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Grace Taban Genova – Home-brewer, South Sudan

Grace Taban Genova
Hannah McNeish/IRIN

Grace Taban Genova, who thinks she is around 38, is searching for a job and land to cultivate. In the meantime, she sells home-made liquor brewed from kola-nut, sugar, yeast and water.

Genova’s family is originally from what is now South Sudan, but for years they lived near Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, where her husband was a civil servant. In 2009, she returned south, moving to Juba - now the capital of South Sudan - but her husband stayed behind. Their marriage fell apart after lost his job when the South seceded in 2011.

Genova says her husband knows where she and their four children are living, but he doesn’t send money.

Name: Grace Taban Genova

Age: Around 38

Location: Outskirts of Juba, beyond Gudele West

Does your spouse/partner live with you? No, we are separated. I live with my two brothers and four children

What is your primary job? Home-brewer

What is your monthly salary? On average 120 South Sudanese pounds [US$40 at the official rate]. I tried looking for a job, but brewing is the only thing here. We used to be OK as my husband worked for the [Sudanese] government as a civil servant.

What is your household's total income - including your partner's salary, and any additional sources? It varies. I can make around 120 SSP [$40] a month, and when my brothers get casual labour work, usually in construction, they can bring home 300 SSP [$100] a month and sometimes 100 SSP [$33].

How many people are living in your household - what is their relationship to you? Seven people: me my four children [aged 13, 11, three and a half, and 11 months], and my two brothers.

How many are dependent on you/your partner's income - what is their relationship to you? All seven.

How much do you spend each month on food? 120 SSP [$40] will get me a big bag - around 20kg - of maize. Everything I make from the brewing, I spend on food and water as there is no water here - we have to buy it. I spend 10 SSP [$3.33] every two days for water.

What is your main staple - how much does it cost each month? I spend my money on maize to make posho [porridge], and if there is anything extra coming in I buy kale and some beans. I can't estimate costs because what I get I spend. There are those months that are too difficult and I go without anything.

How much do you spend on rent? The place belongs to relatives, and they said we can stay here without paying.

How much on transport? I go to town maybe three or four times a week [to buy food and brewing ingredients], and it costs me 6 SSP [$2] there and back.

How much do you spend on educating your children each month? For two years they have not had school. There is no money to pay for it.

After you have paid all your bills each month, how much is left? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

Have you or any member of the household been forced to skip meals or reduce portion sizes in the last three months? Usually we have one meal a day. It is lunch and no dinner, or dinner and no lunch. There is no breakfast. Sometimes we go hungry and we have nothing to eat.

Have you been forced to borrow money or food in the last three months to cover basic household needs? In the last three months, I don't know. Sometimes I borrow to buy drugs for the kids. But the baby, Emmanuel, has been ill with diarrhoea for three days, and there’s no money and no one can lend it to me. What can I do? I want someone to invest in my business so that I can make things better.

"My financial situation is terrible. It's not stable and depends on the market: Sometimes I sell my home brew and sometimes I don't. Things are too bad.

"The sicknesses of the children, their lack of education and their feeding are my biggest problems. There's nothing I can do about it apart from the business of brewing.

"When we first came to Juba in 2009, we were in Nyakuron [on the outskirts of the city], and there was school there. Now there is none. In Sudan, they were going to school.

"There is nothing here that is good news, and the bad news is the same old thing - the kids not going to school and the sickness.

"It's not certain things will be better later. I wish the kids would go to school, have medication and food, and that there would be no problems.

"I wanted to build a good business, but what I have is not enough to grow it.

"South Sudan is not what I expected, but this is where I belong. There are more problems here than in the north, where life was a bit better, but there are none that can beat the fact that I am home."


June 2013 update

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