Dubbed Ugandan rudest poet!
“What is important is that what needs to be said to dictatorships can be said and nobody will kill me,” Nyanzi tells DW. “My body won’t to be beaten down. That is what freedom means.”
Reputed as a no-nonsense, fearless voice for freedom and liberty, tirelessly fighting against the oppression of women in Uganda, activist Stella Nyanzi’s blunt refusal to cower, even in the most intimidating of circumstances for years led to political prosecution, landing her behind bars and currently living in exile in Munich, Germany. Even while there – she has been accepted on a writers-in-exile programme run by PEN Germany- sacrificing her freedom and life for a yearning for better for Ugandans, she never fails to lend her voice to the fight.
Not one to mince words, Nyanzi, 47, a medical anthropologist, feminist, and queer rights activist noted as Convenor, Women’s Protest Uganda
Uganda has repeatedly called out the country’s government Yoweri Museveni who has ruled for 35 years to stop his oppression of the citizens and opposition. She has established herself as an ambassador for free speech, women’s rights, and the civil rights movement.
Arrested multiple times owing to her strong stance, the first in 2017, During this period she spent over a month in the maximum-security prison Luzira for a “banal” Facebook post in which she described Museveni as “a pair of buttocks” and wife, Uganda’s education minister, Janet Museveni, as “empty-brained.” Stella Nyanzi practices what scholars have called “radical rudeness.”
Prior to Nyanzi’s arrest, stemming from Museveni’s 2016 election campaign promise to provide free monthly sanitary pads to all “poor girls” left unfulfilled, major controversy had erupted. Lack of this fulfillment of promise forced many girls to skip school regularly, ultimately leading to some girls abandoning school entirely, hence the rage.
Her passion to see girls empowered with an education saw her on 6 March 2017, launch her Pads4girlsUg Project, to help distribute thousands of re-usable pads to school girls as well as sensitize them about menstrual health. She is also passionate about sexual and reproductive health.
Undaunted, a year later she penned a blunt poem wishing that Museveni had never been born, this wasn’t taken lightly resulting in her being imprisoned for 16 months.
Nonetheless, Nyanzi’s spirit is still strong:
“Today, in spite of all the pain and the torture that I had to endure in prison, I celebrate,” she says. “I celebrate having been locked up because for the first time in the history of Uganda, a woman was able to turn penalization and to turn criminalization on its head and use the courts of law and the prison system to speak truth to power and shame and embarrass and expose the government, and I celebrate that.”
Dr. Nyanzi, Brittle Paper’s Writer-Activist of the Year (2021) received her doctorate in medical anthropology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.