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 .
Communications Executive & Security Management Trainer, Defenders Protection Initiative
Mulshid is a 2016 graduate of HRAP from Uganda. He is the director of special projects and strategic initiatives at Defenders Protection Initiative. At the same time, he works as an associate consultant at Akijul (Enabling Change). He has worked closely with organizations to facilitate change management and other organizational learning and development processes.
Mulshid's areas of expertise include gender mainstreaming in organizations, people and organization, strategic management, human-centered design, humanitarian safety, protection and security management, the African human rights system, diversity and inclusion, advanced data analytics, digital transformation, and performance improvement.
He has also worked on specialized assignments in South East Asia, particularly in Cambodia and Myanmar, and across the Eastern and Horn of Africa, particularly focusing on project and program design, coordination and implementation.
Mulshid holds an M.Phil. in human rights and democratization in Africa from the University of Pretoria, and a B.Sc. with the Dean's Merit Award in Business Computing from Makerere University, Kampala.
- Article updated by Chiora Taktakishvili, Fulbright Exchange Visitor, July 2019
Legal/Program Officer, Uganda Network on Law, Ethic and HIV/AIDS (UGANET)
Betty is a Legal/Program Officer at Uganda Network on Law, Ethic and HIV/AIDS, an NGO committed to the development and strengthening of policies and ethical responses to HIV/AIDS in Uganda. She has headed the Kampala office since March 2011. She earned a bachelor’s of legal laws from Uganda Christian University in June 2008 and a postgraduate diploma in legal practice from the Law Development Center in 2009. An enrolled Advocate of the High Court of Uganda and other subordinate Courts, she is a member of the Uganda Law Society and the East African Law Society.
El Salvador, 2016
President, Salvadorian Association for Survivors of Torture
Santos is the founder and president of the Salvadorian Association for Survivors of Torture, an association that gives psychological care to survivors of torture and their families and investigates various human rights abuses. He is the creator of a webpage called the Yellow Book, which documents the names of victims of injustice and abuse by the state. Santos has a degree in literature from the Autonomous University of Mexico. Through Scholars at Risk, he studied international law and human right law at the University of York in 2013.
The Whitney M. Young, Jr. Memorial Fund sponsored the participation of Santos in the 2016 HRAP.
Program Manager, Just Nepal Foundation
Chhing is a founding member and Program Manager of Just Nepal Foundation, an organization that promotes education, social justice, and human rights by working within the rural mountain communities of Nepal. Chhing has been working to empower women and extremely marginalized groups in Nepal for the past 30 years. She is one of the founding members, chair, and current advisor of Mountain Spirit, another indigenous people’s organization. She has been active in relief efforts after the earthquake in Nepal. Chhing earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics, Culture and Literature from Padma Kanya University in 1988, a Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Extension & Women from University of Reading in 1991, and a master’s degree in Rural Development in 2016.
Program Manager, Ishtar-MSM
Wambaya Jeffrey Walimbwa works at Ishtar and is the Co-Chair of the SOGIE research Committee at the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya. Ishtar-MSM is a community-based organization that advances the sexual health rights of men who have sex with men to reduce stigma and discrimination they face by advocating for their rights to access health care, including STI/HIV and AIDS-related care and treatment. As a Program Manager and Researcher both at Ishtar and the G10, Wambaya has taken part in various activities on advocacy, policy and strategy formulation and research analysis. With experience in evidence-based HIV and Sexual health programming he has sat on a variety of Technical working groups on a national and international level. He is also a board member of the initiative of Equality and Non-Discrimination, an organisation based in Mombasa that engages people and institutions known to perpetuate violence against gender and sexual minorities.
Project Coordinator, Civil Society Development Centre (STGM)
In 1977, an ultra-nationalist paramilitary group organized a bomb attack in front of the Pharmacy Faculty of Istanbul University. In this attack, seven students were murdered and more than 40 students were seriously injured. Eleven years later, Saddam Hussein committed crimes against humanity on March 16, 1988, in Helebce, northern Iraq. On that day, his warplanes bombed Helebce with chemical weapons. At least 5,000 civilians—the majority of whom were children, women, and older people—were slaughtered and an additional 7,000 people were injured. And so my story starts two years after the Helebce Massacre.
When I was a university student in Ege University based in Izmir, my friends and I organized a series of peaceful protests around Turkey on March 16, 1990. After that, I faced some difficulties in Turkey, but I continued to work for human rights in Turkey and elsewhere. I was affiliated with the Izmir War Resisters Association and supported the conscientious objectors living in Turkey. I participated in an Amnesty International Turkey initiative in 1996. As a volunteer, I was selected as the campaign coordinator of Amnesty International Turkey during its 2000-2002 campaign against torture, formally known as “Take a Step to Stamp out Torture.” As a teacher, I worked to raise awareness about human rights. Since 2012, I have been working for Syrian refugees through the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly in Istanbul. Additionally, I am a project coordinator of The Psychological Support and Primary Health Care services for Syrian Refugees living in Kilis, Turkey, which is technically and financially supported by Médecins Sans Frontières. The prevention of conflict, discrimination, and violence including torture and ill-treatment, are main issues for me.
If anyone asks me why I work for human rights, my answer is that I listen only to the voice of my conscience.
I am currently working in the Civil Society Development Centre (STGM) as a project coordinator since August 2018. The STGM is a CSO based in Ankara, Turkey. My project is about the freedom of association and rights to participation. Full name is “Capacity Building for CSOs and Civil Networks for Further Development of Freedom of Association and Right to Participation” and it is financed by European Union. We are closely working with the Istanbul Bilgi University Civil Society Center for Civil Society Studies (STÇM) and the Association for Capacity Building (rights-based networks such as Human Rights Joint Platform, Network for Struggle against Impunity in Turkey) as project partners.
The Whitney M. Young, Jr. Memorial Fund sponsored the participation of Hakan Ataman in the 2015 HRAP.
Interim CEO, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Alliance
Sandra Creamer is a Wannyi/Kalkadoon Indigenous woman from Australia. Currently, she works on behalf of human rights for Indigenous persons as the interim CEO of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Alliance and an adjunct Professor with the University of Queensland. She also serves as a legal officer, having worked in law for more than 15 years.
Creamer started as the Indigenous Community Liaison Officer with Legal Aid Queensland working with Indigenous women and children who were victims of crime. She also conducted legal information workshops and assisted in cases of racial discrimination and family law. Creamer advocates for Indigenous women, and it is important to her that they are always included in consultation and negotiations. She writes, “When women are included, it is then a collective voice from a community group. Indigenous women also need respect for their views and opinions—for Indigenous women and children have the right to live in a safe environment and be free from any forms of violence.
One of the biggest issues Creamer points to is that Indigenous peoples face is forced assimilation in regards to their land. “Indigenous peoples are being forced off their lands by mining companies, land acquisitions by governments, internal county conflicts, and climate change to name a few,” states Creamer “Indigenous peoples need their land because this is how their values and identities are embedded—for the land is their heritage. If we do not receive support because no one is hearing our voices, as discrimination and the doors of opportunity continue to close, where will we be in the future? We will be one world, one language—and the traditional knowledge of how to maintain the earth will be lost. Cultural identity is of profound importance for the diversity of the world and to maintain the earth. Indigenous peoples will not just be the invisible people—we will become a memory. This is why I am a human rights advocate.”
Project Manager/Art Project Coordinator, Alliance Against LGBT Discrimination (Aleanca)
Sometime during the years of my adolescence, when trying to understand aspects of my life that Albanian society had forgotten to include in its school curricula, I was also trying to find people who were exploring the same issues.
When I met a group of young people who called themselves “The Alliance Against LGBT Discrimination,” I instantly felt that it was only natural for me to work with them since they had the same questions and they were doing something to answer them.
Now six years have passed and we have done a lot, but for some reason I cannot find a way or a strategy to summarize those achievements point by point—it has all flowed naturally. Nonetheless, it has a core set of questions really similar to the ones that we had from the beginning:
• What does it mean to be part of a community?
• What are your duties and the responsibilities when you undertake to speak for people who need to delegate their voice because of violence?
• What are the ways to give power to this voice, day by day, so that it takes shape in a way that in the end can speak for itself?
• How do you stay true to these ideals when you are surrounded by organizations that in the process of “professionalization” have lost contact with the community they are supposed to represent?
I have been criticized time after time for not speaking out about the difficulties of my community in Albania, but the answer is obvious to me: The problems of the LGBT community in Albania are similar, if not the same, as the problems that every LGBT community comes across in every corner of the world. It has a mix of socio-economic status, a backwards history, communism, liberal democracy, corruption, and ignorance.
The solutions, however, are different; they are local and each community has them. That is why these questions are so important and why they should not be taken for granted at the risk of alienating our community. It is not our duty to give voice to the LGBT community—that only opens new problems. Our only duty is to create ways and tools for the LGBT community to come together and speak. They must be able to speak clearly, loudly, freely, and intransigently.
In my context where people love to talk for and about others, working with artistic expressions has helped much more than having innumerable conferences where everybody—except the LGBT people themselves—talks about the needs of “the poor and violated” LGBT people. In the space that art creates, you can find the answers to the questions that I pose above, and in the best case you can create new questions. In my experience, the people who follow the conference circuit do not come to the art exhibitions.
Through this piece, I might be missing the opportunity to expose all “the personal achievements” of my work, but this does not matter.
The biggest achievement is being in this program, where I’ve had the time, chance, and luck to meet fearless people from all over the world with whom—maybe for the first time in my life—I understand what it means to be a citizen of the world, to transcend boundaries, come together, and try to answer these questions.
When I return to Albania I will continue to do what I have always done: To make the constant effort to stay true to my community and my principles.
Thank you, my dearest friends Anastasiya, Benson, Elina, Hakan, Gigi, Sandra, Sylvain, Swe Zin, Kyi Pyar and Yupar. A special thank you to Stephanie, Professor Sayantani Dasgupta and Professor Theodorus Sandfort.
Editor, European Radio for Belarus
I have not once asked myself why I am interested in human rights. At the beginning of my experience, I was an activist with a human rights organization in my country. Today, I am journalist. While it may seem that I am no longer involved with human rights, the media in my country does not have freedom of speech—this is a human rights violation. In Belarus, there are a number of human rights violations.
Upon reflection, I can say that my belief in religion has led me to human rights. It is not possible to remain on the sidelines when the world has injustice, inequality, humiliation, violence and the death penalty. I hold a deep conviction that the protection of human rights is a collective task. Respect for human rights is an indicator of the maturity of the state. We must search for mutual understanding and put the needs of others above our own.
Coordinator, Adivasi Women’s Network
I learned in my childhood that rights are never given. As the second of four children, I learned about survival of the fittest. I have applied this lesson to all aspects of my life.
I experienced discrimination in the family, at the community level, in religious institutions, and at the work place because of my gender, ethnicity, and class. Instead of accepting discrimination, I have always found alternatives.
From the time I became aware of these discriminatory ideologies and attitudes, I started raising my voice strategically. The first step was to seek a strong network with other women who have had similar experiences or concerns. By taking a preventive approach through various activities such as awareness raising, capacity building, and skills development, I have started to address the issues of gender-based violence faced by the Adivasi (Indigenous) women, focusing more on the strategic needs of Adivasi women to strengthen them from within. It’s with passion that I seek to empower Adivasi women because the outcome also gives me a sense of empowerment.
When I first got information about HRAP, I thought this was exactly what I needed. For me, joining HRAP was like turning the impossible into a reality because each part of the program has had a deep impact. The best element of HRAP is that it connects us with other advocates and gives opportunities to impart the knowledge and experience of diverse human rights advocacy efforts. When I return home, I’ll pass on the knowledge and information both practically and theoretically.
South Sudan, 2015
Civic Engagement Officer, Community Empowerment for Rehabilitation and Development (CEFoRD)
The dark days of the Sudan from the 1880s until 2011, when the southern part of the Sudan separated and became independent, explain why I try to provide an atmosphere that can be favorable for all citizens to freely and constructively rebuild the hopes once lost and the future that has been left bare. It’s no wonder that among the many Sudanese people who have undergone hardships that I am among those born in the war, brought up with it, and to age with it. For the years of my life in exile (Uganda and Zaire, now the DRC) had been full of uncertainties. My career as an activist is due to what I went through and what other Sudanese at the camps went through, too. I decided not to commit suicide because it would not have benefitted anyone. As a child, I had to take a stand to address both social and economic conditions to improve my livelihood. My life as an orphan—even when I decided to go back home to South Sudan—was something that could not be imagined. I decided to think positively about my future and started to work in service for communities. I am a co-founder of Community Empowerment for Rehabilitation and Development (CEFoRD), which has the mission to create a “well-empowered, united and peaceful society” with youth as the primary target: the participatory approach we use is for both the educated and the non-educated.
Democratic Republic Of Congo, 2015
Director of Programs , IMPACT
I am from the South Kivu province of Uvira in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 2012, I have been the Program Director at IMPACT, an NGO based in Uvira. At IMPACT, we work to protect children who are being exploited at mining sites in Uvira and Fizi, and strive to hold accountable those who are engaged in the illegal exploitation of natural resources. Growing up in a family of seven, my hometown was greatly affected by the war in 1996 and 1998. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the country and hundreds of children were forced to become soldiers. With many people killed and countless others arrested and tortured, others simply disappeared. With my family, we fled to a refugee camp in Tanzania where we spent almost four years. In the camp, I heard thousands of people tell the same stories of rape, killing, maiming, looting of villages, and child recruitment. Those stories, along with those from my own experience, shaped my life and my views of humanity and the world. Upon returning to my hometown four years later I saw the destruction and desperation, as well as the hope of the people. I then decided to help my neighborhood with recovery efforts led by many young people. One of the efforts included mobilizing parents and children to rebuild badly destroyed houses and schools; answering the call helped to shape my humanitarian experience. Furthermore, my becoming an activist has been a way for me to give back to the community that I grew up in. Another blessing has been my family’s support as I earned a university degree. I continue to believe that my community and my country need young activists like me to continue fighting for human rights, justice, and peace.
Executive Director, Initiative for Equality and Non Discrimination
After HRAP, Esther Adhiambo started the Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination (INEND) in Mombasa, Kenya. INEND researches and undertakes strategic actions towards equality, acceptance and inclusion in the Coast Region of Kenya. INEND also promotes tolerance, non-discrimination, acceptance and inclusion of sexual and gender minorities.
Adhiambo writes: "My biggest win in the LBGQ movement has been the acceptance of sexual minorities by religious leaders in Mombasa County. This was not an easy journey, but I was able to overcome the obstacles. My constant plea to them was that equal human rights apply to all human beings regardless of their sexual orientation and identity. Happily, the end result of these relationships has been a reduction in violence against sexual minorities in the County."
Adhiambo has been in the LBGQ movement for eight years, having previously served as the Executive Director of Persons Marginalized and Aggrieved in Kenya (PEMA Kenya), an organization based in Mombasa that promotes harmony by empowering the local community to respect the rights of sexual and gender minorities.
-Updated by Jordan Lesser-Roy, Program Assistant, Spring 2020
Founder, Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities
I am from a country that has been characterized by a history of violence, human rights violations and genocide. Growing up in such a country, I personally experienced and witnessed a lot of human rights abuses. These experiences made me want to contribute to human rights advocacy and peace building, hoping to diminish and/or prevent human rights violations and violent conflict from happening again.
What I loved most about HRAP are the workshops and networking meetings that I attended. Attending these workshops with the other Advocates helped me understand human rights issues with a broader view. For example, hearing from my fellow Advocates and visiting organizations that support LGBT and indigenous peoples’ rights inspired me and helped me start thinking about how I can expand my work to include these groups. Also visiting potential funding organizations helped me learn that human rights and peace building work is not just one organization’s work--there can always be a way of partnering and complementing each other.
Through the HRAP workshops I learned a lot of skills and new ideas from both my colleagues and trainers. I have been in this work for the last 10 years, and I have always been giving myself to others and ignoring my own well-being. Through the Stress, Trauma and Resilience in Human Rights Work workshop, I was again reminded of the importance of taking care of myself before I take care of others. Once I get back home, I am going to develop a regular routine that will help me make my work less stressful. I visited many organizations, and I met with many important people who might be potential partners to work with in the future. I am going to try to keep the connections going. I plan to use the skills I learned from both the trainings and classes to improve my work. For example, I’m going to use Google Calendar [which HRAP uses to organize the schedules of participants] to organize my daily work. I plan to teach it to my co-workers and other friends who do not know about it because I think it’s a very important tool. The fundraising skills I learned will help me write clear proposals based on what interests the donor. Before, I didn't know that it’s very important to know what the interests of the donor are before writing a proposal. I also learned the importance of doing research, writing, and reporting about issues before you start doing anything, so as I think of expanding my work to other groups, I’m going to do a lot of research to know exactly what the problem is, and what are the solutions and actions that should be taken. I am not going to keep all these new skills to myself. As soon as I get back home, I will start sharing all the skills with my co-workers and other organizations that do similar work as well because I believe that there should be no competition in human rights and peace building work. We should collaborate and support each other.
Bizimana was the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Memorial Fund Advocate in the 2014 HRAP.