Though Sudan’s refugees were previously known as only “The Lost Boys,” women refugees are completing the picture by adding their stories. Women refugees held a mini- conference in Arizona recently, just prior to the Arizona Lost Boys first annual conference, bringing together both male and female refugees in the US. Because of disproportionately smaller numbers and reluctance to draw attention to their hardships, the “Lost Girls” were less known until recently. Julia Duaney, a Sudanese refugee and activist, reminded the women at their pre-conference how important it is that their stories be heard, despite their cultural restrictions, according to the Voice of America (VOA).
Both female and male children, most of them recently orphaned, fled from the violence in Sudan during the civil war in 1983. Many did not survive the long journey to the refugee camp in Kenya, Kakuma; Refugees International estimates that their original numbers were between 17,000 and 25,000, but only 11,000 arrived in Kakuma. Interviewees told the VOA that upon their arrival, girls were not allowed to stay alone as the boys were and many were placed in foster homes and became mothers and/or housekeepers. When the US opened its borders to these teens, the VOA reports about 4,000 males and 89 females came over.
Veronica Abbas told the VOA after the conference, “I decided to come here and give people my idea that the girls at home need help. They need education. You know, they don’t want to get married when they are 14, they don’t want to have 10 kids when they know that they’re not going to raise those kids. Five of those kids are going to die of disease, and they’re not educated.”