November 28, 2022

Akola is determined to create a world that is safe for women through candidly addressing the issues women struggle against as well as community advocacy.

Akola Thompson knows what it means to rise up from being oppressed and taking a stand, not just for herself, but for those who need the extra help as well.

As a queer, Afro-Indigenous, young mother of one, who has been involved in advocacy for over four years, beginning her journey at the age of 19, she told the Girls Narrative Project in an exclusive interview, that her resistance is tethered to her identity and just her wanting to make a better world for her and her daughter to live in.

“You talk about being doubly oppressed, right? You have all of these things working against you. You’re a woman, you’re queer, you’re black, you’re indigenous. All of these things just kind of come against you, so definitely a lot of resistance I have is tethered with my identity and me just trying to exist,” she said when asked how her identity had influenced her wanting to push back against the injustices women struggle against.

She explained she spent her childhood learning to adapt and ‘getting in touch with certain elements of herself’, especially with navigating other’s prejudice and stereotypes around being an indigenous Creole person.

“I used to be very angry about difference, because I am a mixed person. I’m African descended and indigenous, so while I was in school something that used to come up a lot was my [identity] particularly being indigenous, because in Guyana we have these stereotypes concerning indigenous people, they’re stupid, […] and a whole set of things. Those are some things that affected me as a child and made me not feel as comfortable about myself as I should have been,” she explained.

The second thing that made her angry in her teen years and still gets to her now is the seeming unyielding challenge known as poverty.

Speaking on it from the point of view of her youth, she said…

“Poverty made me angry. It wasn’t even in the sense that we were really poor, it was just in the sense that I could not understand why while one student might have access to a whole bunch of textbooks and stuff like that, I still could not get a text book. It was things like that. We had a large family, so they couldn’t necessarily afford to buy all the textbooks and so on for all of us in our grades. So it was always just a thing of, why can’t I have this or what really exists that one person gets to have so much and one person so little?”

The plague of poverty and lack of finances continue to play a very heavy role in her advocacy work and while she used to believe that many challenges could be resolved with the appropriate legislations, policies and laws, her experience as an activist, showed her that access to economic empowerment is a must.

“When we think about poverty alleviation we don’t normally see it as a cure-all for social ills, but the truth is that poverty is a very real factor in a lot of the driving social inequalities that we have,” she said.

“When I think about my activism now and I think about marginalized communities and groups, when you really look at the economic power that they have, you recognize that that’s where the problem really lies, because for instance when you have LGBT people who do not have access to some sort of social and economic opportunities-, a lot of them are homeless, a lot of them don’t have access to health services.

When we think about women in general poverty makes them not take care of their health. Whether that be sexual reproductive health, they don’t have access to abortion services, they don’t have access to proper sustenance for their children,”she said.

Akola further explained that while wealth is not a cure-all, the fact is that where there are certain social inequality challenges, poverty has a large part to play in it, and it will take tackling that inequality if there is to be any hope of real change.


For this mother of a young daughter, resistance and the way she advocates has changed over the years, morphing from trying to save the world alone and being in the limelight, to working more at creating a thriving network, which underpins her firm belief in resistance being a community effort that needs ongoing support.

While Akola believes that girlhood ranges from ages ten to twenty-one, she revealed that this changed for her when at 15, she could no longer afford to be a ‘girl’ as she had become a ‘mother’.

Taking us back to that time, she explained that having her daughter changed the way she perceived the world and what was truly important to her.

“Well actually, my daughter was a culmination of a lot of things in my life. After she was born that was when I really began to take stock of my place in the world and the things I need to do and become. At the time when I was in a relationship with my daughter’s father it was an abusive relationship and I was still under the notion that to raise a child in the world you need to have a stable two-parent home and you just have to tough things out and see how it goes,” she began.

“After she was born and after the first few months I really sat down, and I thought about it and I wondered whether I wanted my daughter to grow up seeing me be abused and if she might be abused, and those were just not things that I could handle. That was what led me to walk away. Everything that I’ve really been involved in over the years has really been because she has been fueling me and reminding me that there is still so much to do. We have to take care of ourselves first,” she said.


Speaking on the importance of taking care of yourself, she touched on the fact that while advocacy work, especially in the field of standing up for those who have suffered at the hands of abuse can feel very isolating, and reactive, with the public themselves being resistant to acknowledging and joining in with them, she reaffirmed this was why having a genuine community was so necessary.

“When you have community, whether that be women, career spaces or whatever, that are relevant or  have experiences as activism advocates, that could really do a lot and not only in pushing our movements forward but in healing ourselves… because a lot of times activism is born out of trauma. While that has its own fuel and drive, that can be dangerous in a sense, because a lot of times we don’t deal with our traumas before we start dealing with the trauma of others. When we have community that can help us waive some of the negative repercussions of us trying to be that Superwoman that us Caribbean women have to be in the face of adversity,” she said.

Akola told the Girls Narrative Project that for her, resistance meant ‘feeling strongly enough to see something that might not necessarily be affecting you but somebody else and saying it might be time to do something or say something’.

Support for her activist works, comes to Akola from her friends, and the online community, where she knows that if she needs help in creating from a march or a ‘grounding session’- where they simply go talk to those in the community, she will get it.

Akola, who is also a Trustee for ‘Women’s Wednesdays Guyana’, which consists of weekly live shows where women can speak candidly on a plethora of issues, including rape, menstruation and postpartum depression to name a few, said it was important to have this space for such discussions, even as there was still those who did not believe in speaking so openly or publicly about these very important issues and in the face of the glib attitudes men hold around sexual and physical assault.

“The things that we aim to do is challenging misinformation and providing information on things that women might not necessarily have access to or they might not  necessarily always feel comfortable in talking and so just kind of break down a lot of these stigmas and taboos…so a lot of the backlash is usually from the public,” she said.

When asked what kind of world, she would like to see in her lifetime through her work, she admitted, “I would like to see a world that would be equitable, community oriented. I’d like to see an absence of poverty, or at least alleviation of it. I’d like for women to stop getting murdered and raped and molested and be able to live their lives as best as they can. I’d like my daughter to grow up in a world where she feels safe and respected”.

written by,
Ashlee Cox

Author, Writer, Entrepreneur

Ashlee Cox is a multi-genre author and writer. She formerly worked for leading news outlets within the Caribbean, as a journalist, and is currently the lead writer on her blog ‘Ashlee Unscripted’.

About the author 

I Am A Girl NGO

The Caribbean's leading non-profit organisation in support of girls, to inspire, empower and provide opportunities for girls to lead and exist in a world where they feel safe, protected and celebrated.

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