Meet Charity Edisa from Mundri, Western Equatoria, who has braved conflict zones and is a fierce women’s rights advocate. Photo by Denis Louro/UNMISS.
WESTERN EQUATORIA – At 54 years of age, Charity Edisa from Mundri in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state, is passionate about community work.“I am a mother of four and ever since I can remember, I’ve been drawn towards helping women and girls have equal opportunities to shine,” she recounts. Initially, Charity worked as a schoolteacher but the latent activist in her was dissatisfied, and she has been a fierce women’s rights defender 12 years before joining the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s (UNMISS) Peace Fellows Program, a collaborative undertaking by the UN Peacekeeping mission and the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation aimed at galvanizing citizens to invigorate the quest for a durable peace through active participation and leadership.“My work in the community puts me in a position where I hear the trauma and pain that women have undergone; sometimes it’s not easy to bear. But I am thankful that every day because I wake up knowing that I am making a difference,” she says with a smile. Charity’s academic background in community studies also plays its part in fueling her passion to uplift women and girls. “As I progressed in my course in community studies, it made me realize the horrific toll conflict has taken on the women and girls in my country. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything possible to make things better for them,” she reveals passionately. The Peace Fellows Program provided Charity with the platform she needed to push the envelope on the impact of peace and security on women, as well as their vital role in building and sustaining lasting harmony. Within the Program, her responsibilities include monitoring and advocacy, political sensitization, and ensuring citizens fully participate in peace efforts. But her passion is ensuring girls receive the same education as boys. “Traditionally in South Sudan, girls drop out of schools at a very young age. They have no future learning opportunities and are often forced into marriage,” Charity narrates wistfully.This, she opines, has led to high rates of illiteracy among women and prevented them from taking their rightful part of the country’s political and economic landscape.“In my community, women who have suffered recurrent conflict are left behind, but we are trying to empower them through pilot projects that equip them with vocational skills. So far, we have reached 587 girls who enrolled for studies, and they are now at university level,” she adds with pride.According to Charity, one of the most positive changes she has seen is the provision of 35 per cent participation from women in governance, politics, and decision-making, as stipulated in the Revitalized Peace Agreement signed in September 2018. “Women are the heart of a nation and make up 50 per cent of any community. Our voices must be heard and included in decisions that impact us directly,” she states emphatically. Charity acknowledges that as a Peace Fellow with UNMISS, she is also to some extent a role model for local women in her community.“I’m aware that some mothers in my community tell girls to go to school and be like me. Some have even named me Mama Salam [Mother of Peace],” she reveals with a smile. “This do make me happy and proud of the work I do,” she lamented.Reaching remote communities for advocacy work has not been an easy task. But travelling through jungles, tough terrain, or conflict hotspots cannot deter Charity.“During the crisis in 2016, people were suffered immensely; I decided to meet warring parties passing through active conflict to plead for peace. It was a tough decision, but I felt must do it for the sake of my community. Today, I am a proud South Sudanese because we are on the cusp of becoming a true democracy,” she explains. But Charity—as her name dictates—isn’t someone who believes she is the only one with such commitment, as she lauds women peacekeepers serving with the UN Peacekeeping mission, who, she says, inspire her. “Women peacekeepers are not from South Sudan, yet they place their lives in danger, leaving behind families and loved ones to protect my country, my people. They are the motivation I need every day,” she states heartwarmingly.UNMISS salutes Charity Edisa.