Between 1989 and 2016, a total of 317 human rights advocates from 88 countries attended HRAP. In recent years, advocates have ranged from early career advocates who have cut their teeth in very urgent human rights situations to mid-career advocates who have founded organizations.
Below are the biographies of current Advocates and descriptions by select alumni as to why they became human rights advocates.
To see a list of additional past Advocates click here.
To read about more about the work of our Advocates click here .
Founder and Director, Samsara
Inna is the Founder and Director of Samsara, a feminist organisation based in Indonesia that promotes body autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights. In 2007, she founded askinna.com, a website for women seeking abortion services in Indonesia. One year later, she set up Indonesia’s first hotline for safe abortion information. With Samsara, she works directly with women at the grassroots level. Inna also established the SRHR School in Yogyakarta and then expanded the program from Java to East Indonesia through the SRHR Satellite Program. In 2013, she received a fellowship from Ashoka.
Project Manager/Art Project Coordinator, Alliance Against LGBT Discrimination (Aleanca)
Sometime during the years of my adolescence, when trying to understand aspects of my life that Albanian society had forgotten to include in its school curricula, I was also trying to find people who were exploring the same issues.
When I met a group of young people who called themselves “The Alliance Against LGBT Discrimination,” I instantly felt that it was only natural for me to work with them since they had the same questions and they were doing something to answer them.
Now six years have passed and we have done a lot, but for some reason I cannot find a way or a strategy to summarize those achievements point by point—it has all flowed naturally. Nonetheless, it has a core set of questions really similar to the ones that we had from the beginning:
• What does it mean to be part of a community?
• What are your duties and the responsibilities when you undertake to speak for people who need to delegate their voice because of violence?
• What are the ways to give power to this voice, day by day, so that it takes shape in a way that in the end can speak for itself?
• How do you stay true to these ideals when you are surrounded by organizations that in the process of “professionalization” have lost contact with the community they are supposed to represent?
I have been criticized time after time for not speaking out about the difficulties of my community in Albania, but the answer is obvious to me: The problems of the LGBT community in Albania are similar, if not the same, as the problems that every LGBT community comes across in every corner of the world. It has a mix of socio-economic status, a backwards history, communism, liberal democracy, corruption, and ignorance.
The solutions, however, are different; they are local and each community has them. That is why these questions are so important and why they should not be taken for granted at the risk of alienating our community. It is not our duty to give voice to the LGBT community—that only opens new problems. Our only duty is to create ways and tools for the LGBT community to come together and speak. They must be able to speak clearly, loudly, freely, and intransigently.
In my context where people love to talk for and about others, working with artistic expressions has helped much more than having innumerable conferences where everybody—except the LGBT people themselves—talks about the needs of “the poor and violated” LGBT people. In the space that art creates, you can find the answers to the questions that I pose above, and in the best case you can create new questions. In my experience, the people who follow the conference circuit do not come to the art exhibitions.
Through this piece, I might be missing the opportunity to expose all “the personal achievements” of my work, but this does not matter.
The biggest achievement is being in this program, where I’ve had the time, chance, and luck to meet fearless people from all over the world with whom—maybe for the first time in my life—I understand what it means to be a citizen of the world, to transcend boundaries, come together, and try to answer these questions.
When I return to Albania I will continue to do what I have always done: To make the constant effort to stay true to my community and my principles.
Thank you, my dearest friends Anastasiya, Benson, Elina, Hakan, Gigi, Sandra, Sylvain, Swe Zin, Kyi Pyar and Yupar. A special thank you to Stephanie, Professor Sayantani Dasgupta and Professor Theodorus Sandfort.
Tutor, East Yangon University
My name is Yupar Nyi Htun and I am a member of the Department of Law at East Yangon University in Myanmar.
During life as a student, our teachers didn’t talk about human rights and they even refrained from saying the words, “human rights.” As a result, we don't know what human rights are and we don't know that we have the right to claim them. I began learning about human rights this past March when human rights education was introduced by the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University. Since then, I became interested in participating in the project to promote human rights education in Myanmar.
Human rights education is needed for our country because if the people know their rights they can take action to demand their rights. Education is the best way to give others knowledge about human rights. As human rights educators, we can teach about human rights not only to our students, but also to our community.
I have seen lots of human rights violations in my country, and I want to do something for the people suffering as a result. At the same time, I also suffered human rights violation in my life. For example, when I was a child in my school there were only three teachers for every one hundred students, and many students dropped out of school because they needed to work for their families. Many people in my community also faced discrimination for their beliefs; I wish to live free from fear and to help those in similar situations. In order to build a peaceful community, we need to make the whole community aware of human rights.
I think I should do something for my country that would try to resolve issues suffered by the people of Myanmar. So I chose to be a human rights educator and, in this way, I can teach human rights to students and my community. I am also going to share human rights education with my colleagues. I wish to teach not only the theory but also how to demand human rights practically, including through clinical education. I hope our members of the Department of Law can produce human rights lawyers for our community.
In the Human Rights Advocates Program, advocates working for human rights in their activities motivate me to work as a human rights educator. I want to defend people suffering from human rights violations and I want to educate students wanting to protect the rights of the Myanmar people.
We regret to inform you that Musue Haddad passed away in late 2013. She leaves behind her young son and 11 siblings. We had the honor of interviewing her in 2010.
Reflecting on her professional work and the experience gained from the Human Rights Advocacy Program, Musue Haddad stated, “HRAP and its staff helped me learn to coordinate my focus by looking at the trend of the human rights world, and the approach and tools that would be effective for advocacy.” Musue, originally from Liberia, underwent the trainings and seminars of HRAP in 2000. Before attending the program, she began her work as a journalist in Ghana where she had fled during the first Liberian Civil War. Upon returning to her home country, Musue spoke out as an independent voice in the daily newspaper, The News, decrying the human rights violations of the Liberian government and publicizing the work of NGOs.
While a participant in HRAP, Musue demonstrated an exceptional motivation and desire to learn a rights-based perspective. “Sometimes I look back,” she says, “and feel that I was at a critical point, a crossroad – the support from HRAP made a positive difference in my life; it set the pace for a new direction, a direction that shaped my values, and my convictions.” Musue quickly integrated the human rights education into journalistic practices and adopted human rights language into her work.
When asked what lessons she learned from HRAP, Musue recalled her training in the program under Dr. J. Paul Martin with the conclusion, “Human Rights is Global; look at the local issues, think Global by connecting the local to the Global.” This acquired approach was evident in Musue’s master’s project, “Media and Culture and Reconciliation in War-torn Liberia: Diasporas and the Politics of Journalistic Practice,” which examined how the Liberian media generated a journalistic practice that, by being sensationalistic, partisan, and politically provocative, strengthened the power of rumor while weakening the capacity of civil society. Musue received her master’s degree in International Policy and Practice from George Washington University in 2006. While pursuing the degree, she was one of the recipients of the 2005 Lewis N. Cotlow Field Research Fund.
In addition to her degree, Musue received two professional certificates after her participation in HRAP. The first, from the University of Maryland, acknowledged her completion of the “Journalism & Professional Development Program” while the second, from the United States Government, recognized Musue for completing the “Graduate Study & Professional Development Program of the Government of the United States.” She also received many awards and recognitions for her human rights work, including the 2002 Hellman/Hammett Human Rights Watch Award which honors journalists and writers’ commitments to free expression and their courage in the face of political persecution. Musue received the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, Washington, DC Human Rights Award in 2001.
Currently, Musue seeks to pursue a PhD program in Leadership with the confidence that the degree will assist her to promote gender equality, leadership, and social change as well as make especially meaningful contributions to post-conflict development in Liberia, other parts of Africa, and the world. While the pursuit of her PhD is underway, Musue is also actively engaged in self-publishing two books. One, a collection of poetry and prose drawing from her personal experiences in Liberia, in exile, and as a mother will soon be completed. The second book, meanwhile, intends to be an ambitious project of digitizing rare raw negatives and other documents concerning human rights situations that Musue has collected in a personal archive.
—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, June 2010-edited January 2014