Shanty has worked in the South Sudanese media since 2010 and has published her photography in various newspapers and magazines.
Speaking to The Niles in an interview, she describes the problems facing reporters, the financial pressures, and why she remains optimistic about the future:
Q: Why do you keep working in the media at a time when everyone else seems to be leaving? After all, Nhial Bol, veteran journalist and founder of Citizen Newspaper has resigned, and many other journalists have fled the country.
It has always been my dream to enlighten my people. Knowledge is power and informing people is the only way we are going to build up this country. I am not going anywhere until this dream is fully achieved. I know a lot of unfortunate things have happened to journalists in the recent past. The Union of Journalists of South Sudan have already raised these issues with the government and I am hopeful the authorities will address our concerns.
Q: How is True African Magazine pushing for peace in South Sudan?
We love this country and would love to see peace return so that our people can once again live side by side like in other nations. We advocate and support youth programmes promoting peace and nonviolence and we do this through engaging the youth through arts and fashion. We recently organised and sponsored a fashion show in Juba. When the youth from all the South Sudan tribes come and together watch and cheer to such events, unity and peace is created and that is our goal.
Q: How do you manage amid South Sudan’s ailing economy?
The whole economy is struggling and things have been slow but this has motivated us to run an extra mile. It’s really the never-tiring hard work we put in that is keeping us afloat.
Q: What inspires you?
To do the little things in life that mean so much to someone, to be able to touch the hearts of people who are in no position to pay me back, that means a lot. Am also inspired by strong successful women in the world. Personally I like Oprah and Michelle. And yeah I love to have my own things – to be independent.
Q: What is your advice to media houses and journalists who are still operating in South Sudan?
Media houses need to introduce and encourage programmes that support peace and nonviolence and to keep empowering South Sudanese through the right information.
Q: İf you became South Sudan’s first female president, what three things would you immediately change about this country?
First I would improve on the welfare of women and children especially by pushing for more women participation in governance. Women are good managers as seen in homes and I strongly believe they would make better national leaders. My second area would be to improve health care across all states. And then I would invest in modern agriculture.
Q: What is the fastest way to achieve peace in South Sudan?
Only through compromise. I believe that’s how we can realise peace in the country. I applaud the government and the SPLM-IO for the signed Compromised Peace Agreement. It shows we can settle our differences by mutual agreement. We can begin from here and build strong structures that promote peace, unity and prosperity among South Sudanese.
Q: How best can the government protect women and children from the brutality they have reportedly faced during the civil war?
There is a phrase by the novelist William Douglas that says, ‘women and Children first’ which has now technically been interpreted as save women and children first in any life threatening situation. Warring sides in conflict should protect them: Women are the mothers of the nation and children are the future of the nation, any violence against them such as rape and forced labour should be punished by tough legislation. We need strong democratic institutions. I urge our leaders to listen to the voices of all people, including the minorities, women and the youth.
Q: Where do you see True African Magazine and the entire South Sudanese media developing in the next five years?
I see True African Magazine as the first pan-African magazine from South Sudan, with distribution and readership in East and Central Africa. We are going to put a lot of work into achieving this dream. I know many can’t imagine this, but I believe the South Sudanese media will become part of a freer and open society with unlimited freedom of speech and expression. There are good times ahead for the media.