Between 1989 and 2016, a total of 317 human rights advocates from 88 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 .
Director, Drebezova and Partners
Oksana Drebezova is a 2001 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program from Belarus. She is the Director of Drebezova and Partners, a law service and consulting firm based in Belarus. In addition to her work at Drebezova and Partners, Oksana serves as the Chair of the Association for Anti-Corruption Practices and Leader of a Belarus-based group facilitated by the NGO Transparency International: The Global Coalition Against Corruption.
The Human Rights Advocates Program at Columbia University provides advocates such as Oksana with the opportunity to undergo further advocacy training, take graduate courses in the areas of their expertise and develop new skills. After graduating from HRAP, Oksana returned to her home state of Belarus to continue her work as Director of the Legal Education in Human Rights at the Association of Women Lawyers of Belarus (AWLB). AWLB educates Belarusians about their rights and addresses their legal concerns. Through various projects, AWLB provides information on the country's political processes and local human rights issues as well as raising legal and civic awareness. In 2002, she completed her Bachelors at the Belarusian State Economic University.
Oksana remains in contact with her fellow participants of the Human Rights Program in 2001.
—Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, June 2013
Palestinian Authority, 2001
General Director, Al-Haq Organization
2001 Advocate Sha’wan Jabarin currently serves as General Director at Al-Haq Organization. This independent human rights organization advocates nationally and internationally to promote the rule of law and respect for human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories through legal research, documentation and building capacity to address violations of the individual and collective rights of Palestinians under international law.
When asked about HRAP, he says, “Even though it has been over 10 years since HRAP, the memories flooded my mind like it was yesterday. At that time, the program was my first opportunity to travel and study abroad in many years before. I had had a travel ban imposed on me and spent many years in detention as a result of Israeli occupation policies. I still remember the faces of the people I met and the classes I attended. I remember walking in the snow from my apartment to the campus. Not only do I remember the lectures, I also remember the fun time such as the trip to Massachusetts and attending discussions at the State Department.”
One of experiences that he highlights is when he gave his speech on behalf of all the students in the program with Mr. Heineken. He recalls, “I still have that speech script today. The course on addressing the media and delivering the message helps me a lot when I give interviews. The video interview practice and discussions from the course helped me to focus on my message.”
He also emphasizes that his coursework on fundraising and proposal writings as well as his writing practice with Professor Martin provided him an opportunity to enhance the relationship with donors for the organization.
After participating HRAP in 2001, he returned to Palestine with a new sense of purpose and direction to promote human rights. As a result, his organization was awarded the Dutch Human Rights Prize. He reflects, “I have always seen myself as a human rights defender and HRAP helped me to shape my understanding of the defense of human rights and gave me directions in that pursuit. It was the experiences from HRAP that opened the door to help me to reach the position where I am today.”
In 2005, he also completed his master’s degree in Law with International Human Rights Law from the Irish Centre for Human Rights in Galway, Ireland. He was recently awarded the Distinguished Graduate Award from the institute at its 10th anniversary ceremony.
He concludes, “There are many milestones in a person’s life that make them into the person they become. The experience from HRAP at Columbia University is one of those experiences for me. The certificate I received after completing the program still sits on my desk where everyone who visits my office can see it. I am very proud of my experience and thankful for the opportunity.”
—Article composed by Junghwa Lee, Program Coordinator, June 2011
April 2017 Update: In addition to continuing to serve as General Director at Al-Haq, Mr. Jabarin is currrently involved in advocacy missions in Europe. He was also elected Secretary General for the FIDH during its 39th Congress in August 2016.
Democratic Republic Of Congo, 2001
Member of Parliament, National Assembly
2001 Advocate Kizito Mushizi Nfundiko currently serves as Managing Director of Radio Maendeleo, Bukavu, in South-Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Radio Maendeleo is an independent community radio station broadcasting a mixture of programs to support social, political, and economic development in the Bukavu region. Kizito Mushizi Nfundiko is responsible for managing the editorial, technical, administrative, and financial units of the station.
He reflects that his participation in HRAP enhanced his professional profile in general. Since completing the 2001 HRAP, he has been elected member of the African Board of the World Association of Community Broadcasters and Advisor at the Central African Media Organization as well as Chair of the Journalists Organization in South-Kivu. He states, “It resulted also in a continuous support from the National Endowment for Democracy in funding our annual projects since 2001.” As a personal accomplishment, he highlights that he was motivated to continue his capacity development such as trainings in leadership, planning, and management. In 2007, he attended a three-week certificate training program in radio management in Belgium.
When asked about his greatest gain from HRAP, he says, “Studying at Columbia University through HRAP is prestigious and one must deserve it. The prestige bestowed upon me is the greatest motivation for me to be professional in my career.”
January 2014 update: After being elected in 2011, Kizito is currently serving as a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly of the DRC.
Executive Director, Gender Rights Project
Christie Olejemeh, a 2001 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program from Nigeria, says that “HRAP is invaluable. It gives you exposure to the worldview of human rights issues, collaboration with other human rights defenders around the world, and the knowledge that many people are going through various challenges in their home countries.” When Christie participated in HRAP, she joined other human rights advocates from around the world in trainings, meetings, and workshops to develop their knowledge and understanding of human rights. The intimate setting of the program allows the advocates to share their own experiences and activities with each other to learn how others in their respective fields are working to advance human rights.
Christie came to HRAP with her experience as Executive Director of the Gender Rights Project, a women’s human rights organization in Nigeria. A master’s degree holder in biochemistry, Christie wanted to reach and touch women whose human rights are being violated. She would carry out awareness campaigns on women’s human rights as well as organize seminars and counseling sessions for victims of domestic violence. While participating in HRAP, she succeeded to secure funding from RAINBOW through the help of a student at Columbia University to provide economic empowerment for widows in three states in Nigeria. HRAP participants regularly find that the networks they make during their time in New York City and Washington, D.C. provide valuable resources for their work and organizations in their home countries. Christie also secured further human rights training from the Soros Foundation while in HRAP.
Upon leaving HRAP, Christie says, “My advocacy skills were greatly enhanced.” She became one of the women that helped to draft the law against the trafficking of women that has been enacted into law in Nigeria and which prosecutes traffickers. She also concludes that “my experience has continued to enhance my work on health issues, especially on HIV/AIDS.” She has completed a bachelor’s degree in Nursing as well as earned numerous certificates on HIV/AIDS.
Currently, Christie is serving as Public Health Analyst at Care Housing and Support Services Bureau, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, & Tuberculosis Administration (HAHSTA) with the District of Columbia Department of Health. In this position, her duties are to provide technical assistance to service providers in the development of HIV services, negotiate and manage service agreement with community and non-profit organizations, and provide administrative and analytical methods of the public health framework to service organizations. Christie is also a Clinical Nurse of Oncology at the medical surgical unit of Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore where she provides quality and competent nursing care to patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery as well as uses her nursing skills to promote the quality of life of her patients.
- Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, June 2010
January 2014 update: Christie is currently the Executive Director of the Gender Rights Project.
Director - International Human Rights Program, Arcus Foundation
"The Human Rights Advocates Program was the key point in my development from an activist with courage, enthusiasm, and a vision into a more professional human rights advocate with knowledge, experience, and self-confidence”, writes 2000 Advocate Adrian Relu Coman. Adrian participated in HRAP when he was serving as the Executive Director of ACCEPT, a Romanian non-governmental organization that promotes equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people (LGBT).
His is a story of personal advancement which he uses constructively to better the lives of many. Benefitting from his new knowledge, skills, contacts and funds, Adrian went on to work for two more years with ACCEPT, years in which Adrian successfully galvanized public support in order to pressure policy-makers to repeal an antigay criminal law and adopt an anti-discrimination law. Benefitting from HRAP’s fundraising and proposal writing classes, he also managed to raise an astonishing $100,000.
Eager to enrich his practical insights with a profound academic understanding, Adrian completed a Bachelor’s degree in Human Rights at the City University of New York in 2005. Two years later, he earned a Master’s degree in Human Rights from Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. While in New York, Adrian was the Program Director at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), where he supervised the organization’s work at the United Nations. Then, along with the Open Society Institute, Adrian worked for four years in grant-making on civil society development in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Adrian served as the Parliamentary Assistant to Monica Macovei, Member of the European Parliament, and the EU-Moldova inter-parliamentary delegation, advising on matters of justice, human rights, internal affairs, anti-corruption, and democratic governance. His responsibilities were wide-ranging and included, amongst others, the drafting and negotiation of legislative amendments, speeches, and parliamentary questions, as well as coordination of public hearings and other events, including a campaign which resulted in the adoption of first anti-corruption declaration.
—Article composed by Timo Mueller, ISHR Intern, April 2011
January 2014 update: As of February 2013, Adrian is the Director of the Arcus Foundation’s International Human Rights Program.
We regret to inform you that Musue Haddad passed away in late 2013. She leaves behind her young son and 11 siblings. We had the honor of interviewing her in 2010.
Reflecting on her professional work and the experience gained from the Human Rights Advocacy Program, Musue Haddad stated, “HRAP and its staff helped me learn to coordinate my focus by looking at the trend of the human rights world, and the approach and tools that would be effective for advocacy.” Musue, originally from Liberia, underwent the trainings and seminars of HRAP in 2000. Before attending the program, she began her work as a journalist in Ghana where she had fled during the first Liberian Civil War. Upon returning to her home country, Musue spoke out as an independent voice in the daily newspaper, The News, decrying the human rights violations of the Liberian government and publicizing the work of NGOs.
While a participant in HRAP, Musue demonstrated an exceptional motivation and desire to learn a rights-based perspective. “Sometimes I look back,” she says, “and feel that I was at a critical point, a crossroad – the support from HRAP made a positive difference in my life; it set the pace for a new direction, a direction that shaped my values, and my convictions.” Musue quickly integrated the human rights education into journalistic practices and adopted human rights language into her work.
When asked what lessons she learned from HRAP, Musue recalled her training in the program under Dr. J. Paul Martin with the conclusion, “Human Rights is Global; look at the local issues, think Global by connecting the local to the Global.” This acquired approach was evident in Musue’s master’s project, “Media and Culture and Reconciliation in War-torn Liberia: Diasporas and the Politics of Journalistic Practice,” which examined how the Liberian media generated a journalistic practice that, by being sensationalistic, partisan, and politically provocative, strengthened the power of rumor while weakening the capacity of civil society. Musue received her master’s degree in International Policy and Practice from George Washington University in 2006. While pursuing the degree, she was one of the recipients of the 2005 Lewis N. Cotlow Field Research Fund.
In addition to her degree, Musue received two professional certificates after her participation in HRAP. The first, from the University of Maryland, acknowledged her completion of the “Journalism & Professional Development Program” while the second, from the United States Government, recognized Musue for completing the “Graduate Study & Professional Development Program of the Government of the United States.” She also received many awards and recognitions for her human rights work, including the 2002 Hellman/Hammett Human Rights Watch Award which honors journalists and writers’ commitments to free expression and their courage in the face of political persecution. Musue received the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, Washington, DC Human Rights Award in 2001.
Currently, Musue seeks to pursue a PhD program in Leadership with the confidence that the degree will assist her to promote gender equality, leadership, and social change as well as make especially meaningful contributions to post-conflict development in Liberia, other parts of Africa, and the world. While the pursuit of her PhD is underway, Musue is also actively engaged in self-publishing two books. One, a collection of poetry and prose drawing from her personal experiences in Liberia, in exile, and as a mother will soon be completed. The second book, meanwhile, intends to be an ambitious project of digitizing rare raw negatives and other documents concerning human rights situations that Musue has collected in a personal archive.
—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, June 2010-edited January 2014
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy
Nang Lao Liang Won, also known as Tay Tay, graduated from HRAP in 2000. She was recently named a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. As a fellow, she explores strategies for protecting women’s human rights and promoting women’s participation in Burma’s democratization process.
Since graduating from HRAP, Tay Tay remained involved with the Shan Women’s Action Networking (SWAN), an organization that she co-founded in 1999. In 2002, she and her SWAN colleagues launched the “Stop License to Rape in Burma” campaign. This campaign earned SWAN international recognition. SWAN was awarded the Gruber Prize for Women’s Rights and the Jean J. Kirkpatrick Award by the Women’s Democracy Network for its noteworthy contributions to the advancement of women in Burma. She has been an advisory team member of SWAN since its formation. She has also worked in various capacities for the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), an umbrella women’s organization. While at WLB, she assisted WLB with its organizational and advocacy strategy development. She has written many articles and reports on various human rights issues, in particular, women’s human rights violations committed by state actors in Burma for SWAN and WLB over the years.
In addition to her work at SWAN and WLB, she has been a long time member of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law & Development (APWLD), for which she served as a member of Task Force on Violence against Women from 2005 to 2009 and as a Regional Council Member from 2006 to 2007. Currently, she is a member of the International Advisory Council of Global Fund for Women and an Advisory Network Member of Urgent Action Fund for Women.
One feature of the four months of HRAP is to give advocates the opportunity to learn from expert practitioners through a variety of skills-building workshops and trainings. Tay Tay stated that the HRAP trainings opened her eyes to new possibilities of advocacy. She added that combination of academic coursework, trainings and workshops provided her with the knowledge and skills to effectively advocate at the international level. Since HRAP, she has done significant advocacy for women’s human rights in Burma at international advocacy representing SWAN and WLB. Highlights of her advocacy work includes the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the World Conference on Racism in 2001 and the Beijing Plus Ten Process from 2004 and 2005, and the AWID Forums (Association for Women's Rights in Development).
Tay Tay is living in Washington D.C during her fellowship. She is looking forward to continuing her work in women’s human rights advocacy in Burma and beyond after completing her fellowship.
—Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, April 2013
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Alaliyaa
Taima Al-Jayoush is a 1999 Human Rights Advocate from Syria. After HRAP, Taima continued her work as a lawyer, focusing her career on advocating for women rights in Syria. In 2009, she founded Alalyiaa, a pro-bono law firm in Damascus, Syria that provides legal aid for Syrian women in cases of violence such as honor crimes, trafficking, divorce settlements and custody disputes.
The Human Rights Advocates Program at Columbia University is an intensive capacity building program that provides Advocates with the resources to expand their knowledge and skills through trainings, workshops and relevant graduate coursework. When asked how her participation in HRAP assisted her work in human rights law and advocacy, Taima writes, “HRAP gave me the space to learn more about human rights at the academic level. I closely studied the human rights conventions and treaties. I implemented what I learned at HRAP when representing political prisoners at the Supreme State Security Court in Damascus or Syrian women in Sharia, civil or criminal courts.”
Tamia is currently living in Montreal, Canada and continues managing her law firm Alalyiaa and assisting the Mahmoud Aljayoush Law Firm with various law cases. Taima frequently communicates with former participants of the Human Rights Advocates Program over e-mail. She writes, “I still keep in touch with my friends in the program. I continue to respect and admire their work.”
Senior Lawyer, Delphine K. Djiraibe's Law Firm
A 1999 graduate of the Human Rights Advocacy Program, Delphine Djiraibe recalls the importance of the tools and education she learned during her time in HRAP by saying, “I still have course materials that I am using, especially for advocacy and fundraising.” When Delphine came to HRAP from her home country of Chad, she was serving as Human Rights Attorney at Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDDH), an organization that she co-founded. While participating in HRAP, Delphine followed coursework in human rights at Columbia University and attended some of the many training seminars and workshops that HRAP offers, which include fundraising, public-speaking, and grant writing, among others.
Since her participation in HRAP, Delphine has made new notable accomplishments. After returning to Chad, she initiated a prosecution of Hissen Habre, the country’s former dictator, and created a network of civil society organizations to advocate for a peace and reconciliation process. She also opened the first Public Interest Law Center in Chad, which is the first of its kind in Central Africa.
In Delphine’s words, participation in HRAP “gives me a high profile.” HRAP participants routinely use their access to New York City and Columbia University during the four months of the program in order to meet with high-profile organizations in New York and Washington, D.C., and demonstrate their capacity to undertake rigorous, graduate-level coursework. Delphine has continued her post-secondary studies and completed an LLM program at American University Washington College of Law where she majored in International Human Rights and Environmental Law. She has also since served on the Board of Trustees of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).
When asked what the greatest benefit was of her participation in HRAP, Delphine responds, “It helped me connect to the international world.” Because of her extensive grassroots, organizing, and advocacy work in Chad, Delphine was selected for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2004. The award is presented to honor courageous and innovative individuals striving for social justice. Today, Delphine acts as Senior Lawyer at Delphine K. Djiraibe’s Law Firm. She also continues to work as Chief Attorney with Public Interest Law Center as well as National Coordinator of the Follow-up Committee on Peace and Reconciliation Initiative. Her regular duties include giving legal advice, representing clients before tribunals and courts, representing organizations, and regularly contributing to advocacy work and fundraising for her organizations.
—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, June 2010
Project Manager, Black Sea Peace-Building Project, Crisis Management Initiative
Mikheil (Misha) Mirziashvili is a 1999 graduate of the Human Rights Advocacy Program from Georgia. At the time of his arrival in HRAP, Misha had been working as Executive Director of Association Studio Re, an independent television studio and NGO he had founded in 1992 to use media to focus on human rights, conflict resolution, and peace-building in his home country. Through his participation in HRAP, Misha acquired many skills in advocacy and human rights tools that he has used since to advance a career supporting non-profit organizations for nearly two decades. He says that his time during HRAP “was the first such long, intensive, and diverse experience for me…I’m continuing to work in the non-profit sector, but the field of my work is widening (geographically and thematically), giving me the opportunity for self-actualization.”
HRAP brings together human rights advocates from around the world for a four-month training session at the campus of Columbia University in New York City. Explaining the benefits of his experience in HRAP, Misha states, “It helps with improving knowledge of human rights and with skills how to advocate. Participants come in contact with colleagues and partners and learn how to network.” The participants will gain these skills through coursework at Columbia University, training workshops on topics such as fundraising and networking, and attending meetings and presentations with foundations, NGOs, and financial institutions in New York City and Washington, D.C. relevant to the advocates’ personal work and profiles.
After leaving HRAP, Misha continued making a difference with Association Studio Re until moving on to become a Program Coordinator and then Program Manager of the Integration and Civic Education Program at the Open Society Institute Georgia Foundation in 2005. While serving there, he had been one of the persons responsible for the recommendations on Georgia's action plan for the European Neighborhood Policy. At the same time, he was involved in various activities aiming at conflict resolution in Abkhasia and South Osetia. He also coordinated a number of projects that addressed the problems of the integration of ethnic minorities into Georgian society. In addition, Misha was one of the initiators of the “South Caucasus Documentary Film Festival of Peace and Human Rights – Nationality: Human” during the festival’s startup years in 2006 to 2008.
Many participants also find that after leaving HRAP they are better suited for their work and the careers on which they embark. Misha remarks that in all his work since HRAP, he has “had favorable reception.” He was recently appointed to the position of Project Manager of the Black Sea Peace-Building Project at Crisis Management Initiative, a Finnish independent NGO working to resolve conflict and build sustainable peace founded by Martti Ahtisaari. Working out of his office in Brussels, Misha oversees operations of the Black Sea Peace-Building Project operating in seven countries–Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. His project provides support for self-ruling civil society expert councils for conflict resolution/transformation and peace initiatives.
—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, July 2010
South Africa, 1999
Senior Manager - Skills Implementation and Monitoring, Safety and Security Sectoral Education and Training Authority
1999 Advocate Makubetse Sekhonyane is currently serving as Director of Strategic Planning Management and Monitoring in South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services. Sekhonyane is responsible for planning, monitoring, and evaluation and reporting.
After attending HRAP, he was strongly motivated to complete his master’s degree in Public and Development Management and pursue his Ph.D. in Monitoring and Evaluation from Wits University in Johannesbsurg. He adds, “I wrote articles for a number of publications as a result of networking from HRAP. I was also invited to West Papua by fellow 1999 Advocate John Rumbiak (deceased) to talk about my human rights experience in South Africa.” His latest article, “Human Rights and Restorative Justice”, which was published in Handbook of Restorative Justice (2007), explores in detail the fundamental question of how the risks that restorative interventions might pose to human rights can be managed.
When asked about the benefits of participating in HRAP, he replies: “I could improve the advocacy and advancement of human rights. I was hoping to do my master’s degree in Human Rights, which I couldn’t. However, HRAP provided an academic cornerstone to abridge my graduate studies to the field of human rights. As a result, my current studies are still in the right direction.”
January 2014 update: Makubetse is currently a Senior Manager at Safety and Security Sectoral Education and Training Authority in South Africa.
Secretary, National Women's Committee, Hind Mazdoor Sabha
1999 Advocate Maya Sharma currently serves as a program director for an India-based community organization known as Vikalp Women’s Group. Working in the most impoverished areas of rural and urban Baroda Gujarat, Maya focuses on improving the livelihoods of women through addressing issues of labor, sexuality and women’s inequality. When asked to speak about how HRAP has improved her human rights advocacy skills, Maya shares that besides allowing her the “grand opportunity to get away and simply be,” the program has given her an “overview of the international human rights available at the global level and on the ground--the gaps/connections often fragile sometimes not even visible. My participation in HRAP brought home these crucial connections and a perspective that is incredibly useful.”
The capacity building program offers advocates the opportunity to network with various organizations, providing a platform for them to engage a larger audience of activists and share their message. Maya says she remembers “networking with different stake holders for getting our voices heard, giving ‘a women’s direction to campaigns, picking on detailed and correct information to show the injustice and where and how it can be remedied.”
Maya highlights the greatest benefit of her participation in HRAP simply as the exposure it afforded her. She recalls, “Being in the university, imbibing and absorbing, all that learning that solidifies years after the interlude, the friends I made, my teachers, the films, the talks, the libraries.” She fondly says, “Scattered as my learning is, it goes on through the relationships and the evocative associations that came through the smells like the coffee when we opened the cold door handle of SIPA.”
Maya shares that since her participation in HRAP, one of her personal accomplishments is the improvement in her writings on human rights. As she reflects on the benefits of being in the program, she states, “Getting a free space there was material to read and fantastic classes/lectures to attend by professors, and to hear the students debate - there my perspective on sexuality matured.” Since returning from her time in HRAP, Maya has written a book entitled, Loving Women: Being Lesbian in Unprivileged India, New Delhi: Yoda Press, soon expected to be released in its second edition.
—Article composed by Tiffany Wheatland, Program Coordinator, July 2010
January 2014 update: Maya is currently the Secretary, National Women's Committee at Hind Mazdoor Sabha.
, Lagos State University
When Tunde Akanni joined HRAP in 1998, he was working with the Centre for Free Speech in Nigeria, a free expression group co-established by 1997 Advocate Babatunde Olugboji. At the time, the group was in the process of advocating for the release of four Nigerian journalists who had been arrested for writing about the alleged 1995 coup attempt. The experience would be one of many in which Tunde was involved as an international consultant dedicated to human rights advocacy.
During HRAP, Tunde writes that he had “the opportunity to effectively internationalize [his] activities and improve [his] skills.” In fact, he credits a fundraising course taught by Paul Martin, the director at the Center for the Study of Human Rights at the time, with helping him to secure a $20,000 grant to support his organization. Apart from building his skillset, Tunde connected with colleagues that he now remains in contact with even 20 years later.
Today, Tunde is involved in a number of initiatives related to internet governance at the Information Aid Network (IFAnet). He lectures at Lagos State University.
When Anna Penido participated in HRAP in 1998, she was working in Bahia with the Odebrecht Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing youth and adolescents with life skills. Her passion to improve education in Brazil continues to evolve and motivate her successes to this day.
Penido reports that HRAP gave her fundamental tools which have guided throughout her career: “HRAP was a turning point not only in my career, but also in my personal life. The time I spent at Columbia University opened my eyes, my heart, my horizons and my connections to a much broader world. Not only did I learn about more effective ways to advocate for human rights, but I also had a chance to interact with initiatives and specialists involved in youth rights movements.”
The experience that Penido gained at HRAP was so influential that she was motivated to put it to work in a tangible way: “As soon as I got back to Brazil, the knowledge, experiences and connections I gained from HRAP inspired me to create a non-governmental organization whose mission is to empower young people to use communication strategies and tools to advocate for their own rights…Years later, the classes and materials on international human rights I got from HRAP were very supportive to my work as the chief of the UNICEF field office in São Paulo.”
Penido’s founding of the CIPO initiative to teach young people about media professions and to provide them with the skills to succeed led her to chosen as an Ashoka Fellow in 2001.
Today, Penido is the director of Inspirare, a family institute dedicated to inspiring innovation in public policies and initiatives to improve the quality of education in her home country of Brazil. Inspirare’s programs are guided by “Innovative Holistic Education,” an idea that Penido describes as the following: “In today’s world, younger generations see things very differently to those that preceded them. Technology has changed the world and climate threats have shown that global society’s model of organization and operation is no longer viable. However, our current model of education does not address these questions and demands. Inspirare believes we must develop a new concept of education. The main aims of Innovative Holistic Education are the development of the student in all facets of life and answering the demands of today’s world and the interests of children, teenagers and young people of the 21st century.”
Even though she attended HRAP nearly 20 years ago, she writes that she still feels its impact: “At my current job, HRAP still influences the way I advocate for public policies aimed at ensuring every and each Brazilian student to have access to good schools and education.” Her vastly impressive experience in promoting education as a fundamental human right has given her important insights on how to be successful in this field. She leaves human rights advocates at the start of their careers with the following words of wisdom: “Be resilient… the journey is full of obstacles and detours.” And, perhaps even more importantly: “Give voice and power to those you serve! Never forget they are the true agents of change.”
-Article composed by Gabrielle Isabelle Hernaiz-De Jesus, November 2016
Ombudsman, Republic of Indonesia
Budi Santoso is a graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program from Indonesia in 1998. After finishing the program, Budi returned to his home country of Indonesia to continue his work as the Director of the Legal Institute (LBH) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. In 2001, he was appointed the Director of the Independent Legal Aid Institute (ILAI) and head of the People Services Division of the Indonesian Bar Association. In May of 2002, he left Indonesia to study international human rights law at Northwestern University on a prestigious Fulbright fellowship. He returned in 2003 and continued managing the Independent Legal Aid Institute, a position that he held until 2011.
HRAP is a four-month intensive human rights training program that provides participants with a broad overview of the international human rights system through a series of seminars, trainings and courses. In addition to academic coursework on human rights, HRAP provides Advocates with networking opportunities in both New York City and Washington D.C. to meet with human rights organizations to strengthen their networks. Fifteen years later, Budi fondly reflects on his experience as a HRAP participant. He writes, “The ability to meet with several human rights organization greatly expanded my network for years to come.”
Presently, Budi is a member of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Indonesia in Jakarta. On Saturdays, he teaches at his alma mater, Islamic University of Indonesia in Yogyakarta.