By Julius N. Uma
July 15, 2012 (JUBA) - The TEDx conference, a program devoted to ideas worth spreading, involving local, self-organised events that bring people together to share experiences opened in the Republic of South Sudan on Sunday.
- A TEDx event held in Boston, US (ted.com)
Whilst officially opening the event in Juba, South Sudan’s information minister said the event, dubbed TEDxJuba, is both an encouragement and opportunity for the “dynamic” community in the new nation.
“The challenges currently facing South Sudan provide an opportunity for its citizens to utilize the enormous resources the country has been blessed with,” said Barnaba Benjamin Marial, adding that now is the time for young people to transform South Sudan into a better country.
TEDx events are usually broadcast live to global audiences and involve both videos and live speakers to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group, with the belief that ideas, knowledge and skills shared will positively impact on society.
The event in Juba had the theme, “New Nation, New Ideas” and was sponsored by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF). South Sudan is the world’s newest nation, after seceding from Sudan just over a year ago.
The young nation is struggling with its economy, security, corruption and infrastructure as former rebels adapt to being a governing party after a six year interim period since a peace deal in 2005.
Southern insurrections, which started even before Sudan’s independence from Anglo-Egyptian rule in 1956 and civil wars have left South Sudan having to build a country and national identity almost from scratch.
Yasmin Ali Haque, the representative of UNICEF South Sudan said TEDxJuba is about the spirit of ideas worth spreading and expressed optimism that ideas shared will positively contribute towards building the new nation by inspiring young people.
“Innovation is not about technology, but about social interaction with the various people in society,” she said, adding that, “It is the creativity and innovation of the South Sudanese that will foster the soul of the new nation amidst the immense challenges it faces.
William Kolong Pioth, one of the speakers at TEDxJuba particularly appealed to the youth to play pivotal roles in building the new nation, saying that nation-building starts with individuals’ self-sacrifice for society.
“We need to focus on giving back to the community through provision of basic social services and other necessities essential for their day to day needs, if we are to build a meaningful nation,” said Pioth, also Director of Pan Aweil Development Agency in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state.
Meanwhile, Jok Madut Jok, the under-secretary ministry of culture, youth and sport said a clear distinction needs to me made between building a country and a nation.
“Whereas building a country is about focusing the democratic principles involved, building a vibrant civil society and other institutions, nation building, on the other hand, concerns fulfilling people-driven priorities, such as health, education among others,” said Jok.
He further noted that South Sudan, with its diverse cultures and nearly 70 ethnic groups, needs to focus on creating a sense of national unity among its citizens, through a unifying factor.
“It’s high time the country’s leadership focused on bringing all the various practices, cultural beliefs and different identities to center stage for immediate redress,” he emphasised.
Alek Wek, a renowned South Sudanese super model, strongly advocated the promotion of children’s education, especially for girls, describing it as the basic foundation for any building.
- Alek Wek modelling in 2007 (Photo: The Heart Truth)
“Like they say, when you educate a woman, the entire nation is educated.” said Wek.
Other key speakers at the 13 July conference included, Joseph Abuk, Werille Benjamin Werille, Rachel Alek, Eunice Elisama and Jan Chipchase.
Started in California, US 25 years ago, TED has since grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. In the past, TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Sir Richard Branson, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, amongst others.
Bios of the TedxJuba speakers from the event website: http://www.ted.com/tedx/events/6219
Mr. Joseph Abuk
Joseph is the father of the new South Sudan national anthem, a prominent author, playwright, cultural critic and co-director of the South Sudan Theatre Company. He translated Shakespeare’s Cymbeline into Juba Arabic, which was performed at London’s Globe Theatre, developed southern Sudanese street theatre, and founded the Skylark Dramatists’ Association in 1979.
Rachel Alek, Editor, SHE South Sudan’s first women’s magazine. SHE tells stories and features from a female perspective about life, development, fashion, politics, economics, environment and society. The aim of the magazine is to provide information women need and which is taken for granted in societies with an overload of information, but is lacking in South Sudan. Rachel strongly believes the women of South Sudan need female journalists to be able to explain their interests in public, and has recently written about the efforts of women in Jonglei to end the conflict peacefully. She is studying journalism at Juba University.
I’m an Executive Creative Director of Global Insights at frog – a global design and innovation company. Prior to this role I worked for almost a decade as a strategist in Nokia’s Los Angeles design studio and Principal Scientist in the Nokia Research Center, Tokyo. I specialize in taking teams of concept/industrial designers, psychologists, usability experts, sociologists, and ethnographers into the field and, after a fair bit of work, getting them home safely. The tough part of the job is in using the data to inform, inspire and affect how my colleagues think and what they do, and in turning research into products, services and core intellectual property that underpins the future business.
William Kolong Pioth
I was born in Aweil West county, Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, South Sudan and am a son of the former paramount chief of Ayat, now deceased. At the age of 8, I joined the “Lost Boys of Sudan”, who escaped from the civil war, first to Ethiopia, then to Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. I became one of the leaders of the boys at Kakuma refugee camp. Now a Canadian citizen, I returned to my home country to help rebuild our community. I am now based in Aweil, Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, South Sudan and am currently working on finishing up the second primary school and the manufacture and installation of biosand water filters in village homes.
Marketing Manager, Lulu Works. As a non-profit trust, Lulu Works has created an infrastructure for a sustainable shea oil industry for the women of South Sudan, ensuring the rights of South Sudanese women as the traditional guardians of Sudan’s lulu (shea nut) tree. The fair trade income reaches a total of 400 women in South Sudan, helping them maintain a healthy household with money for food, clothing, education and medical care. Sustainable living coupled with a wide variety of productive investments is contributing greatly to the development of the local economy.
Former Sudanese refugee and supermodel, marks the one year anniversary of independence with her first journey home since the historic referendum. She brings with her a message of peace, hope and inspiration for the young nation. Her firm commitment to innovation in education, creative business solutions and passionate belief in the young people of South Sudan as contributors and recipients of innovative solutions for the future, will be the theme of Alek’s presentation. She will talk about her journey to success as a supermodel and how she hopes her story will inspire the youth of this budding nation to strive, in spite of so many challenges, to reach their personal dreams. Alek not only rose to fame as one of the first African supermodels but she has become an emerging voice for refugees. Alek has worked with numerous groups over the years utilizing her fashion platform to lend a voice to critical humanitarian solutions.
Jok Madut Jok
Jok Madut Jok, Under-Secretary Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport; Co-Founder Sudd Institute; Professor of African Studies, Loyola Marymount University, California and author of many books on South Sudan and North Sudan. He will be speaking about the importance of culture in nation building, emphasizing the celebrations of cultural diversity and importance of national heritage to create national identity. He believes young people are the vehicle for national cohesion and the focus for a strong future.
Warille Benjamin Libo
Warille, CEO of IMATONGAS, was born in 1974 in Juba town. After the outbreak of the second civil War, Warille’s family was forced to relocate to Khartoum, Northern Sudan, where he went to school and then Khartoum University, graduating in 2000 as an Electrical Engineer . From graduation until the signing of the CPA in 2005, Warille worked for the Ex- Mobil and PETRONAS Marking both multinational companies operating in distribution of oil product in the North. In 2005, Warille resigned and decided to come back to Juba and to contribute in the post-war development. He founded IMATONGAS in 2006 and since then he has been managing the company. Currently IMATONGAS employees are more than 50 South Sudanese, and is one of the leading distributing companies in South Sudan. He recently obtained an MBA from Kingston University, London.