Stella Nyanzi, Ugandan rights activist wins PEN International Award

Stella Nyanzi, Ugandan rights activist wins PEN International Award

Jailed Ugandan rights activist, and scholar, Dr Stella Nyanzi has clinched the Oxfam Novib/PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression for 2020.

Dr. Nyanzi is widely published on themes of gender and sexualities, cultural development, health, and law.

Through its President, the Hague-based organisation says she is an ardent writer, outspoken activist on social media where she debates about contemporary social-political occurrences, and she writes poetry, mainly on social media. She is an outspoken activist…”

PEN International president, Ms Jennifer Clement defined Dr Nyanzi as a fierce, public critic of President Museveni and a practitioner of “radical rudeness.”

Three years ago, Stella Nyanzi launched the Pads4girlsUg Project. She bothered about girls missing school due to their inability to afford sanitary pads. She collected thousands of re-usable pads and distributed them to school girls and also offered lectures to school children about menstrual health

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Deemed criminal by the Ugandan authorities because constantly criticised those at the highest helms of power, she has remained a rallying point and a voice of reason in the autocratic wilderness of repression that Uganda has become.

For a poem she posted on Facebook in September 2018 criticising President of Uganda, Mr. Yoweri Museveni, Dr. Nyanzi was handed18-month sentence on grounds of ‘cyber harassment’

“For those of us whose articulations criticise the government and its actors, those of us who question the status quo, those of us who expose the numerous everyday violations of citizens’ rights, those of us who resist and defy the system, their spaces for freedom of expression are shutting down fast. Gags, censors, intimidation, fines, threats, arrests, beatings, detention, raids, confiscation of materials, bans of our works, are increasing vices that the government metes out against us,” Dr. Nyanzi is quoted to have told PEN International in 2017.

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Each year the award is given to writers and journalists around the world in recognition of their significant contribution to freedom of expression despite the danger to their own lives.
The award ceremony, held as part of the opening night of the Writers Unlimited festival at The Hague on Thursday, was introduced by the executive director of Oxfam Novib Michiel Servaes.

Accepting the award on Dr. Nyanzi’s behalf, Danson Kahyana, president of PEN Uganda said the award was good news, to not only the Makerere University research fellow but also to all freedom of expression defenders in Uganda and elsewhere.

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Former winners of the Oxfam Novib/PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression include Cameroonian journalist Enoh Meyomesse, Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, Eritrean poet and writer Amanuel Asrat among others.

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