Sylvia Kakyo is the director of Safe Schools Uganda, an NGO that works to improve children’s access to quality education with the intent to develop them into changemakers who will contribute positively to their communities. For the past two years, Safe Schools Uganda has been running a project called Keep Me in School. This project aims to improve school enrollment and increase access to information and services for the girl child. Active in the YALI Network, Sylvia was also the 2016 Participant Engagement Committee Chair for the YALI Uganda Regional Leadership Center Alumni Chapter.
Sylvia is passionate about human rights and children’s education. Her dedication to these causes comes from her personal experience. At the age of 15, Sylvia’s family attempted to force her into an early marriage. Sylvia managed to escape the early marriage and convince her family to let her stay in school. Sylvia was lucky enough to finish school, and she has made it her mission to work for social change and become an advocate for girls’ education in Uganda.
Statistics show that in Uganda, approximately 46% of girls marry before the age of 18, putting them at a higher risk for gender-based violence, child labor, and early pregnancy. Child marriage also often prevents girls from getting an education.
Sylvia is passionate about keeping girls in school because when they do, they are less likely to contract HIV, have lower pregnancy rates, and are often less vulnerable to domestic violence. Staying in school also enables girls to fulfill their potential and economically contribute to their families and communities.
To learn more about the Keep Me in School project, follow @safeschoolsuga2 on Twitter.
Sylvia Kakyo Podcast Transcript
Bob: Sylvia Kakyo is the director of Safe Schools Uganda, a Ugandan NGO that works to improve girls’ access to education. In recognition of 16 Days Against GBV, Sylvia shares her personal story and commitment to keeping girls safe and improving their access to education.
Interviewer: Welcome Sylvia
Sylvia: Thank You
Interviewer: To start, tell us why you became an activist for keeping girls in school.
Sylvia: I’m passionate about human rights and child education. This inspiration came as a result of my personal experience that I went through at the age of 15 when I was forced into early marriage. Following my passion, I denied getting married and requested my relatives not to engage me in such acts but rather to support and achie my career as somebody who is passionate about education. This inspired me to start working in social change and advocate for the rights of girl-child education to make a positive change in my community.
Interviewer: So tell us about your organization
Sylvia: Safe Schools Uganda is a non-governmental organization that works top improve children’s access to quality education with intent to develop them into change makers who will contribute positively to their communities. Under Safe Schools Uganda we’ve been running a project for the last two years called “Keep Me in School.”
Interviewer: So, can you help us understand what Gender Based Violence, or GBV means?
Sylvia: From my personal, view Gender-based violence comes in many forms – physical violence, rape and sexual assault, child and forced marriages, denying resources and services, and psychological assault. So, gender-based violence can affect anyone, regardless of their economic or social status.
Interviewer: And how are Ugandan girls impacted by this?
Sylvia: The average Ugandan is a 14-year-old girl, living in a rural area. She has a 1 in 4 risk of becoming pregnant during adolescence, is at high risk of being in an early marriage, and will likely drop out of school before reaching the secondary level. So, she is also twice as likely to be living with HIV as a boy her age.
Interviewer: So is there a connection between keeping girls in school, and gender-based violence?
Sylvia: Yes, the connection is there. When girls stay in school longer, they are less likely to contract HIV, have lower pregnancy rates, and are often less vulnerable to domestic violence. As well as they are staying in school longer in school, [this] empowers them to sustain themselves and [their] family economically.
Interviewer: So what advice would you give a girl, say, if her family is preventing her from going to school?
Sylvia: As a victim who went through early marriage, I would advise young girls to engage with school head teachers, religious leaders, charities, and other voluntary organizations, as they are committed to supporting education in such an environment. Also, they should take the matter to local leaders, because through the local leaders, there would be support from the government to develop policies and plans that reduce the cost of education for poor families. Because, from my personal experience, it is because of poverty that girls are not having access to education, but rather are pushed into early marriages.