#16Days: Sylvia Kakyo, Director of Keep Me In School

For #16DaysofActivism, we're shining a spotlight on inspirational youth activists worldwide. We spoke to Sylvia Kakyo, Director of Ugandan grassroots NGO 'Keep Me In School' about her work to improve girls access to education by raising awareness around rights issues.

How did you become an activist?
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I’m passionate about human rights and education, and driven by my vision for a better future. This inspiration comes from my own personal experience – at the age of 12, I was asked by my relatives to leave my studies and get married, with reason being that girls were not supposed to go to school but should insteadf get married .

I had to fight for my rights as a young girl and, this gave me a way to speak out against violence and early marriages in my community hence fulfilling my passion.

What kind of activism are you involved in?

I’m the Director of a rural-based NGO called “Keep Me In School”. It provides free training to people in the Community - for instance parents, local leaders and the youth – teaching them the value of human rights and rights to education for both the girl and boy child.

This came up after realizing that there was a high rate of school drop-outs in my community, plus my personal experience, due to barriers like early marriage, early pregnancies, restrictive cultural norms, discrimination and forced labor. I became conscious of the importance of raising awareness to the community about human rights issues like child labor, education and domestic violence to ensure increased retention of girls and boys in school.

What kind of challenges do you face as a girls' rights activist?
The first challenge is the inescapable fact that a change agent cannot and never should swoop into a community and expect to change things for that community: you cannot just go in and ‘cure things’.


The first challenge is the inescapable fact that a change agent cannot and never should swoop into a community and expect to change things for that community: you cannot just go in and 'cure things'.

The second challenge is ongoing frustration that well planned community advancement programs do not always reach those for whom they were primarily intended. Somehow the combination of attitude, lack of education, and messaging that does not reach its intended audience can sometimes beat the best intentions of the best educators and change agents.

The third major challenge is perception that the local area lacks effective leaders and enough volunteers to get important tasks done. We have very few leaders in the community to meet our needs

What does 16 Days of Activism mean to you?

As an activist myself, 16 days of Activism means rising international awareness and raising campaign for the cause of stopping violence against women and children. We can end this through mass mobilization of all communities to promote collective responsibility in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children. We need to emphasize the fact that the solution lies with all of us.

Find the rest of our #16Days blog series here.