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News 2 > Global Student Prize - Finalists > 2023 Finalists Global Student Prize > Cynthia Nyongesa

Cynthia Nyongesa

Originally from Kenya, Cynthia is currently studying International Law as a graduate student at the University of Cape Town on a full scholarship from the Mandela Rhodes Foundation. Over the past few years, Cynthia has built up an impressive record as an advocate for those in need. As Youth Advocate for UNICEF Kenya, she has facilitated workshops for out-of-school girls from Nairobi, and as a youth leader with the Global Partnership for Education, she has led efforts to ensure that the most vulnerable children and young women can access quality education through the Internet. In 2021, she collaborated with officials from the government of Kenya and the United Kingdom to organise the Global Education Summit, where her voice was instrumental in raising $4 billion to improve education for the most vulnerable – especially at a time when the education system was recovering from the shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Cynthia has been acknowledged as a pioneering youth leader on gender equality on a national and international level, with awards from the Ministry of ICT, Youth Agenda Kenya, UNFPA Kenya, the IMF, Financial Times, CNBC, Politico, and the United Nations. She has appeared on the Ms President reality TV show (sponsored by the European Union, Canadian High Commission and UN Women) as one of the leading contestants from Nairobi. She has served as an Interim Council Member at UNESCO 2022, organising the UNESCO SDG4Youth network’s modalities of work and temporarily representing the network on the SDG4 Education 2030 high-level steering committee. She was also the recipient of the President’s and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award for her contribution to leadership in Kenya, and Winner of Top 35 under 35 youth in Kenya in 2020. 

Cynthia’s long-term ambition is to become a UN Special Rapporteur, responsible for responding to individual complaints, conducting studies, making technical assistance recommendations, and undertaking country visits to assess specific human rights situations. She intends to draw on her experience as a youth advocate (amongst her many other volunteer and leadership roles) to eventually represent clients before international courts such as the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.  

With the Global Teacher Prize funds, Cynthia would fund her legally registered non-profit, the Untamed Project, which aims to boost literacy – especially important given that over 17 million Kenyan children lost up to nine months of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the Untamed Project, primary schools will have their libraries filled with both English and Kiswahili books, functioning as reading clubs that connect learners with stories. This will help children to build reading habits early in life, thus aiding a smooth transition to secondary school.  

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