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Nun gets award for courageous work in South Sudan

East Africa

Nun gets award for courageous work in South Sudan

Report by Hassan John

The US State Department has awarded its International Women of Courage Award to Sister Orla Treacy, a 46 year oldIrish nun from the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (also called Loreto Sisters), for her “exceptional devotion to her vocation.”

The award which honours “women around the world who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in acting to bring positive change to their societies, often at great personal risk and sacrifice,” was presented to Treacy by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US First Lady Melania Trump on Thursday, March 7, in recognition of her sacrificial work “in Rumbek, South Sudan–an area besieged by civil war and violent inter-clan conflict,” and “despite the devastating consequences of war in Rumbek, and the many barriers to women and girls in the community, Sister Orla remains filled with hope, and the Loreto Schools stand as a beacon of light for future South Sudanese generations,” the US State Department stated.

Treacy Orla receiving award from Malina Trump /Photo credit: The Irish Times

Treacy has, since 2006,committed her life, in South Sudan, to addressing the plight of girls “who were being forced into early marriage and denied the right to an education,” and she, together with the Loreto Sisters in Maker Kuei, established a girls-only boarding school with 35 students which has grown into a boarding secondary school for girls with a co-educational primary school, and a women and child-centric primary healthcare facility.

“I work with people who live very much on the margins: life and death, hunger and despair. Every day they live on the edge. And yet in that you can still glimpse love and hope every day… Technically it’s a boarding school but I call it a women’s refuge because you’re constantly trying to protect these girls from forced marriage… We have been threatened at gunpoint, we have been insulted, all number of problems,” Treacy explained adding that to keep the girls protected so they can get education, “one of the things we’ve had to do get them to sign an agreement with the school. We asked for an elder within the family to come with the girl, to sign an agreement with the school that if she comes to the school, she will not be forced out over the four years. It usually works, but sadly we lose about 2% every year,” Treacy said

Though South Sudan is predominantly Christian, and fought to be independent from the Muslim dominated Sudan in 2011. The conflict raging in the country, which has been a power tussle between President Silva Kiir and his Vice Reik Machar, has degenerated into tribal and ethnic violence, instigated by the Sudanese Islamic government in the north.

Feature image/CC/ US Department of State