Tanzanian girls’ rights activist, Rebeca Gyumi won the 2018 Human Rights Prize awarded by the United Nations. Over the years, the 31-year old activist has made remarkable efforts to better the condition of girls in Tanzania.
Earlier this year, the United Nations announced the winners for its 2018 Human Rights Prize. Along with winners like the late Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir, Brazil’s first indigenous lawyer Joenia Wapichana, and Irish human rights group Front Line Defenders, was the 31-year old Tanzanian activist, Rebeca Gyumi.
Gyumi is the founder of a local NGO, Msichana Initiative that works towards girl child education, however, the activist’s achievements and efforts go way beyond this. In 2016, Gyumi, who is a lawyer by profession, started to work on a case that would reverse the Tanzania’s Law of Marriage Act of 1971, which stated the legal age of marriage for boy as 18 and the legal age of marriage for girls as 14. She teamed up with her colleagues and filed a petition to put an end to the nationwide problem. At the age of 29, Rebeca Gyumi changed the legal age of marriage for girls across the country from fourteen to eighteen.
Explaining why she does what she does, Gyumi said, “I felt duty bound to fight for the girls I had interacted with. They didn’t have enough information to know how to challenge what was happening to them.”
While some conservatives have blamed Gyumi for promoting “Western Culture”, she has been honoured by many for her tremendous efforts. She has also won the UNICEF Global Goal Award and was named ‘Woman of the Year’ by New African Magazine.
Despite many feathers in her cap at such a young age, Rebeca Gyumi said she was surprised when she was announced as one of the winners for the UN Human Rights Prize. She said, “I was pretty much shocked. So shocked and caught unaware that I was even considered for such a prestigious prize.”The honour marked a win not just for the activist but also for the nation of Tanzania and its progress in the field of human rights. In her own words, Gyumi said she would encourage young girls today “to be brave and stand up for your truth.”