Civil Rights

Kutiyote wins the 2019 Think Tank Shark Tank prize


John Mustapha Kutiyote of Students’ Organization for Liberty and Entrepreneurship (SOLE) is the winner of the 2019 Think Tank Shark Tank for his pitch to end cultural discrimination that takes private property rights away from women in South Sudan. The $5,000 prize will be spent on an awareness campaign that includes special workshops, community meetings, and radio outreach to help women understand their rights.

SOLE first became aware of the problem in the context of their work to help strengthen property rights in South Sudan. Although women in the country are legally able to own property, widows often find themselves penniless and out on the street when male family members take over property once owned by the woman’s deceased spouse. This cultural attitude has persisted particularly in the border counties of Yambio and Nzara, where SOLE will launch their project.

Kutiyote shared the stories of two women who suffered under this widespread practice, explaining that the phrase “dee mara saki” means “she’s just a woman,” and thus unworthy of owning property or mattering at all without the protection of her husband. Judges Kofi Bentil of Ghana, June Arunga of Kenya, and Lawson Bader of the United States responded to his pitch with specific questions about how women would be helped by SOLE’s campaign.

“We will give a voice to the voiceless,” Kutiyote said.

Left to right: Atlas Network’s CEO Brad Lips, contestant Aimable Manikirza of CDE Great Lakes, contestant Evans Badu Boampang of ILAPI, winner John Mustapha Kutiyote of SOLE, and Atlas Network’s Associate Director of Training Tarun Vats during the 2019 Think Tank Shark Tank ceremony.

The audience jumped to its feet when Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips announced the winner, and a beaming Kutiyote bounded to the stage to accept his award. Judge Bentil lauded the clarity of Kutiyote’s project, and Kutiyote thanked the judges, raised his fists in triumph, and led the women in the room in a rousing chant of “Oye!”

Evans Badu Boampang of Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation (ILAPI) Ghana and Aimable Manirakiza of Centre for Development and Entreprises Great Lakes were the two other Think Tank Shark Tank contestants. Lips also unveiled the list of 32 new graduates of Atlas Leadership Academy at the luncheon.

“I feel so grateful and humble before all women,” Kutiyote said after the award was announced. “We will help South Sudan understand that “dee mara saki” cannot be how men behave. We will lead this change.”

Think Tank Shark Tank is made possible by the generous support of the Smith Family Foundation.