Joy prevails in conflict prone Andari despite heat wave, thanks to UNMISS and partners

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To support and protect survivors of sexual violence, UNMISS and partners handed over a women’s center in Andari in Western Equatoria state. Photo by Denis Louro/UNMISS.

21 Mar 2024

Joy prevails in conflict prone Andari despite heat wave, thanks to UNMISS and partners

Denis Louro

WESTERN EQUATORIA – The scorching sun—the inevitable byproduct of an unprecedented heat wave currently sweeping through South Sudan—couldn’t keep community members of Andari in Western Equatoria state from dancing and ululating at the launch of a women’s center here.

Jubilations of this kind have been rare for Andari residents who have borne the brunt of civil war, recurrent conflict cycles and displacement, forcing them to flee, leaving behind homes, farms and even, loved ones.

“The sound of gunshots was common as were criminality and sleepless nights,” recounts a community member, who preferred to be unnamed, amidst the revelry.

“Women, girls and youth suffered the most,” he recounted wistfully.

Today, Andari enjoys a fragile peace and to bolster this harmony, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), together with peace partners, have handed over a women’s center that is designed to support and protect survivors of sexual violence.

Struggling to dance, tears of joy flowed down 21-year-old and mother of one, *Mary’s face.

"At long last, I can feel peace, joy, and hope for a better future," she said.

*Mary is one of 195 survivors benefitting from a livelihood programme funded by the European Union (EU), mobilized by the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Women’s Protection Advisory Unit and actioned since 2022 by a local community-based organization, Rural Development Action Aid, covering Ezo, Naandi and Andari payams [administrative divisions].

“I am one of the women who has survived sexual violence and in the immediate aftermath of the incident, I felt like my life had ended. I was raped and forced to join armed conflict. With counseling and skill-building, I feel that I’ve been given a second chance to overcome my trauma and rebuild my life,” added *Mary.

She and other women who have undergone similar experiences have been trained in livelihood skills, such as tailoring, which they can use to support themselves and their families.

Additionally, psycho-social support, counseling, trauma healing, and livelihood skills training were provided, aimed to restore their dignity, and help them recover.

“Our main aim is to ensure that beneficiaries of this project are on the path to reestablishing themselves as fully productive and financially solvent members of society. It is hard work but extremely rewarding,” said said Zingorani Albert, Rural Development Action Aid representative.

As the day ended, all attending the handover ceremony were left, and especially beneficiaries, were left with a commodity that has been in short supply in Andari for years—hope.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor