‘Tradition is making us cry as women but tomorrow we will be happy’

WFP staff member challenges gender stereotypes as she strives to help others in South Sudan

From a warehouse in Rumbek, Diko helps ensure critical items are dispatched by plane to remote, difficult-to-access areas. Photo: WFP

My name is Diko Amariah Khor. I am a Business Support Assistant based in the World Food Programme (WFP)’s office in Rumbek, South Sudan.

I have been working for the WFP-led Logistics Cluster for eight months, supporting logistics operations. Before this, I was working for an airline that supports humanitarian flights in South Sudan. Working for WFP is a dream come true. In 1997, my parents and I fled the fighting. As refugees, we received WFP assistance and I feel now it’s my turn to ensure others, especially women and girls, receive it as well.

In this country, millions of people depend on international assistance to survive. In Rumbek, the situation is even worse and it is rewarding to be part of the solution. Here, WFP runs one of its biggest logistics operations in the country. Using a seven-strong fleet of aircraft, we service several hard-to-reach locations in the area including in Ganyiel, Leer and Mayendit, performing approximately 50 aircraft rotations per month and delivering an average 200 metric tons of critical relief items on behalf of aid agencies.

A woman in Leer sets out to cook for her family using food delivered by WFP. Photo: WFP/George Fominyen

My job involves supporting the movement of items such as hygiene kits and shelter material to the warehouse, and from there to the airport for dispatch to their final destinations. By 7 a.m. I am already in the office preparing the necessary paperwork for the flights. Then I head to the airport to supervise the loading of cargo prior to take-off, keep constant contact with our partners on the ground and provide notifications to the consignees.

A former recipient of WFP’s support, Diko now works to ensure others can benefit from it. Photo: WFP

We face various operational challenges. Sometimes weather reports and security updates are delayed, sometimes bad weather can cause flight delays or cancellations, which in turn lead to a backlog of non-food supplies in the warehouses. Sometimes poor road conditions make it difficult for our trucks to reach their destinations, and sometimes we have to negotiate and build trust with local authorities to explain that our operations are humanitarian, and not political, in nature.

“I wish I could see more and more South Sudanese women defying all the odds.”

In a traditional society where women and children are marginalized, people always find it interesting when they see me as the only lady on the airport ramp, carrying out the same tasks as my male colleagues. I have always challenged myself — I like doing something that people may not find appropriate because of the myths and cultural beliefs surrounding it.

Some people say “women cannot do this and that,” which eventually holds women back. But I don’t let that happen to me. I always work hard, am committed to my work, appreciate my colleagues and value positive criticism that helps me improve in my work.

‘It is interesting when people see me as the only lady on the airport ramp.’ Photo: WFP

My greatest satisfaction is when supplies reach our partners in the deep field without delays and can be delivered to those who need them. I have always wanted to be a humanitarian and wish I could see more and more South Sudanese women defying all the odds.

We are going through a lot as a country and this affects women more. I do not usually give up, nor am I swayed by the crowd. I will continue to soldier on despite the stereotypes. You must follow your heart’s desires and what makes you happy. Tradition is making us cry as women but tomorrow, we will be happy!

— As told to Fiona Lithgow and Tomson Phiri.

The Logistic Cluster provides coordination and information management to support operational decision-making of humanitarian organizations and improve the predictability, timeliness and efficiency of the humanitarian emergency response. Where necessary, the Logistics Cluster also facilitates access to common logistics services and works with WFP for air operations.

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Insight by The World Food Programme

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