Model, DJ/producer and South Sudanese refugee Mari Malek uses her NYC platform to broadcast information about her nonprofit Stand 4 Education on Models.com. In an in-depth, no fluff interview, Mari Malek reveals information about herself and — more importantly — the dire plight of her people living in South Sudan, a country that gained its independence from Sudan in 2011.
In this series of images by Cliff Watts, Mari Malek is joined by South Sudan sisters Mari Agory, Grace Bol, Rina Kara, Elizabeth Arjok, Nyamouch Girwath, and Nykhor Paul in a visual exploration of their South Sudanese roots, beauty and traditions.
Stand 4 Education’s manifesto is focused on providing education to the women and children of South Sudan and to drum up global awareness for her culture. Education needs to be ubiquitous. “Because education is not only academic, it’s for all aspects of life,” she says.
On the Stand 4 Education website, we learn that South Sudan has the lowest school access rates in the world with a staggering 90% illiteracy rate among women. Less than 2% of girls attend high school, making South Sudan the most illiterate place in the world for girls.
Vice Magazine interviewed Mari Malek in the spring of 2014 as part of an in-depth story Saving South Sudan by Robert Young Pelton. The issue also features portraits by Mike Mellia for a series called ‘Our Side of the Story: South Sudan’. Outside of the fact that everyone is a ‘supermodel’, a misnomer that is a pet peeve of mine, the photos are magnificent.
In her Vice Interview, Malek explains that she was born in Wau, South Sudan. Her father was a minister of finance in the government, and her mother was a nurse. ‘My family was also very large. I have about 20 sisters and brothers. Five of us belonged to my mom and dad, and the rest were my half sisters and brothers. My dad had four wives, and my mom was his third wife, the one who took care of all his children.’
As the violence became worse in South Sudan, Malek’s mother brought her and two sisters to a refugee camp in Egypt in hopes of getting them out of the country.VICE writes:
She eventually emigrated to Newark, New Jersey, living in a low-income housing complex filled with drugs, violence, prostitutes, and other problems that made the transition feel “even scarier than our home in Sudan.”
In an unusually candid comment in her VICE interview, Malek speaks not only of lack of education — and especially for girls with egos — as the major problem in South Sudan.
The other root of the problem is “men with egos.” Our country is the youngest country in the world. Our leaders are inexperienced and running it. I feel like they are running it with their testosterone and egos. The current crisis in South Sudan has been exposed to the media and to the blind as a “tribal war,” when really it is a power struggle between two men who want power for themselves. These men are supposed to be our leaders and our protectors.
Based on very-real, first-hand experience with male ego in this part of the world, I know that the culture of protecting male ego is an epic issue in many parts of Africa. I will say no more, so as not to be incriminating. Please read the articles at Models.com and also on VICE about South Sudan. They are excellent.
Anne of Carversville’s substantial efforts in Sudan have been focused more in Khartoum, trying to stop the brutal flogging of 40,000 women and girls each year. Sudanese law exempts Christians from South Sudan from being flogged, but the barbarians who roam the streets looking for women inappropriately dressed don’t distinguish between Muslim and the rarer Christian women in the country.
Please note that AOC’s sub-heading ‘From fashion to flogging, telling women’s stories’ is not a reference to ‘50 Shades of Grey’. It refers to this dispicable flogging of 40,000 females annually in Sudan, dressed in any way that offends men in charge of their propriety. ~ Anne