She is a sportswoman, a poet, a radiant personality and a go-getter. Her innovation, confidence and determination only leaves one in awe – Diko Joyce Duku , an Alumni of the Incubator (young women leadership program) and the founder of the “Lady in Action Initiative” that provides space and attracts young and energetic women to the sports arena in South Sudan.
A graduate of Egerton University, Nairobi-Kenya, Ms. Duku was optimistic to acquire a white collar job after graduation as societal norms require, but to her disappointment, things didn’t work out her way.
“With my undisputable optimism, I confidently applied for jobs and the more I did, the lesser my job hunting morale became due to lack of feedback” she narrated. I reached a point of seeking volunteer opportunities as experience seemed to be the major reason for not being shortlisted. Unfortunately, this too did not yield results.
I was at the lowest moments in my life where I felt helpless,seeing the huge humanitarian and developmental needs in my country, yet I was incapable of contributing in addressing the needs. I didn’t know which door to knock and where to start from. It happened that at the same time, EVE Organisation initiated the Young Women Leadership Program dubbed “Incubator” to mentor potential young women into strong and confident leaders who can choose a career path and pursue it boldly and give back to their communities.
“One evening as I scrolled through Eve Organization’s face-book page, I came across this advertisement on the Organization’s page for the Incubator – an in-house training that would last for a period of two weeks. My intention to apply was supported by my cousin sister who kept on reminding me about the need to act hastily. I had lost the courage of making any other attempts to apply for any advertisement following the negative responses. I however reluctantly did.
Fortunately, I was one of the young women who qualified to attend the training that mentored me and brought out the urge of helping other young women. I learnt skills like communication, public speaking which strengthened my confidence and entreprenuership. I also learnt the importance of volunteerism in changing narratives and this motivated me. During the last week of the training, I was tasked to develop my individual project that I would implement upon my return to my community.
After soul searching, I realized that it was my talent that will help me bring change in my community. My philosophy became, ‘I may not change the world, but I can make a difference in the life of that one person’. After the training, it was time to put my acquired skills to practice. The action plan (Sports as a Pathway to Empower Young Girls in South Sudan) which was obligatory after training, became a tool for advocating for the rights of young girls in my community. For the very first time, I came up with a project and successfully implemented it… I never looked back again.
Being in the sports spaces I saw the need of proper sportswear especially basketball shoes. There was a great demand and it was time to put my entrepreneurial skills at work. I started my online sport shoes business.
In this Initiative, ‘Lady in Action’, I provide girls with psycho-social support that will enable them to derive positive coping mechanisms to address challenges they encounter on daily basis. I mentor girls from multiple schools within Juba using sports and writing as tools for empowerment. The ladies are currently challenging patriarchal stereotypes and exploring their talents objectively to be exemplary and successful in their desired future endeavors.
Currently I am the women’s coordinator in the South Sudan Women Basketball Association. The Association came to existence in January 2020 under my stewardship. As a female athlete, my desire is to create space for women in the sports arena that is highly male dominated. In addition, am still the ambitious small-size entrepreneur specializing on Sportswear in Juba and making good money.
My message to young women and girls in South Sudan and elsewhere is that there is always a way out. Seek support, widen your network with the right people and do not be afraid of asking for help. It is okay to be tired, but giving up is never an option, we do not stop, we pause, re-energize, we continue and make it to the finish line.