#FreeStellaNyanzi: Protests, power and sanitary pads in Uganda

Tuesday, 2nd of May, 08:30-10:00

In early April, popular Ugandan academic Dr. Stella Nyanzi was arrested and charged by the Ugandan state. Stella is also a colleague and Research Affiliate of the Centre on Law & Social Transformation. 

Her formal charge of was of ‘computer misuse’ and ‘cyber harassment’ because she among other things has called Uganda President Yoweri K. Museveni ‘a pair of buttocks’. She remains in jail as the Ugandan government are using colonial era laws to paint her as mentally unstable. On 19th of April Amnesty International released a statement in which they named Dr. Nyanzi a prisoner of conscience held solely for ‘her peaceful expression.’

Since early 2017 Dr. Nyanzi has fronted a social media campaign against the ruling regime in Uganda for failing to fulfill several of their ‘developmental’ pledges made during the 2016 election campaign. Her direct activism for free sanitary pads for girls (#pads4GirlsUg) attracted both national and international attention, and put her in direct conflict with both President Museveni and his wife Janet, the Minister of Education. The direct style of the campaign and the fact that Nyanzi challenged norms of gendered behavior in the public sphere increased the visibility of the campaign. By publicily linking the non-delivery of services directly to the first family Dr. Nyanzi effectively crossed the red line of what can be said without incurring the state’s wrath in Uganda.

Through this extended breakfast seminar, we wish to present and discuss the process surrounding #FreeStellaNyanzi, and discuss how many of the aspects of the case feed into deeper issues about the backlash against democracy, freedom of speech and association and human rights seen globally.

Svein-Erik Helle will present an overview of the case and the political context in Uganda, before a panel of researchers will participate in a discussion on the different aspects of the case.