“Everything begins with education”—Sophia Piath Martin, Plumber, South Sudan
LAKES – Sophia Piath Martin is a 27-year-old woman from South Sudan with an unusual profession—she is a plumber with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Based in the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in Rumbek, Lakes state, Sophia grew up fatherless.
“I was raised by my mother and she taught me to be fearless,” she says with a smile.
This seems evident when she speaks about her struggles trying to get professionally qualified in construction, water and sanitation. “All the men attending the same course were very dismissive of me initially,” Sophia reminisces.
“Some even asked me why I wanted to learn a man’s trade. But I believe that when you commit to doing something unique and off the beaten track, odds are that you’ll be successful,” she adds smiling.
That wasn’t the only challenge Sophia faced. “As the oldest daughter, many family members didn’t want me to finish my education. All they wanted was for me to get married, but I was adamant. I wanted to stand on my own feet,” she recalls.
Sophia’s optimism and ability soon changed the minds of her family, her course mates and her supervisor and now, the latter continues to mentor her.
What she remembers vividly from the civil wars of 2013 and 2016 are the sounds of gunshots.
“You never really get over the sound of a gun going off. It’s terrifying. Many of my relatives were in Juba at the time and we were extremely worried for them, so when the peace agreement was signed, it seemed like South Sudan got a new lease of life,” confesses Sophia.
While conflict continues to flare up in this young nation, Sophia is hopeful that a durable, inclusive peace will someday be a reality for all South Sudanese.
According to her, education and economic empowerment for women and girls is vital for the country to progress.
“Everything begins with education and skill-building. Women and men have the same abilities. It is just that boys, traditionally, have more access to education as well as employment opportunities while girls are left behind,” she says.
“We all have to work together to change this mindset and that transformation begins at home. If every South Sudanese family commits to giving the same chances to their sons and daughters, then not only will women’s rights be upheld consistently but there will also be an inclusive peace,” states Sophia passionately.
On International Women’s Day, this determined young woman has an inspiring message for women and young girls: “Dream big and believe in yourself. The sky is the limit to what girls and women can achieve.”