As part of the “Change Your World” series, in partnership with Walden University, GOOD spoke to Courtney Skiera about her career and the powerful way her education has shaped her life and her community.
There are many voices in this world that aren’t given the opportunity to be heard. For women in Uganda, the threat of violence, sex trafficking, and death are all too real, and there are few platforms for them to speak out and say enough is enough. It often requires a voice from the outside to propel a cause forward and make a difference. For PhD candidate Courtney Skiera, it was this desire to enact palpable change in the real world that’s at the core of what inspired her to pursue a doctorate in psychology at Walden University, and put her newfound knowledge and skills to use on a global scale.
Upon moving to Kampala, Uganda, Dr. Skiera began working with young women and girls who were at risk of falling into sex trafficking or being subjected to exploitation. She was able to be actively involved in shaping solutions right away while simultaneously pursuing her degree at Walden, partly why she chose the institution. . “That was the main reason I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in the first place,” says Dr. Skiera. “I wanted to be better qualified to give back to the global community in some capacity.” Becoming an agent of social change was and still is central to Dr. Skiera’s work.
Now, as Country Director for the Kwagala Project in Uganda, Dr. Skiera is able to work directly with the surrounding constituency in need. In addition to providing counseling and trauma therapy, the Kwagala Project helps survivors of atrocities in Uganda achieve self-sufficiency through training and advocacy. The impact thus far has been powerful, to say the least. According to reports from the Kwagala Project: “The benefits of educating girls and women in the developing world go beyond higher productivity for 50 percent of the population. Educated females also tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their children.” Dr. Skiera notes that all of these individual results efforts not only immediately improve the women’s lives but foster hope for the current and future generations. Each program is shaped to provide these women and girls with essential life skills to be independent and make informed decisions so that they can ultimately build a successful future. “It has been a very unique experience living here, as I was able to connect projects and papers in my classes to real-life workshops or discussions here in Uganda,” adds Dr. Skiera.
Dr. Skiera is thankful that she discovered a way to make a difference in a community that gravely needed it. She saw where young women needed leadership and mentoring, so they wouldn’t become victims of abuse, violence, and neglect, and seized an opportunity to become the voice for these women who didn’t know how to be heard. Currently, she is developing programs, creating more opportunities, and building a legacy that will leave a lasting, mark on this community for future generations. Her hope is that these young women she mentors will become the teachers of and role models for the girls to come, and that Kwagala Project will continue to be not only a platform for change, but a beacon of light, and a promise that the future will indeed be brighter.