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In South Sudan State, Women Turn to Alcohol

Home brews provide South Sudanese women with a good living and are popular with customers because they cost a fifth of bottle beers.
In South Sudan's Unity state, more and more jobless women are turning to alcohol -- not out of desperation but to make money to support their families, pay for health care and send their kids to school.

They make a decent living brewing a local beer called kongchar.

Nyager Gatkuoth, who lives in Chilaak village in Rubkotna county, has been brewing kongchar for the last 14 years. She says she used the money she earned from selling the home brew to send her three children to school.

Tapitha Nyataba Mayang, a resident of Bentiu town, says many women are forced to brew and sell alcohol because there are simply no other jobs.

“Most of these women in this area make alcohol because of difficulties they face," she said. "A majority of them lack jobs, and a lack of good service delivery is another problem that has forced women to brew alcohol. They need money to take their children to hospital when they fall sick.”

Nyakume Chuol lived for a dozen years in Khartoum before returning to Unity state after South Sudan became independent in 2011. She started brewing kongchar long before that, though -- in 1996 when her husband died. She had to turn to brewing to be able to care for her five children.

"I make this alcohol because these children have no father. The alcohol is my second husband after the death of my husband in the decades' long war," she said, referring to Sudan's civil war that raged for more than 20 years and ended in 2005 with the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement between the north and south.

As for residents of the state, they say they like kongchar because it is cheaper than other types of beer.

In Bentiu, a cup of kongchar costs 2 South Sudanese Pounds compared to a bottle of beer which costs at least 10 South Sudanese pounds.