in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Especially as a South Sudanese woman, it must be tough. Why have you chosen to focus on the Geology industry?
Absolutely. Though I've always had passion and humble beginnings in STEM, It was nerve racking to even think , leave alone consider pursuing a career in geoscience as a South Sudanese wife and mother. Years ago, I wouldn't tell you that I wanted to pursue a career in geology though I knew that my love for mama nature [specially for ROCKS] was inconceivable. Like many [South Sudanese] children, my parents wanted me to be a "Doctor, Lawyer or an Engineer". My university journey began in the medical sciences field, but later gravitated towards earth sciences. That's where GEOSCIENCE was spoken into existence. My love for nature and beyond the cosmos became a part of my survival traits. The mining and energy industry has always been male-dominated, but we are changing that narrative and myths.
And why are there few South Sudanese women in the industry?
There are a lot of challenges faced by women working in the mining industry , especially doing FIFO and being a mother! These challenges range from believing it's a male career (only suitable for men) to lacking a support system who would encourage and motivate you to follow your heart, maximize your passions or dreams to your full potential. This career is very demanding not only for women but also for men as it involves getting used to working away from home and adapting to a remote kind of life. To be honest, I wouldn't have done it without my strong support system, and I'm forever grateful for their unwavering support...
Lack of a concrete support system and mentors has deterred most ambitious young women within our SSudanese community (specifically in Australia) from pursuing their dreams or desired careers. The work schedules are pretty much inconceivable for those [specifically mothers] who lack support. They find juggling FIFO with motherhood and finding free time extremely arduous. Furthermore, women may seek out more free time to participate in valuable activities [to boost one's sanity] outside of their career and therefore may choose careers with fewer constraints of them to mitigate the balance between being a mother and working.
Although women have been in this industry since the late 1000s, their contributions are not widely known and hence not acknowledged! Generally, women were denied the right to work in environments solely deemed appropriate for our male counterparts. Today, women may have to work harder to reach for equitable treatment in male-dominated careers and be considered competent among their male counterparts. We are never good enough! So this generally demoralizes women's passion for geoscience and abilities to pursue their career in the mining industry.
How can we encourage young people specifically women to get into STEM?
There’s a myth that if you’re bad at math, you can’t prosper in a STEM field. Having a natural competence in math can be helpful, but skill and intelligence grow with consistent practice, dedication and effort. I would encourage young women to be fearless and confident. Growing up and having to make a decision about what field to pursue can be intimidating, especially with the rigor that comes with STEM fields, but women should look past their fears of entering a male-dominated field with hopes of making their own mark.
The lack of discernible female role models within our community continues to be a major issue. In my opinion though, the real problem is that the women working within STEM are not spoken of or even acknowledged . We need to start the conversation about the significance of STEM to our earthly dwellings and how women have/continue to contribute towards STEM. One way to overcome underrepresentation of women, would be to spotlight examples of actual women succeeding in STEM which could inspire young women by giving them real-world examples to model themselves after. We should collectively shield our girls from the belief or myths that they’re less intellectually capable, hence less suitable for STEM. Let's empower each other instead of bringing each other down merely because of jealousy.
Many South Sudanese families came to the western hemisphere predominantly as refugees. The refugee life prior to coming to the west did not provide stability and therefore many children missed out on their primary education from the ages of one to six. But the patterns of neglect in early childhood education repeats itself even though we have all these services available to us. The intergenerational traumas the parents inherited and endured from their parents are lingering here in the west.
Costing young people an opportunity to be fully invested in. Lueth Tutoring is about investing in young people for a brighter tomorrow. Empowering parents and caregivers to meet the unique needs of their own child. There are so many different learning styles and Lueth Tutoring is committed to you and your child to best equipped the young one in their education journey.
is the founder of Athieide Mission from Canberra, Australia. A pyscho - spiritual transformative platform. Thank you for allowing me to share your story. Today, we are focusing on the topic of blood memories in the South Sudanese context.
What does your name mean in your mother tongue?
Maketh means yellow in Dinka.
What is blood memory?
You see, a human being has a body, a mind and a soul. The mind is an umbrella term for emotions and thoughts. Except for the soul, both the body and mind are bundles of memory. Now, to answer the question… blood memory is basically the memory of physical and mental experiences in the blood, in the DNA. It is a large reserve of memory that goes way back to the creation of the universe. In other words, our ancestors' experiences - - what they liked and what they did not like, their pleasures and their pains, their achievements and failures and dreams--are within each one of us. What we call a child is nothing but an extension of their parents' dreams.
What are the symptoms of blood memory in the South Sudanese context?
The part of the blood memory that needs our attention here is the part that stores negative emotions. The most obvious symptoms or manifestations of negative blood memory, also known as a pain body or just bad blood, include greed, fear, anger, vengeance and hatred. As you know, there are very few instances in which our people have not been at war.
Going back down the memory lane, history tells us that, when we were not fighting with Arabs or Europeans, we were fighting among ourselves. The government against its people, tribes against tribes, clans against clans. And this is still going on even today. This is too much investment in pain. In fact, whenever people invest in some pain-causing ventures, the interest they earn is fear, anger, vengeance and hatred. And that becomes the inheritance they leave behind for the future generation.
In today's Jonglei state, for example, we can still see and feel the anger, the bitterness among the three communities of Dinka, Murle and Nuer. Likewise in Eastern Equatoria state, we can still see and feel the anger, the bitterness between the Didinga and Toposa. These are just a few examples but there are more such cases of bad blood memory among many South Sudanese communities. I have only mentioned 5 of the 64 tribes.
How does it show up in national issues?
At the national level, bad blood shows up in the form of aggression, injustice, and discontentment by various groups, parties or organizations.
How does it show up in communal issues?
You see, pained bodies are not limited to living things. Lands, cities and water bodies too have pain bodies. Because a pain-body is basically a memory of pain, of suffering. And pain is just a form of energy, which cannot be created or destroyed… but can be transformed, can be healed. So when looking at the effect of the painbody at the community level, one cannot turn a blind on the pained body of Juba and the Bari people on whose land our national government is hosted.
Then we look at the Nuer and Dinka pain bodies. Actually the current ongoing national conflict has its roots in the Nuer and Dinka pain bodies. You see, before everything else, a politician is first and foremost an individual with a blood memory. And like they always say, blood is really thicker than water. So what we are seeing is a battle of the tribal pain bodies. It is not really a personal thing between General Kiir and Dr. Riek. We have not yet become a nation.
How does it show up in family formation?
The most important ingredient in the formation of any family or just anything for that matter, is love. However, a family with a strong pain-body is ruled by anger, violence, abuse, hatred, etc. If individuals love themselves but there is a history of bad blood memory between their families, they may have a hard time forming or raising a healthy, happy, prosperous family.
How does it show up in individual issues?
An individual with a heavy pain-body can struggle a lot in life in the areas of health, wealth, career and relationship. You must have heard of very good individuals who died so young or individuals who work so hard but live a miserable life. Those are a few examples in which bad blood memory shows up in an individual life.
How can we heal ourselves from blood memories?
There are many ways we can heal ourselves from bad blood memories. However, I will only talk about the two simple ways here. Since the bad blood memory exists in the form of negative emotions such as greed, fear, anger, vengeance and hatred, all solutions are about the healing of the concerned emotions.
This is why the first step is the acknowledgement of the truth. We first need to admit that there is a problem, that there is bad blood within and between individuals, families and communities. Most people will be surprised at the healing power of the sheer acknowledgement of truth. Next, we need love. And by love, I mean the heart that feels both the happiness and suffering of others as if they were it is own.
How can we heal our psyches?
The health of our psyche depends on the condition of our blood memory and mind. So the remedies that I have given above also apply here. In addition to love and understanding, one can also practice prayer and meditation. In prayer, one asks God for a solution; while in meditation one simply thanks Him. They are very powerful tools for the healing and transformation of human consciousness.
What would you suggest to bring about collective and individual healing?
For individual healing, I suggest that individuals make an effort to know who they are, not just personally but spiritually. Once you have discovered who you are, have the heart to fully accept yourself with all your painbody. Admit that you have fear, that you have anger, that you have hatred, etc.
Then take the responsibility to heal yourself. Even if you may not be the cause of the hatred you have towards yourself or others, you have the responsibility to heal yourself because nobody else can. Only that person who has healed themselves can heal others. This is because a painbody is like a bush of thorns inside a person's heart. It is a two-edged sword that hurts both the one within and the one without.
As with regards to collective healing, I recommend group prayers and meditations. When a group of people with one pure intention gathers in one place, so much healing can be experienced.
Nyabuoy Gatbel is a South Sudanese Canadian currently living in Calgary, AB. She was born in Ethiopia in 1993 and moved to Canada as a refugee in 2002. She's currently a undergraduate student at the University of Calgary. Besides her studies she's a social entreprenuer focusing on the, ''Paarman Centre project,'' a fashion model, writer and author of the book, ''The Fire Within poetry in Thok Nath and English.''