Young activist campaigns for safer cities in Uganda

Meet Faridah, 21, from Uganda. Her inspirational story shows how girls and young women have the power to overcome adversity to become leaders of change in their lives and communities.

Faridah, 21, lives in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda which has 3.2 million inhabitants. She is an activist, campaigning to make her city safer for girls.

For the last 2 years Faridah has been part of Plan International’s Safer Cities programme. She says that her community is not safe for girls at night time. Even if girls are accompanied by their brother or father, men will shout “give me your sister/daughter.”

Faridah decided to start campaigning to help girls so they don’t have to experience what she did when she became a mother at the age of 15. At that time, she dropped out of school and had to sell nuts and chips by the roadside from 6pm to midnight to make ends meet. 

Now, as the mother of 2 children, she has returned to school while advocating for a safer urban environment.

Speaking out for girls

“In my community, most of us are child mothers. Before, we never knew our rights, but this programme has taught us many things. We girls are no longer passive, we now know how to speak, how to behave and how to keep ourselves safe,” says Faridah.

Faridah is aware of the need to engage men in the dialogue and change their mindsets if she is to achieve her goal of a safe Kampala for all girls. Her biggest dream is that local transport authorities become aware of girls’ rights, their value and help to make Kampala safer for girls.

In her role as champion of change she also trains other girls on how to stay safe in the city and helps them understand their rights. Dance is one of the methods Faridah uses to share her messages with community members and start a dialogue.

She also regularly advocates for girls’ rights on radio and television programmes where she calls on local leaders to present their plans for making Kampala a safer place.

Making the city safer

Faridah and the girls she works with have asked the local authorities for more street lights to help girls stay safe. They have also advocated for the city to be cleaner and more welcoming and called for more recreational spaces, so girls feel more included. The girls have spoken to boda boda (motorbike taxi) authorities and have presented advocacy asks to municipal councillors. Thanks to their efforts, all these areas are now improving.

Faridah has also started a Champions of Change club at her school which competes in debates with groups from other schools.

Campaigning on the global stage

Because of her work, Faridah was chosen to represent other girls from Kampala at the UN General Assembly of 2019 and share their experiences with world leaders.

In 2018, Faridah took over the role of Denmark’s Minster for Development Cooperation to share the experiences of girls in her community. She also hosted the Danish Minister in her community.

In the last year, Faridah has been acting as the Ambassador for Women and Girls in Kampala and took the lead in the saving innocence challenge. This challenge involves supporting girls who have become pregnant to generate an income and potentially go back to school.

Faridah was also one of the youth delegates at the 2019 Women Deliver conference where she was able to share her experience as a child mother and the challenges of going back to school. At the conference she also facilitated a session on city safety.