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 .
Executive Director, Economic and Social Rights Centre (Hakijamii)
Odindo Opiata, a 2002 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program from Kenya assesses the importance of HRAP on his work by saying, “Apart from providing me with a wide range of opportunity to create broad networks with other organizations working on human rights, the training helped me to sharpen my understanding of fundraising, advocacy, and economic, social, and cultural rights.” Prior to his participation in HRAP, Opiata was a long-time activist promoting the right to housing for the urban poor in his home country. Like many HRAP participants, he underwent the necessary training HRAP is able to provide for using international mechanisms and networks to advance his work.
Aside from advocacy training, HRAP also encourages participants to follow graduate coursework at Columbia University in subjects related to their interests. Opiata states that for him, “The course on economic, social, and cultural rights that was taught by Roger Normandy in particular has been key in enabling me to create the organization that I currently head and also in providing me with an opportunity to be one of the founding members of the International Network on Economic and Social Rights.” Additionally, participants will meet with and get to know personally other advocates in their field through meetings, lectures, and other HRAP events. Opiata says of his time in HRAP, “the participation enabled me to meet and know the work of individuals from diverse parts of the world that I would obviously not have been able to do had I not gotten the opportunity. Above all, it provided a unique opportunity to learn the wonderful and creative methods used by these groups.”
Since completing HRAP, Opiata has participated in other trainings on economic, social, and cultural rights as well as national and international conferences. In 2005, he founded the Economic and Social Rights Centre (Hakijamii) in Kenya where he continues to work as Executive Director. Because of Opiata’s prestige and expertise, his organization is now well-recognized as the leading institution in Kenya on matters of economic, social, and cultural rights. Opiata, as head of the organization, is regularly called upon to provide assistance to other organizations as well as government agencies in Kenya concerning the placement of economic, social, and cultural rights on the national agenda. His organization was also recognized as the nominee to coordinate and facilitate the hosting of the General Assembly and Strategy Meeting of the International Network on Economic and Social Rights in Nairobi in 2008, the first meeting of its kind to be held in Africa. In addition, HRAP has recognized Opiata’s organization through one of the many possible opportunities it is able to offer for its alumni. In the winter of 2010, HRAP organized a competition for alumni to apply for a Fellow from the Advocacy Project to work with their organizations. Hakijamii was chosen to receive a Fellow in the summer of 2010.
Since 2010, Opiata has spearheaded strategic interest litigation on housing rights that led to a precedent-setting ruling by the Constitutional Court in favor of thousands of slum dwellers. The project demonstrated the power of collaboration as a number of leading international human rights organizations were able to mobilize their economic and social technical expertise by being enjoined as amici curiae. As part of the implementation of the Constitution, Opiata was appointed in the Task Force that is drafting the national legislation on community land and evictions and resettlement.
Last year, Opiata was part of a small team that helped the Special Rapportour on the right to adequate housing in developing on a report on security of tenure. This report has been submitted to the Human Rights Council.
When considering overall the skills, education, opportunities, and training provided by HRAP, Opiata says, “My participation benefitted tremendously from the content and perspectives on advocacy, fundraising strategies, and the unique value that economic, social, and cultural rights can bring to the human rights discourse. All of these have proved to be extremely useful in my new work as Executive Director of my organization.”
—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, July 2010
Human Rights Program Manager, United States Agency for International Development-Colombia
When asked about the benefits of his experience in the 2002 HRAP, Leonardo Reales of Colombia states, “HRAP gave me key tools to improve my work as a human rights activist and academic.”
Upon entering HRAP, Reales was serving as Coordinator of the Human Rights Committee of the National Movement for the Human Rights of Afro-Colombian Communities (CIMARRON), one of Colombia's most prominent NGOs working to promote Afro-Colombian rights. Having participated in HRAP’s capacity building program of courses, networking and workshops, he says that HRAP “improved my speaking and writing skills and made relevant contacts for me at the international level, which has had an extremely-positive impact on my professional activities.”
Since his departure from HRAP, Reales has earned his Master’s Degree in Economic, Political, and International Affairs from Externado University in Bogota as well as a certificate in Regional Human Rights Systems from the Asser Institute at The Hague and the Catholic University of Leuven. He completed his PhD in Political Science at Louisiana State University and The New School in New York City. He has received prestigious awards for his work and education including a Fulbright Scholarship in 2005 and the Sue Davis Award for Talented Latin American PhD Students in 2007. Reales has been invited to the UN Forum on Minority Issues as an International Expert several times.
Asked how his participation in HRAP, Reales wrote, “I have used the methodological, theoretical, and practical tools that I acquired at the HRAP not only to improve the human rights reports that I write, but also to develop human rights campaigns and training programs and workshops throughout Colombia.”
Reales continued in his role as Coordinator of the Human Rights Committee and Social Development Committee of CIMARRON for almost 10 years and also became the Regional Correspondent of the World Association of School as an Instrument of Peace, where he was responsible for educating community leaders and teachers on human rights and peace issues. In 2012 and 2013 he worked for both the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior in Colombia as a Human Rights and Political Advisor and in 2014 he worked as a Citizen Participation Consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank. Since 2015, Reales has been the Human Rights Program Manager at the United States Agency for International Development in Colombia, where he works with government institutions and civil society to promote human rights in the regions most affected by the conflict. Outside of his professional accomplishments, Reales is a professional comedian. Married in 2004, he has two Colombian-American baby girls born in New York, Sahara and Salome.
—Article composed by Claire Kozik, Program Assistant, Summer 2018
Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Nigeria
When asked about the impact that HRAP has had on her career, Ladi Alabi, a 2001 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program from Nigeria, writes, “HRAP provided me with a broader perspective of human rights as well as an improved approach to human rights advocacy.”
HRAP is a four-month residency program at Columbia University in New York City that provides Advocates with a structured curriculum of advocacy, networking, skills-building and academic coursework. HRAP is uniquely designed to give Advocates time and space to reflect on their work and share their experiences and insights with one another. Alabi writes, “My time at HRAP provided me with the opportunity to evaluate and reaffirm my commitment to human rights work, despite the inevitable risks in carrying out my work.” Presently, Ladi is a Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF Nigeria. In this capacity, she is responsible for overseeing UNICEF’s Child Protection Program in nine states of Northern Nigeria.
Since HRAP, she completed her Masters in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice at the Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria. Alabi remains in touch with a few Advocates in her cohort along with Professor J. Paul Martin.
—Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, June 2013
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, Drebezova 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 Drebezova 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, Drebezova 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.
Drebezova remains in contact with her fellow participants of the Human Rights Program in 2001.
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, Jabarin 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, Jabarin 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, 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 Olejemeh 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.
Olejemeh 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, Olejemeh 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. Olejemeh also secured further human rights training from the Soros Foundation while in HRAP.
Upon leaving HRAP, Olejemeh 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, Olejemeh 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. Olejemeh 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: Olejemeh 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,” wrote 2000 Advocate Adrian Relu Coman. Adrian participated in HRAP when he was serving as the Executive Director of ACCEPT, a Romanian NGO that advocates for LGBTQ rights.
His is a story of personal advancement which he used constructively to better the lives of many. Benefitting from his new knowledge, skills, contacts, and funds, Coman went on to work for two more years with ACCEPT, years in which Coman 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 raised a significant amount of funding.
Eager to enrich his practical insights with a profound academic understanding, Coman 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, Coman was the Program Director at IGLHRC (now known as OutRight International), where he supervised the organization’s work at the United Nations. Then, along with the Baltic-American Partnership Fund, Coman worked for four years in grant-making for civil society development in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Coman 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 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
—Updated by Claire Kozik, Program Assistant, Summer 2018
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.” Haddad, 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, Haddad 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, Haddad 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.” Haddad 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, Haddad 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 Haddad’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. Haddad 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, Haddad 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 Haddad 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. Haddad 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
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Alaliyaa
Taima Al-Jayoush is a 1999 Human Rights Advocate from Syria. After HRAP, Al-Jayoush 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, Al-Jayoush 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.”
Al-Jayoush is currently living in Montreal, Canada and continues managing her law firm Alalyiaa and assisting the Mahmoud Aljayoush Law Firm with various law cases. Al-Jayoush 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
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 a human rights attorney at Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDDH), an organization that she co-founded.
Since her participation in HRAP, Delphine has had many notable accomplishments. After returning to Chad, she initiated 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 Public Interest Law Center in Chad, which is the first of its kind in Central Africa. Delphine 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.
When asked what the greatest benefit was of her participation in HRAP, Djiraibe responds, "It helped me connect to the international world” and it gave her “a high profile.”
Because of her extensive grassroots, organizing, and advocacy work in Chad, Djiraibe 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, Djiraibe is a member of the boardd of the African Coalition for Corporate's Accountability and the Coalition on Human Rights in Development. She has also served on the board of trustees of the Center for International Environmental Law. At the same time, she acts as Senior Lawyer at Delphine K. Djiraibe's Law Firm, and as Chief Attorney with Public Interest Law Center. Delphine is the 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, updated by Chiora Taktakishvili, Fulbright Exchange Visitor, July 2019
Director, Regional Centre for Strategic Studies
Mikheil (Misha) Mirziashvili is a 1999 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program. Misha is a founder and director of the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies. Since 2016, Misha has been the chairman of the board at the Center of Development and Democracy. His work is focused on the European Union’s Eastern Partnership countries. It includes monitoring the process of European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Georgia and providing information on this process to the interested stakeholders, such as students, youth activists, religious groups, ethnic minorities and IDPs, through workshops and public lectures. In 2013 Misha served as a member of the Steering Committe of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Civil Socity Forum. He is an author of the Guidebook on EU-Georgia Association Agreement (2014) and a co-author of the report Implementation of EU-Georgia Association Agenda 2014-2016: Assessment by Civil Society (2017).
At the time of his arrival in HRAP, Mirziashvili had been working as the executive director of Association Studio Re, an independent television studio and NGO he had founded in 1992 to use the media to focus on human rights, conflict resolution, and peace-building in his home country. Through his participation in HRAP, Mirziashvili 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, Mirziashvili 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, Mirziashvili 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, Mirziashvili 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.
Mirziashvili remarks that after leaving HRAP he was better suited for his work and the international career on which he embarked. He says, “In all my work since HRAP, I had favorable reception.” In 2009, he was 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, where he served until 2013. Out of his office in Brussels, Mirziashvili oversaw operations of the Black Sea Peace-Building Project operating in seven countries–Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. His projects provided support for self-ruling civil society expert councils for conflict resolution/transformation and peace initiatives. Misha continues to work in the same international and regional contexts as a civil society leader, a contributor and an evaluator of the European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes in the Eastern European countries.
- Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, July 2010; updated by Chiora Taktakishvili, Fulbright Exchange Visitor, June 2019
Director of the Cabinet for the President, Cambodia National Rescue Party
1999 Advocate Chantha Muth is the Director of the Cabinet for the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party. After HRAP, he continued to work with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. He then joined the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs as Senior Program Manager. From 2010 to 2012, he worked with the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur. Before HRAP, he worked for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Border Relief Operations, and the UN Transitional Authorities in Cambodia (UNTAC). He also worked as journalist and was a General-Secretary to an international corporation for another two years.
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: Sekhonyane 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, Sharma 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, Sharma 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. Sharma 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.”
Sharma 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.”
Sharma 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, Sharma 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: Sharma is currently the Secretary, National Women's Committee at Hind Mazdoor Sabha.