From where I stand: “I advocate for women and girls in my community to know their rights”


cecilia iillustration
Cecilia Pita Wani speaks on the power of women coming together to empower themselves. Through a support group for Women living in Maaji 2 Refugee settlement, Cecilia has learnt about her sexual reproductive health rights, positive parenting, psychosocial support skills and business skills. These gained skills have changed the trajectory of her life and made her self independent.  Illustration by UN Women/Michael Lusaba

Cecilia Pita Wani is a South Sudanese refugee living in Maaji 2 Refugee Settlement in Adjumani District, Uganda since 15 March 2015 due to conflicts in her country.

“I understand the power of belonging to a group of women. When I arrived at the refugee settlement seven years ago, I had lost my husband to the war and I had no means of supporting myself and my five children. I started to engage in sex work and I found it difficult to move on with my life. One day I saw a group of women gathered to learn about sexual and reproductive health and I decided to join them. I learned that I should test for HIV and that there would be treatment available if I tested positive. I continued to attend these meetings because I realized that I could change the trajectory of my life. I stopped relying on men for my survival and started to rely on myself. I am now actively recruiting other women and girls to the support group we call Amavuandraga Power Club. Together we learn about health, business skills, positive parenting, and psychosocial support skills that helped me to heal from the trauma of being a widow and a single parent.

We also started saving money together for a social fund. We can borrow money from this fund for a small interest to use for any emergency we face or to build a business. I used this group loan to buy a pig and now have five piglets. I am patiently waiting for them to grow so I can sell them at a better price and pay for my loan, my children’s school fees, or their health needs. Even though these small loans won't solve all financial issues, we are living free of stress because we counsel each other every week when we meet to save money and share our challenges. We brainstorm together on overcoming difficulties, which makes us feel strong. It has also promoted peaceful coexistence among ourselves, given that we are a mixed group from different backgrounds.

I advocate for women and girls in my community to know their rights and to have access to services such as family planning and entrepreneurship. The majority of our community are widows and girls. As a widow myself, I know the challenges of having no access to livelihood, and our girls need life skills. This is why I have now taken on the role as a woman leader on the Refugee Welfare Council of Maaji 2 Refugee Settlement.”

Cecilia Pita Wani’s work and advocacy relate closely to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 5 on gender equality, and SDG 3 on good health and well-being. She is actively engaged in UN Women’s Programme on Women’s Empowerment in Sexual, Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, and Adolescent Health rights in humanitarian settings in the Horn of Africa Region (POWER), which is supported by the Austrian Development Agency. The programme focuses on removing the barriers that prevent women, adolescents, and girls from accessing their rights to and seeking services for sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health.