2017-2018 Luce Scholar

Breakthrough Trust

For her Luce year in India, Kadiata Sy will work with Breakthrough Trust, a human rights organization working to end violence and discrimination against women and girls. Breakthrough envisions a world in which all people enjoy their human rights and live with dignity, equality, and justice. A recognized pioneer of innovative social change, Breakthrough Trust creates game-changing pop culture and multimedia campaigns that address global issues including violence against women, sexuality and HIV/AIDS, immigrant rights and racial justice, transforming norms and cultures and bringing human rights issues into the mainstream. Its in-depth training with young people, government officials, and community groups has fostered new generations of leaders to act for local and global human rights.

Kadiata Sy arrived in Atlanta, GA as a refugee from Mauritania at the age of twelve. Resettling in a new environment without any knowledge of English and enrolling in a school for the first time of her young life, Kadiata learned first-hand the empowering potential of education. Her experiences have motivated her to be a leader in her community and to continue to pursue higher education. Beginning at community college, Kadiata was elected Student Government President of her campus and was active with several humanitarian organizations in the greater Atlanta area, including interning for the International Rescue Committee and mentoring refugee youth with the Refugee Family Services. Her passion for social change and leadership experiences working with non-profit organizations led to her induction into the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Society. Kadiata was also awarded the national Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which sponsored her studies at Emory University.

While at Emory, she founded the Middle Eastern Studies Association and worked with Emory Peer Tutoring as an Arabic tutor and mentor to provide campus-wide programming on Middle East-related issues. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies in 2015 as one of four Emory seniors to be selected as a Robert T. Jones Scholar. This enabled her to complete a master’s degree in Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asian Security Studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland in the fall of 2016. She is currently seeking a master’s degree in Islamic Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where she has been elected as the Student Representative for the 2016-2017 Masters of Law program to serve as a liaison between the administration and student body. While at SOAS, Kadiata is specializing in the harmonization of Islamic Law and the Human Rights discourse. Her master’s dissertation focuses on the appointment of female judges in Shari’a courts in Muslim-majority countries and aims to further her research on women’s agency within the Islamic legal framework. She aspires to work in the field of human rights in Islamic law as both an activist and an academic, focusing on gender issues while pursuing doctoral studies.