Between 1989 and 2021, a total of 346 human rights advocates from 95 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 .
Daniel Alejandro Pinilla is a Colombian journalist with more than nine years’ experience in human rights and sustainable development. He has worked for international organizations such as the United Nations, Caritas Internationalis in Vatican City and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation where he is currently Project Coordinator of the Rule of Law Program for Latin America. As a journalist he wrote for the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo and the international news chain CNN. Most recently, he has led important initiatives using new technologies to promote human rights such as databases with open access to regional jurisprudence, virtual observatories of justice and journalism, the International Film Fest on Human Rights and online courses to access to international justice. He has worked on interdisciplinary approaches like connections between arts and human rights. Daniel holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Communication and Journalism from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Colombia) and a specialization in Human Rights from the Collège Universitaire Henry Dunant (Switzerland). In 2012, he was awarded with a scholarship at the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica. Daniel’s participation in HRAP is funded by friends of 1990 Advocate Felipe Michelini of Uruguay in his memory.
Mariam Antadze has been the project coordinator at the Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT) since 2017. She has contributed to the rehabilitation and social empowerment of vulnerable groups including female victims of gender-based and domestic violence, IDPs from conflict-affected regions, and prisoners and former prisoners whose rights have been violated. Currently, Mariam is managing a project focusing on the establishment of a victim-centered approach for SGBV survivors within the judiciary system in Georgia. She holds the BA in Forensic Psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Costa Rica, 2021
Larissa Arroyo Navarrete is a bisexual activist from Costa Rica. She is also a lawyer whose academic and professional work has focused on human rights, especially on sexual and reproductive rights, as a researcher, legal adviser and expert consultant. She has worked with multiple national and regional organizations to achieve legal and political changes through projects that promote strategic actions for human rights. She is the founder of the Asociación Ciudadana ACCEDER, a feminist organization dedicated to promoting strategic actions for human rights to strengthen the leadership of women, especially bisexual, lesbian and non heterosexual women. She was the director of ACCEDER until 2021. Also, she has been an active member of FDI (Frente para los Derechos Igualitarios), a Costa Rican collective focused on actions for effective access to human rights LBGTIQ+ in Costa Rica since 2013. She graduated with a Bachelor's degree and a Licenciatura of Law from the Universidad de Costa Rica, two postgraduate diplomas in Human Rights and Women by the University of Chile, and a master’s degree in Human Rights by the Universidad Estatal a Distancia. She holds the Master's Degree in Constitutional Justice from the Universidad de Costa Rica.
Executive Director, Sin Control Parental
Human Rights Program Coordinator, For Equal Right Educational Center
Maria is the human rights programs coordinator at For Equal Rights Educational Center, a non-governmental organization based in Yerevan, which promotes civic consciousness and capacity building in human rights as well as democratic accountability. Maria manages the Article 3 Human Rights Club, which provides space, education, and networking opportunities for human rights activists, the media, and civil society organizations. Maria also led the organization of the first Human Rights Festival in Armenia. As a member of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Task Force-Armenia in 2016, Maria co-authored and presented recommendations on the implementation of the CEDAW in Armenia at the United Nations. She recently joined the staff of the Armenian Parliament’s My Step Revolution Faction as a legal researcher working on Armenia’s Euro-integration policies.
Maria received a master’s degree in law from the American University of Armenia and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Armenia State University. She is a member of the European Women Lawyers’ Association.
Activist, Middle East
As a women’s rights activist in the Middle East, this HRAP participant has dedicated her career to developing and maintaining a grassroots campaign that engages other women in an effort to protect, educate, and build equality for women throughout the region.
Fundraiser, Tzedaká Foundation
Asaravicius has worked on human rights education initiatives at various foundations and NGOs. She previously served as the Director of International and Social Justice at Hillel Uruguay. In Israel, she worked in the media and culture department of the Peres Center for Peace.
After living in Argentina, Israel and Spain, Asaravicius recently returned to Montevideo. She is currently working on resource mobilization at the Tzedaká Foundation. She earned the BA in Social and Political Science at the Universidad Católica del Uruguay.
Human Rights Project Leader, Research Center for the Teaching and Learning of the Law
Asúnsolo is the Human Rights Project Leader at the Research Center for the Teaching and Learning of the Law (CEEAD). The center’s mission is to transform legal education in Mexico to train lawyers to be committed to the rule of law and human rights in Mexico. Asúnsolo and his team have created a working group whose members come from civil society organizations and public institutions like the Supreme Court, the National Commission on Human Rights, and universities to develop a human rights educational model for law schools. CEEAD is also developing two manuals including an e-platform for human rights education for law schools. Additionally, Asúnsolo volunteers with a migrant shelter and holds workshops so that residents can know their rights and learn about the legal system.
Asúnsolo holds a Masters in the Advanced Studies of Human Rights from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and a Law Degree and a Masters in Applied Public Management from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey.
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.
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
Gender Officer, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
For Lana Ackar, a passion for pursing human rights has always been a large part of her life and within her professional career, she confidently pursued the study of human rights, specifically women’s rights. I feel that when you do human rights work, you care—you’re alive. Your senses become sharper, and you just feel differently about people. I have learned people are not as simple as you think they are. Everyone has layers of personality and different needs.”
Ackar serves as a board Member of the NGO Pravnik, which seeks to bring together professionals and scholars from Southeastern Europe and beyond to study issues related to the rule of law and transitional justice. She believes that the International Summer School Sarajevo project that Pravnik has been running since 2006 will contribute to the advancement of human rights in Southeastern Europe. In 2014, Ackar joined the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights based in Warsaw, Poland, where she currently works on advancing women's political participation and gender sensitivity of democratic institutions.
—Updated by Claire Kozik, Program Assistant, Summer 2018
Vice President, Gesr Center for Development
“For me,” says Huda Ali, “human rights are a way of life. I want to promote it more in my country and build a peaceful country.” Ali, who grew up in war-torn Sudan, was inspired to work for human rights by becoming aware of the need for human rights in her country. “I lived in a kind of safe city in Sudan, rarely affected by war, but I knew other cities and parts of Sudan were not like this.” She explains how she had been fortunate to be raised in a family that supported women’s education, work and mobility explaining that her own situation is not that of most other Sudanese women. Ali first joined political activists while completing her university studies. “We asked for a student union,” she recalls, “but we were faced with arrests and threats. This shocked me. It was then that I learned it was like that all over the country.” Ali decided to help spread the message and increase awareness of human rights among fellow students to change this oppressive culture. During her activism, though, she found a special interest in women’s rights. She says, “Gender-based violations of human rights are protected by the law in Sudan. Women have strong intellects but have not been given the chance to prove themselves.” With her organization, Gesr Center for Development, she continues to work toward the promotion of human rights. Though early in her human rights career, Ali already expresses the great impact that her pursuit of democracy and human rights for her country has had on her. She says, “I’m more understanding, respectful and accepting of others. Human rights has made me stronger because it has given me a purpose and made me committed to convince others how necessary human rights are.”
Human Rights Monitoring Officer, ACJPS
Naglaa Ahmed, a 2010 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program, has continued her work with the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) since completing HRAP. ACJPS is an organization whose mission is “dedicated to creating a Sudan committed to all human rights, the rule of law and peace, in which the rights and freedoms of the individual are honored and where all persons and groups are granted their rights to non-discrimination, equality and justice.” Ahmed is currently working on a report for ACJPS detailing recent practices of torture in Sudan, titled: “The Prevalence of Torture and No Way to Justice.” The report, which is still being finalized, will hopefully be out in August 2015. She has also recently worked as a consultant for Human Rights Watch, as well as continuing her work with REDRESS, which she began in 2010, through 2014.
In addition to these projects, she is proud of other initiatives she has launched since her return to Sudan in late 2010: “I was able to form a youth and students forum to advocate for law reform in Sudan, and also prepared and drafted with others a proposal for the prohibition of torture bill. In late 2010 and through 2011, I mobilized local NGOs and formed an initiative called The Returnee Support Initiative, aimed at providing support to returnees to southern Sudan. My motive was a sense of responsibility towards these returnees, who are struggling during these difficult economic times; for example, food prices have increased significantly, in addition to the government’s already harsh policy against South Sudanese people. The object of The Returnee Support Initiative is to provide direct support in terms of food, clothes, and blankets, in addition to medical and legal assistance.”
Ahmed notes that her time in HRAP enhanced her networking and communications skills and helped her develop new strategic approaches to tackling human rights issues. She also notes as a result of her time in the program, she was able to assist the REDRESS Trust, an organization which works to help victims of torture survivors obtain justice and reparations, in receiving funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for their Project Criminal Law Reform in Sudan, while she was working for them as a local coordinator.
Ahmed emphasizes the value of connecting with other Advocates from around the world, writing: “I learned great deal from other Advocates’ experiences, which empowered me in many ways and motivated me to do more.” Her connections have helped in her in practical ways, as well; while planning a trip to Uganda in 2014, fellow 2010 Advocate Agnes Atim assisted her in obtaining her visa for her travels. She writes: “There are many great memories, though one of the greatest was forming an African Women group (members included Glenda, Agnes, Susan and myself). Our intention was to apply what we learned and to work on peace-building and women’s empowerment in South Sudan and other conflict areas, the dream to bring this to reality one day and hopefully to develop it in the near future.”
Article composed by Caroline Doenmez
Human Rights Program Coordinator, Youth with Physical Disability Development Forum
When James Aniyamuzaala became hard of hearing after an accident at the age of eight, it was not his first encounter facing the situation of persons with disabilities. His mother, Mary Aniyamuzaala, was a polio survivor and one of the founders of the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda. As an orphan at the age of 12, he recognized that education was the only way for him to survive. However, Aniyamuzaala became frustrated with the stereotypes placed on him as a person with a disability. Aniyamuzaala made it his mission to prevent other persons with disabilities, particularly children and youth, from having the same challenges he had encountered. He says, “I seek to remove the institutional barriers that limit participation of persons with disabilities in development and community programs. I believe that the quality of life of a society can also be measured by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.” Aniyamuzaala also credits his mother as a strong source of inspiration to him: “I felt my mother had left behind a mission to help women and children with disabilities through her organization and that I was responsible to take over to realize her dream of good and improved standard of living for persons with disabilities.” Through student groups in high school, Aniyamuzaala began his work as an advocate for the disabled. He continues his work today through the numerous commitments he has made: human rights coordinator with Youth with Physical Disability Development Forum, president of the Uganda Federation of Hard of Hearing, board member of the International Federation of Hard of Hearing Young People, and member of Global Partnership for Disability and Development. He says, “Positive and progressive action both locally and globally motivates me to keep advocating for human rights for persons with disabilities.”
Vice President, Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions
Siarhei Antusevich is a 2010 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program. After finishing HRAP, Siarhei returned to Belarus to continue his work at the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BCDTU) and Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU) which is one of the largest independent self-governing trade unions in Belarus with an estimated 7000 members. Siarhei’s work at BITU focuses on raising awareness on violations of union rights in Belarus. Presently, he is the Vice President of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions. In this role, Siarhei educates trade unions on their rights and represents their interests at the national government level. Since 2012, Siarhei has been a member of the Council of Improvement of Legislation in Labor Issues at the Ministry of Labor and Social Justice. Siarhei takes active part in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, where he was elected as member of the Steering Committee for 2016-2017.
The Human Rights Advocates Program at Columbia University is a capacity-building program based in New York City. HRAP provides proven human rights defenders with the skills and knowledge to carry out their human rights work in their home countries. In addition to expanding the human rights knowledge base of Advocates through graduate coursework and rigorous skills-building classes and trainings, HRAP facilitates networking opportunities for Advocates. Each year, HRAP organizes a week-long networking trip to Washington DC for Advocates to meet with NGOs and foundations in their areas of expertise. When asked about how HRAP has helped him with his current work, Siarhei writes, “The networking opportunities have strengthened my networks. The information that I’ve received from these contacts continues to serve as a resource to me.” During his time in Washington, DC, Siarhei met with numerous organizations such as the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations/Solidarity Center, International Labor Rights Forum, and the National Democratic Institute.
Siarhei remains in touch with his fellow HRAP 2010 classmates through LinkedIn, Facebook, and occasional conversations through Skype. When reflecting on his experience at HRAP, Siarhei concludes, “As a result of my participation in HRAP, my understanding of human rights issues and advocacy has changed entirely. I am proud to be a member of the HRAP family.”
—Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, June 2013; Updated by Chiora Taktakishvili, Fulbright Exchange Visitor, June 2019