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3 Things to learn from Dr. Stella Nyanzi, the not so “proper” Ugandan activist, reprimanded by her country

3 Things to learn from Dr. Stella Nyanzi, the not so “proper” Ugandan activist, reprimanded by her country


Uganda has been ruled by one government since 1986 till date and in a bid to keep it that way the government has stifled any form of opposition that aims to disrupt its “peace”. Citizens are subjected to living in fear of being punished when they speak openly about things that oppose the government. So, people like Dr. Stella are very rare in Uganda.

Dr. Stella is not driven by the society’s expectations of how women are to behave and present themselves. The 44 year old Medical anthropologist has been very vocal about her views for every human, women especially, in Uganda her home. Views which didn’t go down well with the Ugandan government, causing her to be arrested severally.

The first, in April 2017, was for calling the president names publicly. And then she became famous for saying “Museveni (the president) is a pair of buttocks”.

Stella’s fame grew wide, as international communities termed the harsh response of the government of Uganda as being against a crucial human right: freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

Ugandan prominent human rights activist and feminist Stella Nyanzi (C) reacts to police officers during a protest against the amount and handling of police investigations into murders and kidnappings of women in Kampala on June 5, 2018. – A group of activists were blocked and four of them were arrested by riot police officers as they tried to hand a letter to the police Inspector General to demand more actions and investigations. (Photo by Sumy SADURNI / AFP) (Photo credit should read SUMY SADURNI/AFP/Getty Images)

Dr. Stella is leveraging on her “fame” to do good things for women and youths in her country and these are the 3 things you can learn from her experience.

Don’t start what you can finish

Commitment to her views is clearly seen in her story. Dr. Stella is committed to standing for the things that she believes in, not minding what it would cost her. Her views on sex and sexuality (sexual education in schools), backward cultures and traditions impeding growth of individuals and on policy and good governance were frowned upon both by the government and conservative Ugandans. As social change agents in your community, you are going to be faced with situations that would want to strip you of all your accolades but if you truly believe in what you have set out to change you must be willing to go the extra mile. Remember people who are looking up to you are watching, they are the ones you shouldn’t give up on.

Social media is more powerful (positively) than you think

While there have been a lot of backlash recently on the negativity of excessive use of social media, it is also important to highlight that some good has come out of using social media to stir up conversions about human rights and good governance. Dr. Stella used her social media platforms to voice out her concerns about the effects of patriarchy, misogyny and homophobia as well as rally support online through which she was able to crowdfund a project that provides free sanitary pads to girls in Uganda who couldn’t go to school because they couldn’t buy pads and so much more.

Be a change agent anywhere, anytime

Dr. Stella fails to confirm to what she believes is nonsense and she remain empathetic about this. It wasn’t shocking to see that when she was arrested again in October 2018, she refused to request bail. She had discovered that there were women in the prison who needed to be educated, so she continued the fight for her believes right there in prison.

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