“My educational background is something completely different from the work and activism I am doing now. My first degree is in applied and industrial science, my Masters degree is in human resource development. Changing my career path from my first degree to where I am now, getting more involved in the work of women’s rights, is because of the passion I have to see the situation in South Sudan change. If we don’t have security and we don’t have peace, what is the importance of applied science?”
Rita is a South Sudanese women’s rights and peace activist, and cofounder of EVE Organization for Women Development – an organization using education to empower women and girls in South Sudan.
Born in South Sudan, Rita fled with her family to Khartoum, Sudan when the second civil war intensified in 1990. She spent the majority of her childhood in Sudan as an internally displaced person, but did have the opportunity to go to school – an experience that inspired her to action.
Upon completing her first university degree in 2005, then 22-year-old Rita was struck by the realization that she was incredibly privileged to have obtained a university degree – while so many other girls in South Sudan don’t have the opportunity to complete primary or secondary school. So, Rita and seven other women from universities in Sudan came together to form EVE Organization for Women Development.
EVE provides skill building, rights awareness and leadership training to young women in South Sudan. Since forming, EVE has broadened its scope to promote women’s political participation and urge for women’s voices to be included at the peace table. EVE, under Rita’s leadership, has also played a key role in monitoring the implementation of UN Resolution 1325 in South Sudan.
When the peace agreement was signed in 2005 to end the civil war, Rita returned to the newly formed South Sudan. However the outbreak of new fighting in 2013 has resulted in increased challenges for Rita to do her work. An estimated 2.2 million people have been displaced by the conflict, and all warring groups commit human rights atrocities and torture against South Sudanese women – including rape as a weapon of war.
In the face of conflict, Rita and EVE continue to think critically and creatively to empower women and girls in South Sudan. Rita and her colleagues travel to areas most affected by the conflict to speak to women, hear their stories, and strengthen communities through addressing head on issues faced by women.
Working alongside grassroots women gives Rita the courage, confidence and passion to continue fighting for their rights. She is motivated to tell their stories, to make space for them at the tables of all levels of government and ultimately improve the lives of all South Sudanese women.
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