Between 1989 and 2017, a total of 324 human rights advocates from 90 countries attended HRAP. In recent years, advocates have ranged from early career advocates who have cut their teeth in very urgent human rights situations to mid-career advocates who have founded organizations.
Below are the biographies of current Advocates and descriptions by select alumni as to why they became human rights advocates.
To see a list of additional past Advocates click here.
To read about more about the work of our Advocates click here .
In 2011, 2007 Advocate Priscila C. Rodriguez Bribiesca co-founded Strategic Defense and Communication for Change (SAKBE) a Mexican-US NGO with offices in Mexico and Washington, D.C.
Rodriguez Bribiesca reports: “SAKBE´s mission is achieving social change through the promotion of human and environmental rights by using litigation and communication strategies. Sakbe works both nationally and internationally towards improving the quality of life of vulnerable groups through the promotion of development agendas for local communities and indigenous groups in public policies, development projects and conflicts.”
SAKBE’s first grant came from the Bank of Information Center to promote transparency policies and practices in the implementation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) projects in Mexico. Rodriguez Bribiesca reports that SAKBE is also working with the Siemenpuu Foundation, based in Finland, on obtaining a grant to continue with the legal defense work for the Triqui indigenous community before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
Rodriguez Bribiesca elaborates: “I am responsible for the documentation process of the REDD projects in Mexico--getting the relevant information from the World Bank and Mexico´s governmental authorities to give communities the possibility to participate in this process which will be implemented in indigenous and rural communities. One goal is bringing their concerns to the World Bank.”
Rodriguez Bribiesca recognizes HRAP’s impact on her work. “Before this program,” she says, “I was not aware of the importance of making strategies at the international level. All the site visits 9to the different foundations and organizations) gave me the big picture of the role of advocacy. Furthermore, HRAP gave me a more general comprehension of the different tools and strategies that I can use to be more effective.” She said some of the contacts she made through HRAP are now her allies. They include the Indian Law Resource Center, Amazon Watch, the Center of International and Environmental Law and the Center for Justice and Inter-American Law. SAKBE’s fundraising successes to date are also linked the fundraising classes that are part of HRAP. Rodriguez Bribiesca explains: “The fundraising workshops greatly strengthened my knowledge of the many steps of this process, from writing a letter of inquiry to cultivating a profesional relationship with foundation staff. After HRAP, I got a generous grant from Hewlett Foundation.”
She adds, “The experience from my internship at the Center for Justice and International Law and my contacts and studies [through HRAP] allowed me to start representing the Precautionary Measure Process in favor of the Community of San Juan Copala in Oaxaca, Mexico. We are getting support from international organizations, including the Washington Office of Latin America and Amnesty International, on this case--particularly to make the Mexican government accountable for protecting the Triqui Community and safely returning them to their territory and bringing justice to the victims of the massacre.”
She has also been instrumental in having public hearings at IACHR on issues affecting different indigenous communities and the situation of environmental defenders in Mexico and Central America.
She has been recognized with many honors and awards including an award to participate in “Woman in Management” at CEDPA in 2008 and a full scholarship from American University to attend the International Environmental Law Summer Program and the Seminar on Trade and Environment. She received a full scholarship to attend the LLM Program in International Human Rights Law at Notre Dame. She graduated in May 2012. From July to December 2012, she will intern at IACHR.
She concludes. “I can surely say without exaggeration, HRAP changed my life. Before my participation in the Program, my work as an advocate was limited to the local systems of justice. I did not know anything about the international bodies of justice and accountability mechanisms. I also did not have the contacts and knowledge needed to start working on at the international level, such as the processes before the IACHR and the World Bank. Moreover even if I had some idea about these processes, I could hardly contact member of these bodies directly because of the geographic and language obstacles, which now no longer exist thanks to HRAP.”
National Director, Center for Applied Studies of Economical and Social and Cultural Rights (CEADESC)
When asked about his experience at the Human Rights Advocates Program, 2006 Advocate Jorge Cortés Fajardo of Bolivia points out how it provided him with the opportunity to “get to know other advocates from around the world and the important work they do for the defense of human rights victims and for policy change.” One of the many benefits of the HRAP is the unique environment in which advocates are able to share theirs valuable grassroots experiences, exchange ideas, and share best practices and resources for advocacy.
Cortés Fajardo is currently the National Director and legal representative of the Center for Applied Studies of Economical Social and Cultural Rights (CEADESC). The organization’s work is focused on the strengthening of indigenous people and social movements to monitor and advocate for human rights and environmental justice. According to Cortés Fajardo, “HRAP was an excellent opportunity to reach out to US-based NGOs and to support our networking for human rights advocacy.” He underscores the value of the meetings with the NGO communities of New York and Washington DC. Jorge said that the meetings led to joint actions between CEADESC and several organizations such as the Indian Law Resource Center and the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Since he left HRAP, Cortés Fajardo has gone on to notable achievements both at the national and international levels. In 2009, CEADESC contributed to the recognition of indigenous peoples human rights in the new Bolivian Constitution. CEADESC then published two human rights assessment studies related to transnational extractive industries companies in Bolivia. Their case studies were recently presented in the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples Issues in New York. Due to CEADESC’s contribution to the defense of human rights, the organization has recently been honored as an outstanding partner by the American Jewish World Service at its 25th anniversary celebration in New York in October 2010.
—Article composed by Marta Garnelo Caamano, ISHR Intern, June 2011
Executive Director/Health Program Associate, Physicians for Social Justice
2006 Advocate Chukwumuanya Igboekwu currently works as Executive Director and Health Program Associate of Physicians for Social Justice (PSJ) which he co-founded in 2004. PSJ is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting community health, human rights and broader social justice for marginalized rural communities in northern Nigeria. He coordinates PSJ’s advocacy efforts and also manages PSJ’s service delivery programs that provide access to basic social services including health, education and community development.
He reflects that his participation in HRAP provided a “unique networking opportunity of a lifetime”. When he participated in 2006 as Health Program Associate of PSJ, he wrote two articles: ‘Why Pharmaceutical Companies Must Not Deny People with HIV/AIDS Access to Life-Saving Antiretroviral Medicines Using the Excuse of Patent Protection’ and ‘The World Trade Organization’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement’. These articles were published by the Business and Human Rights Resource Center. He states, “The Washington D.C. networking trip afforded me the opportunity to speak with State Department officers to support the importance of continuous funding to the Global AIDS program through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).”
Igboekwu says that his participation in HRAP led to funding from American Jewish World Service and the Global Fund for Children for approximately $ 180,000 dollars in total to date. He highlights, “PSJ has grown from a small community-based organization into a national level NGO that plays active role in shaping HIV/AIDS policy in Nigeria.” As a result of his dedication in collaborating with other stakeholders for the protection of people living with HIV/AIDS, thousands of people with HIV/AIDS from rural areas in Nigeria have more access to life saving antiretroviral drugs and live in integration within their communities. Also, he and his staff at PSJ developed a project, supported by the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), called “Community AIDS Program”. PSJ’s Community AIDS Program was a winner of the 2010 joint UNAIDS/UNDP Red Ribbon Awards in Vienna, Austria.
Igboekwu enthusiastically expresses his strong gratitude toward the staff of the Institute (then Center) for the Study of Human Rights, “They inspired me and gave me all the exposure that helped shape my understanding of human rights and the global economy. They were every ready to assist me make that connection with potential partners or resources that I need for my work. Even when I returned to Nigeria, they continued supporting me and PSJ.” After the program, he received his master’s degree in Public Health from University of Lagos, Nigeria, in 2008.
He concludes, “HRAP was an extraordinary program that gave me insight with the intersection between health and human rights. The program was very intensive and exciting by providing opportunities to explore new partners, academic topics in the field of human rights and engagement with U.S. policy makers along with CEOs of big US pharmaceutical companies whose business have a strong impact on poop people’s access to medicines in developing countries.”
—Article composed by Junghwa Lee, Program Coordinator, August 2011
Executive Director, Save My Future Foundation (SAMFU)
2006 Advocate James Makor the Executive Director of the Save My Future Foundation (SAMFU), which is dedicated to facilitating and promoting community-based sustainable nature and human resource management and development in Liberia. He officially represents the institution, coordinates three core programs with project officers, and serves as secretary to the Board of Directors.
Makor says that dynamic networking he did through HRAP is “paying off”. He reflects, “The networks I established at Columbia Law School continue to interact with my organization on issues surrounding concessions in Liberia. Through HRAP, SAMFU started collaborating with United Steel and Allied Worker Union on labor reform at Firestone.” He adds that American Jewish World Services, whose staff he met through HRAP, is currently one of SAMFU’s donors.
After HRAP, he attended a financial training for NGO staff from the Management and Accountability of Non-Governmental Organizations (MANGO). He cites as one of his more recent accomplishments the partnership between SAMFU and Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) on a project called Sustainable Forest Management. During the project, he has been involved in the formulation and signing of Cooperate Social Agreements between multinational and local forest communities. Also, his organization addressed issues of benefit sharing from forest resources and provided trainings to enable the communities to track their local development budget.
When asked about his memories of HRAP in 2006, he states, “I feel that the greatest benefit to me was the establishment of new networks.”
—Article composed by Junghwa Lee, Program Coordinator, June 2011
Up to date as of April 2017.
M.A. Candidate, Mora University
When asked about her experience participating in the Human Rights Advocates Program, 2006 Advocate Andrea de la Barrera Montppellier- states “HRAP was a very important turning point in my career. I transcended activism and became a human rights advocate. With the perspective that HRAP provided, I have been able to conduct strategic actions that led to concrete results regarding women’s rights and public policy evaluation.”
As Andrea and other Advocates have asserted, HRAP provides a unique environment for sharing their experiences, their strategies and best practices with other human rights professionals and organizations. In this respect, Andrea says “HRAP also gave me a broader perspective regarding human rights. I used to believe that human rights work depended only on volunteers and philanthropy and I realized it depends also on many professionals working to strengthen democratic change all over the world. “During the time they spend at Columbia University, Advocates are able not only to build long-lasting relationships with other activists, but also to meet with a range of human rights organizations, international institutions, foundations, donors, and policymakers that are based in New York City. In this regard, Andrea states “Another great feature of the program was the forum it provided. Exposing our political stands to global decision-makers such as Jeffrey Sachs, Joseph Stiglitz or Valclav Havel was a very empowering experience”. Furthermore, these meetings often lead to joint projects and funding opportunities. In Andrea’s case, she was able to engage in an internship at Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) in early 2007. According to Andrea “It was a great opportunity, since it opened opportunities to advocate at the Inter-American Human Rights Commission for the case Gonzalez et alt. (“Campo Algodonero vs Mexico which at that time was at the Inter-American Human Rights Court) and to disseminate femicide reports at the Inter-American Human Rights Protection System. Eventually, the networks from both HRAP and CEJIL led to specific collaborations between organizations in the strengthening of Campo Algodonero case. The Inter-American Court ruled against Mexico regarding violence against women (femicide), in a historic sentence both for Mexico as well as for the Regional Systems of Human Rights Protection.”
Since she left the program, Andrea became an independent consultant on gender and human rights. Through her work, she assists organizations that want to impact public policy in bringing both human rights and gender perspectives to its mainstream values. In the past year, she collaborated as an independent consultant with International Planned Parenthood and PRODESC. From 2003 to 2010, she was part of the team of Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación, a think tank devoted to social change, public-budget analysis, and transparency. At Fundar, she coordinated research on gender and justice and also served as the institutional liaison for the Civilian Monitor of Policy and Security Corps in the Mountain of Guerrero. Currently, she works with EPADEQ on a project that analyzes the gender expressions of the organization of 15 Supreme Tribunals of Federal States in Mexico, in order to make specific recommendations regarding gender equality. When reflecting on the influence HRAP had on her career, Andrea affirms “ The global benefit of my participation was the incorporation of a comprehensive perspective of the work that relates to human rights and that is not delimited to activism. I realized the importance to maintain a healthy life and a balanced life in order to make sustainable advocacy projects. And to always assume that our great innovative ideas have already occurred to someone else and that they may have already an evaluation which could be shared to strengthen our strategies”.
Article written by Marta Garnelo Caamano, ISHR Intern, June 2011
April 2017 Update: Andrea completed her Master's in Political Sociology in 2014 at Instituto Mora. She will be pursuing a PhD in Sociology starting in 2017 under the COMEXUS Fulbright García Robles Scholarship.
Updated by Gabrielle Isabelle Hernaiz-De Jesus in 2017.
MA Candidate, University of Nottingham - Malaysia Campus
Reflecting on her experience in the Human Rights Advocates Program, Miriam Ruiz Mendoza describes that “the knowledge on international advocacy for human rights took my organization closer to campaigns for the protection of journalists and human rights defenders.” Ruiz Mendoza, a 2006 HRAP graduate from Mexico, entered HRAP as the Development and Resource Coordinator at Communication and Information on Women (CIMAC), an NGO dedicated to incorporating women’s rights into the media and using the media as an educational and social transformation tool.
HRAP provides human rights advocates such as Ruiz Mendoza the opportunity to undergo further advocacy training, follow graduate coursework in the areas of their work, and develop new skills such as leadership, fundraising, and networking. Ruiz Mendoza states, “I have used a lot of what I learned in HRAP at CIMAC to present sound project proposals that in 2007 allowed us to get 365,000 USD, either with new foundations or some other that had stopped financing us.” While some graduates of HRAP find that their experience at Columbia University can lead to recognition from other institutions and fellowships with international organizations, many graduates such as Ruiz Mendoza find that “For me, being part of HRAP has not translated into prizes or recognitions but rather a series of informal calls from other colleagues in different cities and organizations to get precise information and suggestions on organizations issues.” HRAP graduates are routinely consulted by colleagues and others as Ruiz Mendoza describes because of the expertise they gain during the Program.
Shortly after leaving HRAP, Ruiz Mendoza joined the Susan G. Komen Global Initiative for Breast Cancer Awareness where she currently serves as the Program Manager for Mexico. Her duties involve coordinating, initiating, developing, and facilitating projects and programs to increase awareness on breast health and provide breast cancer detection throughout cities and states in Mexico. She says, “Not only the knowledge, the facts that I learned at HRAP, including burn-out, are part of what I am sharing with other Mexican women now, but mainly the spirit of the program, gaining tools to improve the human rights situation at all levels in my country.”
In 2008, Ruiz Mendoza was invited to take part in the International Visitors Leadership Program sponsored by the United States government. She was also chosen to represent and present the Susan G. Komen Global Initiative at the 2010 Komen’s affiliate conference in Dallas, Texas. Ruiz Mendoza remains in close contact with other Mexican human rights advocates and seeks to develop human rights training for other Mexicans. She is also planning on pursuing her master’s degree in the near future.
—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, July 2010
January 2014 update: Ruiz Mendoza is currently pursuing a M.A. is Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, School of Modern Languages and Cultures in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Sierra Leone, 2006
Program Manager, Peace and Security Program, Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD)
Agnes Sia Tamba is a 2006 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program. After leaving HRAP, Tamba returned to Sierra Leone to continue working at the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD). Presently, Tamba is the Program Manager of the Peace and Security Program at NMJD. She works to address the root causes of conflict in the southern province of Sierra Leone. Tamba manages NMJD’s peace education program and helps communities claim their rights without resorting to violence.
HRAP is a capacity building program that strengthens the skills, knowledge and networks of accomplished human rights defenders. When asked about the impact HRAP has had on her work at NMJD, Tamba writes, “I gained a new perspective of how I can promote peace education as an area of conflict transformation.” She writes that her participation in HRAP has helped her successfully mainstream human rights based approaches within NMJD’s programs.
Advocates attend skill-building courses in a myriad of topics such as developing fundraising and advocacy campaigns. Tamba highlights the benefits of these courses on her work at NMJD. She writes that as a result of these trainings, she successfully developed advocacy strategies as part of NMJD’s chieftaincy reform campaign.
Concluding on her experience at HRAP in 2006, Tamba writes, “The diverse cultural experience of New York City and the hospitality of the HRAP staff and Columbia University community is something I will always remember fondly.”
—Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, June 2013
Executive Director, ProDESC
Before doing HRAP in 2005, Alejandra Ancheita worked for over a decade as a human rights advocate in Mexico. Upon her return, she founded the Project on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ProDESC), a human rights NGO based in Mexico City whose primary goal is to defend the rights of the Mexican people by fostering the enforcement of and accountability for these rights on a systematic level. According to Ancheita, her time spent at HRAP contributed skills and relationships that were crucial to her foundation and leadership of a new human rights organizations.
In her years at ProDESC, and as a litigation specialist at the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center (Centro Pro) and the Center for Labor Support and Reflection (CEREAL), Alejandra has worked on strategic litigation and defense of human rights advocates and local communities. She has represented ProDESC at national and international conferences and committees, and argued cases before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court, and several national courts. In 2009 Ancheita received a Master’s Degree in International Law and Global Justice at the Fordham University Law School, with the support of a Leitner Center Scholarship. During 2010 she was a visiting Scholar at the Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics, developing a research initiative called “Towards a Genuine Transnational Collaboration: Constructing Transnational Justice for Migrant Workers.” Alejandra returned to ProDESC in the fall of 2010, where she currently heads the Transnational Justice Area of the organization, coordinates fundraising activities, and designs strategies for ongoing and new ProDESC initiatives.
Ancheita believes that HRAP served as a platform to access tools for human rights capacity-building. It also allowed her to build networks with other human rights activists and organizations. Alejandra was one of the 25 finalists for the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize.
Novermber 2016 update: In 2013, Alejandra received the Wasserstein Public Interest Award from Harvard Law School. She won the 2014 Martin Ennals Award for her efforts in the fight for the rights of the migrants, workers, and indigenous communities in her country. She is one of the leading Latin American voices in the human rights movement and has spoken in various international forums, such as the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society and the OECD Annual Meeting of National Contact Points, as well as arguing cases before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the national courts. She was acknowledged for her work as a human rights defender by the Mexican Senate in 2015 and by several communication media and by international institutions, such as the Spanish newspaper El País that named Ancheita one of the 25 most influential Latin Americans.
—Written by Alexandra Watson
Founder and Chief Executive Director, Health Governance Initiative
Jia Ping, a 2005 graduate of the Human Rights Advocate Program from China, states “HRAP provided me with a true understanding of human rights work.” He adds that the knowledge and skills gained from HRAP helped him carry out his work as the Founder and Chief Executive Director of the Health Governance Initiative (formally known as the China Global Fund Watch Initiative). The Health Governance Initiative (HGI) is an independent non-profit organization and civic think tank that undertakes public health policy research in areas such as anti-discrimination, LGBT and human rights, drug policy and food safety issues.
One of the many benefits of the Human Rights Advocates Program at Columbia University is the networking opportunities. Every year, Advocates participate in a networking and advocacy trip to Washington DC to meet with organizations, government agencies, and foundations that pertain to their specific needs and interests. Ping maintained relationships with the organizations that he met with during his advocacy trip in Washington D.C. in 2005. Since 2007, he successfully re-connected with these organizations in Washington. D.C. and received financial support for his organization.
Ping, a leading human rights lawyer and researcher on HIV/AIDS in China advocates for the rights of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS in China. He has published numerous papers and books on various topics such as law, government transparency on health governance and drug policies. He recently co-authored the blood transfusion compensation plan for PLHIV community in China. The compensation plan and related report was also submitted to China Ministry of Health and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Since HRAP, Ping has gone on to achieve notable professional accomplishments. In 2008, Ping was named an Asia Society’s Asia 21 Leader Fellow. In 2009, he was selected as the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader. Young Global Leaders represent the future of leadership, coming from all regions of the world and representing business, government, civil society, arts, academia and media, as well as social entrepreneurs. Ping was named a member of the Sino-European Platform on Biomedical Research Ethics (SPERE) in 2011. Since 2013, he has served as an Advisory Group member for a project entitled Governance of Multilateral Grant-Making Institutions (GMGI) by Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs).
—Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, April 2013
Program Coordinator, Broad Initiatives for Negros Development (BIND)
Benedicto Sánchez is a 2005 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program from the Philippines. Presently, he is the Program Coordinator of the Broad Initiatives for Negros Development (BIND), a local NGO based in Negros Occidental, Philippines, a court annexed mediator at the Philippine Supreme Court and a columnist of the syndicated community newspaper Sun Star Bacolod.
As Program Coordinator for BIND, Sánchez helps mountain communities advocate for their land and tenurial rights. He works on sustainable mountain development projects that are recommended by the United Nation’s Rio Agenda 21. In addition, he acts as the Southeast geographical representative of the global mountain partnership for sustainable development, a voluntarily alliance of global partners dedicated to improving the well-being, livelihoods and opportunities of mountain people and the protection of mountain environments around the world.
When describing the benefits of HRAP, Sánchez writes, “It opened my eyes to new methodologies and strategies for human rights advocacy. The rights-based approach to development taught me how to apply pressure on State development rights obligations and non-state actors such as multinational corporations to enact better corporate social responsibility practices.” The combination of trainings, workshops, courses and networking opportunities helped him understand how to effectively advocate for economic, social and cultural rights, which are seldom tackled by Philippine’s human rights organizations.
During his time at HRAP, Sánchez formed valuable relationships with professors at Columbia University. Professor J. Paul Martin provided him with an opportunity to share his work. Sánchez co-authored “Collective security: a village-eye view” in United Nations Reform and the New Collective Security with Dr. Joseph Paul Martin. Additionally, Sánchez’s paper, “Does the Food Sovereignty Movement Exist in Negros: The BIND and ONOPRA Experiences on the compendium Food Sovereignty in Southeast Asia” was published in Kasarinlan, the Philippines Journal of Third World Studies.
Sánchez remains in touch with fellow HRAP participants. He writes that the global network of human rights advocates has been an overwhelming source of information and support. He adds, “As I move on to tackle more work along international concerns from the grassroots, I’m confident I can draw on the support of the HRAP community to help out regardless if the arena of action is in the Asia-Pacific, North America, Latin America, Europe and Africa.”
Democratic Republic Of Congo, 2005
General Director, Institut de Recherche en Droits Humains
Hubert Masoka Tshiswaka has served as a human rights defender since 1996. He is the General Director of the Institut de Recherche en Droits Humains (IRDH), a private institution of research and training on human rights founded in 2014. In 2004, Tshiswaka co-founded Action contre l’impunité pour les droits humains, an NGO based in Lubumbashi that works to promote corporate responsibility in the Katanga mining areas. Between 1996 and 2004, he was the President of ASADHO/Katanga, a community-based human rights NGO. Following his participation in HRAP, Tshiswaka served as the DRC Country Director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. He holds the LLM from Witwatersrand University.
When asked in 2018 about the greatest benefit of HRAP, he writes: “With a backward look, years after HRAP, I’m convinced that the program impacted me a lot. IRDH is a result of my passage at Columbia where I learned how to give the best of myself to my community. The global network of alumni has been an incredible resource, providing an opportunity to learn and share experiences of working on common global human rights agenda. I still keep contact with friends in Indonesia, China, Philippines, Nigeria, Ghana, Mexico, USA, and Italy.”
Executive Director, Platform for Labour Action (PLA)
Lilian Keene-Mugerwa is a 2004 Graduate from the Human Rights Advocates Program from Uganda. Currently, Keene-Mugerwa is the Executive Director of the Platform for Labour Action (PLA), which promotes and defends labor rights in Uganda, placing emphasis on the rights of marginalized workers in the informal sector. As Executive Director, she is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the PLA’s overall advocacy strategy and the day-to-day management of the organization.
HRAP is a four-month interdisciplinary program that provides Advocates with the opportunity to learn from expert practitioners through a variety of skills-building workshops and training. When asked about how HRAP assisted her work at PLA, Keene-Mugerwa writes, “My participation in HRAP gave me the knowledge and skills to build the Platform for Labour Action as a leading advocate for labor rights.” The human rights advocacy trainings offered through HRAP gave her practical advocacy skills that she applied to PLA’s labour rights campaign. These skills helped her advocate for significant reforms in the social security sector. In addition to the human rights advocacy trainings, the media trainings proved to be incredibly beneficial to her career. She writes that she can confidently draft press releases and hold press conferences with specific demands, furthering the work of her organization.
El Salvador, 2004
Executive Director, Grupo de Monitoreo Independiente de El Salvador
“Compromise, love and dedication.” These words have become Carolina Quinteros’ dogma in her 20 years of incredibly impressive social policy work.
Driven by a deep concern and desire to impart social change in her home country of El Salvador, Carolina Quinteros joined HRAP in 2004 after having served as executive director of Grupo de Monitoreo Independiente de El Salvador (GMIES) for seven years. Since its inception in 1996, Quinteros had been devotedly working at GMIES, an organization dedicated to monitoring and improving labor conditions in the manufacturing industry.
During her time at Columbia University, Quinteros gained valuable skills that would allow her to continue working towards her admirable cause. On a personal level, she was inspired through sharing the experience of lobbying and raising awareness with her fellow advocates, who were just as motivated and as passionate as she was. Even more importantly, she found herself impressed and excited by the visibility that her organization was gaining as she was able to tap into the vast network afforded by the HRAP program.
Today, Quinteros continues in her endeavor to create safer, more just labor conditions for maquila workers in El Salvador. Her years of commendable work have taught her that it is “a job you take with you wherever you go”; in other words, it is her ability to put her heart into her work that has kept her motivated to effect social change.
“Compromiso, amor y dedicación.” Esta frase se ha convertido en inspiración para Carolina Quinteros en sus veinte años de servicio social.
Motivada por una preocupación profunda y un deseo de crear cambio social en su país de origen, El Salvador, Carolina Quinteros participó en HRAP durante el 2004 después de haber servido como directora ejecutiva para el Grupo de Monitoreo Independiente de El Salvador (GMIES) por siete años. Desde su comienzo en 1996, Quinteros había estado trabajando apasionadamente por GMIES, una organización dedicada al monitoreo y el mejoramiento de las condiciones laborales en la industria manufacturera.
En la universidad de Columbia, Quinteros adquirió destrezas valiosas que le ayudarían a seguir su admirable trabajo. Personalmente, se sintió inspirada al compartir la experiencia de cabildeo y levantamiento de conciencia con sus colegas, que eran tan apasionados y estaban tan motivados como ella. Más importante aún fue la impresión que le causó la visibilidad que su organización estaba ganando gracias a la red de contactos profesionales ofrecida por el programa HRAP.
Actualmente, Quinteros continua con su esfuerzo para crear condiciones más seguras y justas para las trabajadoras de la maquila en El Salvador. Sus años de encomiable trabajo le han enseñado que ese es “un empleo que requiere atención afuera de la oficina; te persigue por toda la vida.” En otras palabras, es la habilidad de dedicarse completamente a ese esfuerzo lo que le ha mantenido su nivel de motivación para poder efectuar cambios sociales.
Written by Gabrielle Isabelle Hernaiz-De Jesus in 2016.
Founder, Trustee and Director, Centre for Women’s Development and Research
2004 Advocate K.R. Renuka is the founder, trustee and director of Centre for Women’s Development and Research (CWDR). She is responsible for fundraising, staff-training, planning, monitoring and reporting.
Since HRAP, she attended a training in social entrepreneurship conducted by Dasra Mumbai, which bridges the gap between those investing in social change and those spearheading the changes, and She also completed the M.A. in Economics from Madurai Kamaraj University and M.Phil. in Micro-level Planning from Gandhigram Rural University, Dindigul, Tamilnadu.
HRAP provides advocates invaluable opportunity to network with numerous organizations in the field of human rights. As one of accomplishments after the program, she highlights, “After attending HRAP, I registered a trade union called Manushi for women domestic workers and have been involved in advocacy, lobbying and campaign activities. I was able to raise funds from Global Giving because of HRAP.” Renuka’s work through Manushi has prompted the government to initiate a welfare board for domestic workers. She says, “They have also set up a committee to fix minimum wages for domestic workers. In fact, domestic workers gained recognition as workers and they are now included in the informal workers list.”
Renuka highlights that her organization received the Outstanding Organization Award from Anbu Palam, an Adyar-based NGO, for its work with women’s rights. She says of HRAP:
It helped me to understand the human rights approach to women’s development. I have also learned the international human rights conventions and its use. I know how to work with policy makers and use advocacy to change government policies.
Executive Director, West Africa Civil Society Institute
When asked about the benefits of her participation in the Human Rights Advocates Program, Nana Afadzinu, a 2003 graduate from Ghana, answered, “I became a better human rights advocate. I became more knowledgeable, and that increased my confidence. I was able to contribute more to fighting for human rights with my organization and within the broader women’s and human rights’ movement.”
At the time of her arrival into HRAP, Afadzinu was working as Legal Advocate for Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment. One feature of the four months of HRAP is to teach advocates how to network as well as to introduce them to different NGOs and foundations that tailor to human rights and the individual pursuits of the participants. During her four months in HRAP, Afadzinu acquired $10,000 in funding for her organization from the Global Fund for Women to work on issues related to violence against women in Ghana.
After HRAP, Afadzinu went on to pursue further education, receiving her Masters in Law (L.L.M.) from New York University in 2005. She says, “The knowledge and skill acquired during those four months as an HRAP participant was invaluable and contributed to the quest for and my acquisition of a master’s degree.” Furthermore, she cites the lessons learned from the law classes at Columbia, the human rights symposia, the brown bag sessions, the experience-sharing with other HRAP participants, and the HRAP training seminars as having immensely contributed to the development of her career.
Some of Afadzinu’s professional accomplishments include coordinating the Domestic Violence Coalition from 2003 to 2004, which as she states, is “one of the most successful coalitions to date in Ghana” and succeeded in making addressing domestic violence and passing the Domestic Violence Bill top priorities on the policy agenda of the government of Ghana. Afadzinu has also recently served as the head of the Nigeria Office of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa where she contributed to providing the necessary support for civil society in Nigeria to promote and protect fundamental human rights, consolidate democratic governance, and enhance transparency and accountability. Because of her extensive training, professional work, and experience in programs such as HRAP, Afadzinu is regularly sought for and invited by various organizations to present and facilitate sessions on advocacy and human rights.
Currently, Afadzinu works with Ibis-West Africa as its Regional Policy Advisor. In this position, she advises all of Ibis’ education and governance programs, supports developing advocacy strategies of thematic projects, locates and establishes contacts at the national, sub-regional, and international level to build partners in policy advocacy, and coordinates the development of Ibis’ extractive industries program. Afadzinu affirms the impact of HRAP on her career, saying, “I have used (and continue to use) what I learnt in HRAP in the different career (and even personal) spaces that I have found myself in; and have, on all occasions, contributed effectively to ensuring the respect, promotion, and protection of fundamental human rights.” In addition, she remarks, “In that sense, I am not the only one that has benefited but so has society at large. HRAP may only be building the capacity of few advocates at each time but that seeming ‘drop in the bucket’ makes wide ripples. I know because I am an example.”
—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, June 2010
January 2014 update: Afadzinu is currently the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute.