From despair to business plans: UNMISS has turned the fortunes of Ms. Aboyi in Yei around

unmiss south sudan central equatoria state yei refugee returnee quick impact project income-generating vocational training

Needing a wheelchair has never stopped Madelena Peace Aboyi in Yei from living life to the fullest. Shortly, she is set to start her own baking business.

20 Apr 2023

From despair to business plans: UNMISS has turned the fortunes of Ms. Aboyi in Yei around

Ali Surur/Filip Andersson

CENTRAL EQUATORIA- Madelena Peace Aboyi has been suffering from polio since childhood. Currently living in a small house on the outskirts of Yei with her seven children, she had endured years of joblessness and poverty.

Earlier this year, her participation in a vocational skills training funded by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), turned into a positive turning point in her life. These days, she is making and selling cakes and bread. More importantly, she can provide for herself and her family.

“I had no job, I felt stranded and was facing a lot of difficulties,” she recalls. “That is when I heard about this training and decided to apply. I had nothing to lose, and now I am here, planning to open my own business as quickly as possible, once I finish my course,” a smiling Ms. Aboyi says proudly.

She is speaking from the comfort of her wheelchair, which she needs to move around. Her disability has not stopped her from farming to fend for her family, a task made infinitely more complicated when her husband died.

“Over the years, it has been a real struggle to feed my children and to pay for their school fees,” Ms. Aboyi says, matter-of-factly.

Her family’s plight includes a long stint in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she fled because of the violence that engulfed the Yei River area during the 2016 civil war. Only in 2021 did she decide to return home, partly because she found staying alive even harder in the neighbouring country even harder than in South Sudan.

Thanks to the Awake Women and Youth Development Initiative, the organization that is organizing the UNMISS-funded vocational training benefitting 45 returnees, Ms. Oboyi is now able to produce up to 2,000 pieces of cake and a bucket worth of bread – “I make several different kinds of bread,” she adds – every day. Other trainees are learning how to manufacture soap or tailor fashionable clothes.

So far, customers like nearby schools or non-governmental organizations operating in the area have bought the products. Ms. Aboyi is convinced that they will continue to do so, and that her future lies in becoming her own boss.

“There are definitely potential buyers of my cakes and bread out there. I have no time to lose, so soon I will become a businesswoman. A busy one at that!”

The story of Madelena Peace Aboyi perfectly illustrates why UNMISS is committed to investing in similar activities across South Sudan.