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 .
Program Assistant, Disability and Human Rights Program, National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda
Solomon Collins Nkulinga is a Program Assistant with the Disability and Human Rights Program at the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU), an organization that advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities. NUPIPU engages with religious, cultural, civic, and political leaders in the region in dialogue around how to cultivate equal rights and access for individuals with disabilities through the enactment of national laws and policy. As a Program Assistant, Nkulinga is responsible for coordinating the Human Rights Project for Refugees with Disabilities, which seeks to improve the quality of life and the access to development services for refugees with disabilities. He has been involved with a mapping project aimed at linking refugees in Western Uganda with disabilities services.
In addition to Nkulinga’s work with NUDIPU, he has chaired the Persons of Concern working group in coordination with UNHCR emphasizing the levels of discrimination and stigma that refugees with disabilities face.
Nkulinga holds a bachelor’s degree in adult and community education from Kyambogo University.
United States, 2014
Managing Director, Dekane Consulting
When I was around 8 years old, we had a neighbor who was beating his wife. The lady would come to our house seeking help, and my dad would mediate. I saw all this happen. One night, the lady came out, and the husband asked her to the leave the house and go back to her father’s house. She had nothing. I was so mad, I cannot forget that, and I’m 42 today. It was really clear to me that women in Africa needed help. Growing up, I would talk about it with my father--he’s very open and he raised us that way. We were able to discuss issues in society like domestic violence. Little by little, he pushed us to do what we wanted to do. For me, it was very clear: I wanted to be a businesswoman, but at the same time, I wanted to use any money that I made to help people. My grandmother would say, “Oh, she has a huge heart. All she does is spread her wealth around.” When I was in my twenties, I began to use those resources to empower women who were not in the same situation. I would give them some money to start a business, I would teach them budgeting the way I understood it at the time: when you spend something, you want to make a profit so you don’t lose money. If you buy something for one dollar, make sure you sell it for three or four dollars. This is something I wanted to do ever since I was little, it was inside of me. I did not plan to do it because my plan was to be a businesswoman and make money, I wanted to empower people. And that’s how I got to this work. After the Human Rights Advocates Program ends, I am hoping to look more at working at the foundations level. I’m hoping to be able to provide grants for marginalized populations.
What I have enjoyed the most about the Human Rights Advocates Program was the fact that I met all these Advocates from outside the US who are doing extraordinary work, and despite being from different locations, we are able to relate to each other on the work that we do. It doesn’t matter if you are in the US, Greenland, Rwanda, or South Sudan. We have the same issues. This is priceless—I don’t think we could get this anywhere else. I grew from this experience. Another favorite aspect is the capacity-building aspect of the program. The fund-raising session was a wonderful experience, because the facilitator came with simple ways of doing fundraising, and we learned that a funder is more impressed by a few pages of information that are clear and understandable over 50 pages that are not.
Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Rakai AIDS Information Network (RAIN)
Program Officer, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development
Executive Director, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights
Salima Namusobya is the Executive Director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights and an expert member of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. She is a lawyer and human rights advocate who has specialized in international human rights law and forced migration. Previously, she worked in various capacities with the Refugee Law Project, School of Law, Makerere University, and also served as the Eastern Africa Coordinator for International Law in Domestic Courts. Namusobya holds a Bachelor of Law Degree, a diploma in Legal Practice, and Master of Laws in Human Rights and Democratization. She co-wrote the textbook “Civil Procedure and Practice in Uganda” and contributed a chapter for the book “Litigating Health Rights in Africa.” She also serves on the boards of several local and international NGOs and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Strategic Litigation Working Group of the Global Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Network. Namusobya is a laureate of the Vera Chirwa Human Rights Award.
—Updated by Gabrielle Isabelle Hernaiz-De Jesus in 2017
Program Coordinator, International Secretariat of FIAN International
Andrea Nuila received her master’s degree in public international law at the University of Utrecht (the Netherlands) in 2015. Since finishing her studies, she has continued her work towards promoting human rights in Honduras. Currently, Nuila is living in Heidelberg, Germany. She coordinates the gender and women’s rights work at the International Secretariat of FIAN International and is a member of the Justiciability team. Her work, which takes on a holistic approach against the root causes of hunger, centers on coordinating the rights of women and gender and assisting the justiciability work on the right to food and other associated rights. From 2015 until its formal adoption in 2018 by the UN General Assembly, she was closely involved in the negotiations for a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. She is an honorary member of CLADEM Honduras, which is a regional women’s rights organization, co-founder of LUCHEMOS, a Honduran feminist collective, and assists other national NGOs and grassroots organizations on legal issues associated with social and economic human rights.
In reflecting on her participation with HRAP, Nuila recalled the benefits of her collaboration with activists in NYC. While here, Nuila met with Emily May, Executive Director of Hollaback!, an organization dedicated to publicizing and ending street harassment through an online forum of documenting and sharing instances of harassment on smartphones. Nuila went on to start a Hollaback! in Honduras under the name Atrevete Tegus, and was part of a group that started the first Hollaback! in the Netherlands. She also met with the Center for Reproductive Rights which collaborated with her organization at the time on a report detailing the banning of the morning after pill in Honduras, which was presented before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.
- Article composed by Caroline Doenmez, updated by Claire Kozik, Program Assistant, Summer 2018 and by Chiora Taktakishvili, Fulbright Exchange Visitor, June 2019
United States, 2007
Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Zachary Norris is the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. He also co-founded and co-directed Justice for Families, a national alliance of family-driven organizations working to end our nation’s youth incarceration epidemic and served as the former director of the Books Not Bars campaign. During his seven years with this campaign, Norris built California’s first statewide network for families of incarcerated youth, led the effort to close five youth prisons in the state, passed legislation to enable families to stay in contact with their loved ones, and defeated Prop 6—a destructive and ineffective criminal justice ballot measure.
In addition to his degrees from Harvard and NYU, Norris is also a graduate of the Labor Community Strategy Center’s National School for Strategic Organizing in Los Angeles. He was a 2011 Soros Justice Fellow. He is a former board member at Witness for Peace and Just Cause Oakland and is currently serving on the board of Justice for Families. Norris was a recipient of the American Constitution Society's David Carliner Public Interest Award in 2015, and is a member of the 2016 class of the Levi Strauss Foundation's Pioneers of Justice. He is a loving husband and dedicated father of two bright daughters, whom he is raising in his hometown of Oakland.
—Article composed by Timo Mueller, ISHR Intern, April 2011
—Updated by Claire Kozik, Program Assistant, Summer 2018
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.”
—Article composed by Junghwa Lee, Program Coordinator, June 2011
January 2014 update: After being elected in 2011, Kizito is currently serving as a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly of the DRC.
Associated Lawyer, Supreme Court of Bangladesh
U M Habibun Nessa is a 1995 graduate of HRAP from Bangladesh. She is an associated lawyer at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. She is also an active member of Naripokkho, a women's membership-based organization working on the women's advancement and entertainment, elimination of discrimination against women and establishing justice for all. She pro-bono handles the Naripokkho lawsuits and assists the organization’s activities.
In UM Habibun’s words, “participation in HRAP was an amazing beginning of understanding the theory of human rights, its history and practice. Later, I became a known human rights lawyer and created work opportunities for others.” She says that she greatly benefited from the fundraising skills training offered by HRAP and enjoyed the internship experience that the program provided.
UM Habibun continues to work on women’s rights focusing on the issues of gender discrimination, violence against women, child protection, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the Rohingya refugees.
- Article compiled by Chiora Taktakishvili, Fulbright Exchange Visitor, July 2019.