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 .
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.
—Article composed by Claire Kozik, Program Assistant, Summer 2018
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.”
—Article composed by Junghwa Lee, Program Coordinator, June 2011
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.
, 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, Santoso 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, Santoso 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, Santoso 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.
—Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, April 2013
Senior Investigator, Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team
Silvana Turner, from Argentina, graduated from HRAP in 1998. When asked about HRAP, she remarks among the personal and professional benefits of her participation, how it helped her to “establish contact with people from different organizations and different parts of the world”. A fundamental part of the training involved in HRAP is related to relationship-building and networking, skills that allow graduates to enhance their effectiveness as individual advocates and to build stronger organizations in their respective home countries. HRAP provides Advocates with an unique opportunity to share their invaluable grassroots knowledge and learn more about the strategies and best practices of other Human Rights organizations. Furthermore, advocacy networking allows Advocates to develop a range of contacts and foster relationships with relevant US-based organizations that often lead to joint projects and funding opportunities.
Since graduating from the Program, Turner has gone on to expand her academic knowledge of Human Rights both at the United States, at Brandeis University International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, through the Brandeis International Fellows Program, and in her home country, recently receiving a Master’s Degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Buenos Aires.
During the past 13 years since she left the HRAP, she has achieved notable accomplishments that have had an immeasurable impact in Argentina and worldwide. In 2003, she was one of the founding members of the Latin American Forensic Anthropology Association (ALAF). Turner has worked as a consultant for prestigious international NGOs as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA) and the Euro-Mediterranean Federation against Enforced Disappearance (FEMED). She has also developed an outstanding work with International Intergovernmental Organizations as the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Office of the Prosecutor; the UN Office of The High Commission for Human Rights; and the Organization of the American States (OAS). Finally, she has also been a consultant for several National Commissions and Governmental Organizations, among them: the National Secretariat of Human Rights of Argentina, the National Trust Commission of Panama, the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa or the Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence against Women in Ciudad Juarez.
When in 1998 Turner entered the HRAP she was working as an anthropologist and researcher at the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), a non- profit scientific, non-governmental organization committed to the forensic investigation of Human Rights violations. Currently, she continues her work at the organization as a member and a full time researcher. The Team's members have conducted field work in nearly thirty countries through the world and have been widely recognized for their achievements.
—Article composed by Marta Garnelo Caamano, ISHR Intern, June 2011
Principal, Reos Partners
1997 Advocate Fernando Rossetti Ferreira currently works as principal of Reos Partners, an international social business that specializes in systemic transformations. He has more than two decades of experience working with leading foundations, NGOs, and associations in Brazil and around the world. He started his career as a journalist with Folha de S. Paulo in Brazil, where he covered education and civil society organizations, and served as a correspondent in South Africa soon after Mandela became president. He was executive director of Grupo de Institutos Fundações e Empresas, a Brazilian association of philanthropic organizations, Greenpeace Brazil, and Cidade Escola Aprendiz. He also served as chair of the board of WINGS-Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support.
When he was participating in HRAP in 1997, he was a journalist interested in human rights issues. He highlights that the knowledge that he gained by participating in HRAP was “very important” for his professional development. He states: “After the program, I entered the non-profit sector and began to advocate for strengthening civil society worldwide. The global perspective that the program gave me has been a cornerstone of my strong commitment to human rights. I have devoted myself to human rights in all my activities since then.”
—Article composed by Junghwa Lee, Program Coordinator, August 2011
—Updated by Claire Kozik, Program Assistant, Summer 2018
Program Coordinator, Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre
Nuala Kelly is a 1997 HRAP graduate from Ireland. She is a program coordinator at Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre (Pavee Point), an Irish NGO adopting a community development approach to promote Traveller and Roma rights and social inclusion. Pavee Point advocates for promoting equality, preventing discrimination and protecting human rights of vulnerable ethnic minority groups – Irish Travellers and Roma communities in Ireland. The organization lobbies for human rights-based approaches to ethnic data collection across administrative systems to inform policy and practice from an evidence-based approach.
Participation in HRAP enlarged Nuala’s knowledge of the international human rights system. She says: “I learned more about the international human rights infrastructure, the role of some international and regional treaty monitoring bodies, the role of human rights NGOs and in particular, the importance and application of economic, social and cultural rights standards to promote social change and engage the voices of disadvantaged groups in society.”
HRAP’s skills’ workshop in fundraising had a practical impact on Nuala’s organization – the Irish Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants & Prisoners Overseas. She recalls: “I developed a funding application during the HRAP course which I was able to adapt on return and successfully sought funding for a new paralegal position in my organization. This was a new approach at the time and it enabled us to fund advocacy work to seek improvements in the operation of a Council of Europe Convention for the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. It also helped to build links with NGOs and human rights organizations that contributed to the work towards building the peace process in Ireland after ceasefires urging that peace would only be enabled if human rights were protected and respected.”
Nuala highlights an important feature of the HRAP, namely the benefit of stepping back from a long-term working experience to reflect and identify new ways of complementing and strengthening human rights work. She notes: “HRAP offered space to step back and reflect on my work over the previous 13 years and identify ways to develop more human rights-based approaches to supporting prisoners far from home and, in some instances, network and lobby for changes in conditions or procedures that fell short of international human rights norms.”
For Nuala, one of the greatest benefits of the HRAP is the exposure to geographically diverse perspectives on human rights work. “Meeting fellow students from diverse ethnic backgrounds and a range of continents allowed us to share understandings of the many issues in our work, which although very different in scale and content, still resonated with my own work in ‘so-called’ developed western democracies where the rule of law was not at all perfect and where human rights abuses in the context of the Irish Troubles were still too widespread,” says Nuala.
- Article compiled by Chiora Taktakishvili, Fulbright Exchange Visitor, July 2019
Deputy Program Director, Human Rights Watch
“The program opened a few doors for me… it came at the right time in my career.”
Looking back on his experience in HRAP in 1997, Tunde Olugboji recalls making good use of the networking opportunities offered through the program. During HRAP, Olugboji was working with the Constitutional Rights Project, an NGO devoted to ensuring that legislation relating to the rights of citizens in Nigeria complies with international human rights standards. His participation in the program connected him with donors that would become important to his future work.
In fact, it was during this experience that he met his “wonderful mentor, Paul Martin,” who at the time served as executive director at the Center for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University. Martin’s course was also one of the few that Olugboji had the opportunity to audit, including a Law School lecture by Michael Posner and a seminar with the highly regarded father of human rights law, Louis Henkin. Attending these courses provided Olugboji with a new set of skills that aided him both immediately after the program and throughout his career.
Olugboji went on to complete further training programs in Denmark, empowering him to co-establish Nigeria’s first free expression group: Centre for Free Speech.Olugboji ’s unyielding passion for human rights advocacy led him to continue taking on larger projects, and today he serves as Deputy Program Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), a multinational NGO. He currently oversees several programs including the HRW arm in Africa–which is HRW’s largest program–Health and Human Rights, Disability Rights, and Business and Human Rights. His aim to create a new sub-program focusing on environmental human rights. When Olugboji is not devoting his time to advocating for international rights, he shares his valuable insights from years of experience as an adjunct professor at Hunter College in New York.
Written by Gabrielle Isabelle Hernaiz-De Jesus in 2016.
Masters in Sociology of Law Candidate, International Institute of Sociology of Law
In 2013, 1996 Advocate Chitra Balakrishnan received a Masters in the Sociology of Law from the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Onati, Spain. She serves as a consultant on human rights issues to numerous non-governmental organizations and academic institutions.
After HRAP, Balakrishnan co-founded the Alternative Law Forum, a pro-bono human rights law practice based in Bangalore with a group of lawyers to respond to issues of social and economic injustice.
Shortly after, she was named a “Scholar of Peace fellow” by the Women in Security Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP). This prestigious fellowship encourages innovative research on gender, security and conflict issues. The Foundation of Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama provided her with financial support to publish a monograph entitled, “Research to Evolve Gender-Sensitive and Culture-Specific Models of Alternative Dispute Resolution” in the WISCOMP Perspectives in 2003.
In 2004, Balakrishnan was named a mid-career Chevening scholar in Peace and Conflict Studies by the British Council at the University in Ulster in Northern Ireland.
She writes that the opportunity to meet a diverse group of committed individuals in the field of human rights is one of the greatest benefits of HRAP. Balakrishnan still remains in touch with her fellow advocates in the program such as Dr. Aurora Parong, Philippines, Maria Beatriz Sinisgalli, Brazil, Shiva Hari Dahal, Nepal.
February 2017 Update: Balakrishnan is currently working with the Centre for Social Justice in Ahmedabad.
Founder and Executive Director, Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project
Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, a 1996 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program, began his advocacy work with the organization, Human Rights Concern (HURICO), located in his home country, Uganda. Kaguri co-founded HURICO to help victims of human rights violations in Uganda and to educate the public about their rights. Reflecting on the impact of HRAP to his work, Kaguri says, “Without skills and knowledge from the Advocates Program, I would not have continued with HURICO.”
HRAP provides its participants with a greater understanding of human rights tools and methods as well as the confidence and leadership skills to enhance their individual pursuits. In addition, many participants take advantage of the courses available at Columbia University and the infinite resources available in New York City. Kaguri recalls that during the program, “I started using a computer for the first time and never stopped.”
Since leaving HRAP, Kaguri has made a number of professional and personal accomplishments. He served as a Program Assistant for People’s Decade for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) after having met the founder and director during his participation in HRAP. He also completed a second bachelor’s degree, specializing in fundraising and management, from Indiana University as well as received numerous certificates in various areas of fundraising.
Kaguri currently works with the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, which he founded and directs. Nyaka builds schools for HIV/AIDS orphans in rural Uganda, using a holistic approach to provide free education, uniforms, books, healthcare, shelter for the children, community water, and a community library. Kaguri has successfully started two schools in the villages of Nyaka and Kutamba, the impacts of which have been profound for the two villages and brought wide praise to Kaguri. He has been named Ugandan of the Year, Ugandan Making a Difference, and Social Entrepreneur by Global Giving. In addition, in June 2010, Kaguri and Nyaka were featured in Time Magazine. He is also the Associate Director of Development at Michigan State University.
Kaguri has also completed publishing a book entitled “The Price of Stones: Building a School for My Village,” released in June 2010 and which details the founding, evolution, and impact of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. However, Kaguri still recalls his experience in HRAP as a crucial component of his accomplishments, saying the greatest benefit had been “networking with fellow professionals and other organizations all over the world.” He concludes, “Without this program, I would not have accomplished what I have accomplished. Our children, their grannies, and communities Nyaka serves would not have anything if not for the exposure I got while at Columbia University.”
November 2016 update: Kaguri has been awarded the 2015 Waislitz Global Citizen Award, named a 2012 CNN Hero, a Heifer International Hero, recognized in Time Magazine’s ‘Power of One’ Series, and spoken to the UN about his work. In 2016 Kaguri received an honarory PhD in Humanities from Shenandoah University recognizing his work with Nyaka. Kaguri divides his time between Uganda and Michigan where he lives with his wife Tabitha, their two sons and two twin girls.
—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, June 2010
Director, Amnesty International - Philippines
Aurora Parong began her career as a medical doctor by training community health workers in marginalized villages in the Philippines where few had access to health services. This decision led her to a life mainly outside clinics and hospitals. Due to her work in far-flung villages, she was accused of providing health services to rebels for which she was held in solitary confinement for several months and arbitrarily detained for one and a half years when her country was under a dictatorship.
An alumna of the 1996 Human Rights Advocates Program, Parong became one of the early advocates for economic, social, and cultural rights in her country by contributing to the development of modules on the right to health, the right to housing, the right to water, the right to food as well as on health consequences of nuclear war. “HRAP helped me better understand the broader human rights work,” she says, “to include promotion, protection, and fulfillment of economic, social, and cultural rights by deepening my knowledge about the universality and indivisibility of various human rights.”
Parong has worked in health, human rights and justice institutions including the Medical Action Group, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Amnesty International and the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court. Parong has acted as resource person in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Europe in addition to her home country on various human rights topics including torture, reproductive and health rights, gender justice, transitional and international justice, indigenous peoples’ rights, UN and ASEAN human rights mechanisms, and rights-based approaches to development, among others. Parong is repeatedly referred to on human rights issues because of her experience, professional work, and education. When asked how the education from HRAP has assisted her, Parong says, “It was at HRAP that I got a clearer idea on the work of UN human rights bodies as well as truth and reconciliation bodies,” and “HRAP enhanced and strengthened my human rights advocacy work.”
HRAP acts as a multi-dimensional training program bringing together human rights advocates from around the world. For Parong, “The debates about various human rights concepts encouraged me to further read and study human rights principles and practice in various contexts. The sharing on the human rights situations of various countries by co-students widened my world.” Since HRAP, she has gone on to receive special certificates, some of which include a Diploma on International Humanitarian Law, Certificate on Forensic Sciences in Human Rights Investigations, and Gender Justice at the International Criminal Court.
She co-wrote and co-edited “Breaking the Silence, Seeking Justice for Victims of Violence in Intimate Relationships” for the Women Working Together to Stop Violence Against Women, “Uphold the Sanctity of Life, Enhancing Remedies for Victims of Extrajudicial Executions and Enforced Disappearances” and “Women Strategizing Justice, Women’s Resource Book on Gender Justice” published by the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, among others.
After receiving special recognition in 2005 from Task Force Detainees of the Philippines for her service as executive director for nine years, Parong moved on to serve as director of Amnesty International Philippines ensuring that strategic plans, priorities, and projects create positive changes in the lives of people in various parts of the world. She has led in the campaigns for health and human rights laws and policies not only in the Philippines but for other countries.
Her work with Amnesty International Philippines was cut short by her appointment in 2014 by the Philippine President as one of the nine (9) members of the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board (HRVCB). The HRVCB was a quasi-judicial body tasked to evaluate claims and provide recognition and reparation to victims of human rights violations during martial law under the Marcos regime in the Philippines. They evaluated 75, 749 claims then recognized and provided monetary reparations to at least 11, 103 victims. She said that, “The HRVCB played a key role in transitional justice within the Philippines, but can have an impact on other countries especially in Asia facing transitional justice issues in the future.” She led the Working Group on Non-monetary reparations which are additional services to victims of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws. Currently, she assists in training teachers and professors of history to ensure the integration of the valuable lessons learned by the Filipino people in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship and helps collect stories and materials that will help shape a future Freedom Memorial Museum and library in honor of those who suffered and fought against the dictatorship in the Philippines.
Parong was one of the leaders in the campaign for the ratification by the Philippines of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court but the Philippines withdrew membership at the international court after being a State Party for eight years. The Philippine coalition, which she co-chairs, assists families of victims of killings in the Philippine government’s “war on drugs” in their efforts to seek justice at the court of last resort prior to the country’s withdrawal from the court.
Parong has received recognition for her work, with a Distinguished Physician Award given by the Medical Association for the Prevention of War- Australia and Outstanding in Community Service and Public Health Award for 2016 from the University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society, among others.
- Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, June 2010; Updated by Chiora Taktakishvili, Fulbright Exchange Visitor, July 2019
Director of Public Communications, Escuela Nacional Sindical
A 1996 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program, Juan Bernardo Rosado Duque describes his experience at HRAP as “an extraordinary, intensive and enriching experience of immersion in the globalization of human rights”. Furthermore, he states, “besides the technical formation, in 1996, HRAP meant for me the entrance to the global world of politics, organizations and the theoretical development of human rights”.
Since he finished the program, Rosado Duque has gone on to achieve notable professional and academic accomplishments. Since 2007, he has been a part-time professor in the city of Medellín and, recently this year, he earned the Master in Humanities. In 2004, he was invited as a professor to the Winter School of the Canadian Labor Congress and, the same year, he participated in the First Human Rights Symposium in the city of Sao Paulo. In 2005, he was co-author of the book Trade Unions and New Social Movements for the Latin American Council of Human Rights. Additionally, between 2008 and 2010, he was General Coordinator of Campaña Colombiana por Trabajo Decente.
Rosado Duque continues to advocate for human rights. He is the Director of Public Communications at Escuela Nacional Sindical (ENS), a Medellin-based NGO committed to the promotion of labor rights by strengthening Colombian trade unions. Through his work, he seeks to expand the presence of the trade unions and the ENS’ points of view within the public debate about the labor agenda in Colombia.
When reflecting on the benefits of HRAP, Rosado Duque points out how it allowed him to “know about and feel part of a global struggle, the struggle for defending human rights”. He asserts, “HRAP gave me the opportunity to live in New York City, attend one of the best universities in the world and get in contact with multiple organizations and human rights initiatives in North America and around the globe.”
International Committee Member, World March of Women
For Yıldız Temürtürkan, human rights advocacy is a profoundly personal experience. In many ways, it is “a school where [activists] get to know who [they] are” and gain “awareness of reality.” When Temürtürkan joined HRAP in 1996, that reality consisted of a fight against the violation of fundamental human rights in Turkey.
During her HRAP experience, Temürtürkan was working with the Human Rights Association (IHD), which was founded in 1986 after a military coup that left Turkey in a dark period. As a part of this organization, she was dedicated to the abolishment of the deaath penalty, an end to the use of torture in prisons, a fight for the release of political executives from prison and a search for missing persons. While participating in HRAP, Temürtürkan found that her advocacy skills were cemented and her passions for activism were strengthened even more. She writes: “Inarguably, it helped to develop my capacity in advocacy work… [and] I started being very proactive at an international level.” In fact, shortly after completing the program she was inspired to help create World March of Women, an international feminist movement.
Temürtürkan states that the greatest benefit of her participation in HRAP was that it made her more confident in international activism, whatever the cause or issue. As of 2017, Temürtürkan continues to be involved in World March of Women and is committed to working with other groups in the hopes of eradicating poverty and violence against women.