2016 Advocate Says HRAP Gave Him “Wings to Fly”

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

On Monday, February 26th, 2016 Advocate Jeffrey Walimba Wambaya, a program manager at ISHTAR MSM in Kenya, met with participants in the current Human Rights Advocates Program (HRAP) at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR). Jeffrey was joined by ISHTAR’s director, Peter Njane. ISHTAR is a community-based organization that advances the sexual health rights of Men who have sex with Men (MSM), works to reduce the stigma and discrimination affecting them, and advocates for their rights to access health care, including STI/HIV and AIDS related care and treatment.

Jeffrey opened his talk by welcoming the current advocates to the HRAP “family.” Jeffrey fondly recalled his time in HRAP and shared stories of how the members of his cohort supported one another. He said that HRAP taught him to be “disciplined”—to be on time for meetings and workshops, to prepare for meetings in advance, and to respect the opportunity that he had been given by being accepted to HRAP which he said is a program that “many aspire to join.” Jeffrey said that he had applied multiple times for HRAP before being accepted in 2016. He said that whenever he mentions HRAP to fellow human rights practitioners they ask him how he was able to gain admission to the “prestigious and well-known” program when so many have been rejected. 
Jeffrey pointed to how the sessions on providing an effective presentation in three minutes or less led by Stephanie Grepo of ISHR helped him to learn how to interest others--especially donors--in ISHTAR’s work. He said the weekly sessions with his mentor, Dr. Theodorus Sandfort of Mailman, helped him to learn how to develop research projects that make use of the data collected by ISHTAR as well as how to encourage donors to support the research that ISHTAR needs. Peter highlighted how important this benefit of Jeffrey’s participation in HRAP has been to ISHTAR in terms of expanding the scope of the organization’s work. 
Jeffrey said that while in HRAP, he regularly shared what he was learning in the program with his colleagues back home. He shared the syllabi from his classes, info from the meetings he was having and exercises from the skill-based workshops he was attending. He said he wanted his colleagues to participate in HRAP with him so that he would not be “above” them when he returned.  
When asked by Amisha Adhikari, a current advocate from Nepal, to name an intangible benefit of HRAP, Jeffrey immediately replied “confidence.” He said that the program gave him “wings to fly” which he has been doing ever since 2016. He pointed to the many opportunities that he has had thanks to HRAP including serving ICAP CQUIN Advisory Group and a longstanding partnership with SAGE—Advocacy and Services for LGBTQ+ Elders. He concluded by encouraging the advocates to make the most of the opportunity because they were “privileged” to be admitted to HRAP.