By the time Thelma was ten her family had already been displaced at least four times. At the age of 11 her father and several of her siblings were killed. Within a year her mother had re-married. Her stepfather refused to take care of her, so she was sent to her paternal grandparents. By the age of 14 they had both died, leaving Thelma to fend for herself. Having been forced to live on the streets of Juba for almost two years, Thelma decided that her best option to secure some sort of protection and future was to use the only ‘asset’ she had left – her body. She thought if she was to have a child the father and his kin would be forced to take her in and make her a part of their family. So she began a sexual relationship with an older boy she had met at a bar and quickly became pregnant. When she told the boy and his family, they chased her away, stating that they had no responsibility for her or the baby as there had been no marriage and no payment of bride-wealth.


Since giving birth Thelma has been living with twelve other women and men in a one-room shelter made of wooden sticks and plastic sheeting built on the side of the road in a main part of Juba. In the last twelve months the government has forced them to move three times, destroying their shelters and, often, their possessions. As neither the government nor aid agencies have provided her with any sort of land or shelter, there is nowhere else that she can go: she does not know how to contact her mother, and knows of no other relatives that she could go to. With no male relatives to advocate on her behalf, it is unlikely that the father of her child will ever provide support. Having had a child outside of wedlock, it is also unlikely that another man will agree to marry her. Without significant support from the government or an aid agency, it is likely that Thelma will be forced to beg or engage in survival sex so as to provide even the most basic forms of support to her child.