Building futures in South Sudan

Youth-focused radio programme Building Futures challenged negative perceptions of technical vocational education and training, and provided young people advice about job searching and starting their own businesses.

A BBC Media Action Producer prepares for an interview

BBC Media Action created Building Futures to tackle negative perceptions and social norms that hinder access to a vocational education for young people, who face many barriers to gaining and retaining employment in South Sudan. 

Our research found that although young people consider technical and vocational education a viable path to a job, older people still prefer to see their children complete a university education and get a white-collar job - perceived to command more respect in the community than manual labour. Yet there is high competition for office jobs in South Sudan, and a sense that employers prefer to hire people from nearby East African countries who are perceived as more qualified and productive. Women face the additional challenge of restrictive social expectations which hinder their access to education and inclusion in the job market. 

Our 15-minute factual programmes were produced in four languages - Dinka, Murle, Arabic and English - and broadcast across 15 radio stations nationwide. Building Futures formed part of Empower South Sudan - a major European Union initiative designed to increase the number of young people, especially women, enrolling and completing in technical and vocational courses, gaining and retaining employment or opening their own business.

Challenging attitudes

Our research found that male family members, especially husbands and fathers, have a say in whether women were allowed to work. Women are also largely excluded from male-dominated professions, such as carpentry or welding. The challenges outweighed opportunities for other vulnerable groups too - such as people with disabilities and internally displaced people - who lacked support from their communities and NGOs to access education and employment.

Building Futures featured many real-life experiences and success stories from technical and vocational students who successfully completed a course, opened a business, or gained employment. Young graduates who opened their own businesses shared their top tips on completing a vocational or technical training course, while other young business owners described how they overcame challenges posed by COVID-19.

The project seeks to increase women's enrolment in courses leading to professions traditionally dominated by men.

Making an impact

After the first year of broadcast, our research found 78% of listeners said Building Futures contributed to an improvement in their perceptions about technical and vocational training, and the students. A number of women said they enrolled in technical or vocational courses as a result of listening to to the programme. One woman told us she was inspired to use her existing baking skills to start her small bakery business. We also saw a shift in fears that these courses would lead women to carry out ‘dirty work’ meant for men.

People with disabilities said they learnt about, and felt they could join, technical and vocational courses; one young man opened his own small computer repair business after feeling encouraged by the radio programme. BBC Media Action also supported a number of local broadcast partners during the project by running training for staff about managing radio stations, editorial guidelines, and/or maintaining equipment. Our partners radio stations included: Every Village/Door FM in Tonj, Top FM in Juba, TRC (Mayardit FM in Turalei & Akol yam FM in Aweil Town) and Easter Radio in Yei.


Project information

Project name Strengthening civil society and enhancing technical and vocational education and training (TVET) for youth employment in South Sudan.
Funder EU

Phase 1: January 2018 - December 2020

Themes Education

Building Futures radio programme and capacity building for local radio stations: Every Village/Door FM in Tonj, Top FM in Juba, TRC (Mayardit FM in Turalei & Akol yam FM in Aweil Town) and Easter Radio in Yei.

Broadcast partners

Building Futures broadcast across 15 local radio stations.


Consortium led by Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Other implementing partners are: Association of Christian Resource Organisation Serving Sudan (ACROSS); Nile Hope (NH); Vocational Skills Development Organisation (VOSDO); Finn Church Aid (FCA).

Our projects in South Sudan