Akuja de Garang has been awarded the Member of the Order of British Empire (MBE) by Her Majesty the Queen for services to the promotion of girls’ education and social development in South Sudan. The award is recognition of Akuja’s work leading the Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) programme managed by Cambridge Education and supported by UKAid through the Department for International Development.
GESS is an innovative and complex programme tackling barriers to girls’ education in the country. Akuja has been instrumental in the success of the programme to date, reaching over 180,000 unique girls and providing them with cash grants to keep them enrolled up to the end of secondary school. She has also overseen the programme becoming totally sectoral where GESS now works in all schools in South Sudan reaching and benefitting many more children.
Akuja has also made a significant contribution to the development of South Sudan, the world’s newest country, and the country of her birth. She has strived to improve the state of a number of sectors, including child protection, human rights, youth participation, health and education, and most recently as team leader of GESS. She is a conflict management, humanitarian and development expert with extensive project management experience and has worked in Sudan, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Kenya, the UK and South Sudan.
On learning of her award, Akuja said: “This is wonderful. More so for the GESS programme and the people of South Sudan.”
John Shotton, Mott MacDonald’s international economic and social development director, who led the team which designed the programme, said: “From the outset of the GESS programme, Akuja has worked to convince government and communities alike that an educated girl can bring in more money on a long-term basis. She is total in her commitment and effective in her leadership. This award of the MBE is recognition of her determination and the efforts of the whole GESS programme team.”
GESS is breaking ground in bringing and keeping girls in school in the most adverse of environments. By tackling ingrained stigmas surrounding the education of girls the programme is contributing to the long-term development of the world’s youngest country.
The programme aims to benefit 150,000 unique girls in primary school and 50,000 unique girls in secondary school, with that target almost already reached. To date more than 240,000 girls and 300,000 boys have also benefited from the programme’s broader package of support. In excess of another million other girls and boys are being reached through communications to families, communities and leaders, helping to ensure that drop-out and repetition rates will decrease and learning outcomes improve across the education sector in South Sudan.