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 .
Human Rights and Peace Desk Officer, Lawyer's League for Liberty
Fourteen years ago, I was a regular college student until I attended a one-week youth summit on human rights conducted by Amnesty International Philippines. At that event, I learned about various human rights issues and had the opportunity to be with victims of human rights violations. The firsthand stories told by the victims impacted me the most. I told myself that I would not wait until I or someone around me became a victim before I act and speak out for human rights. Since then, I have been a human rights advocate. While it can sometimes be disheartening to see the continued impunity and the endless struggles for justice, these are also the very same reasons why I continue to fight for human rights.
My favorite aspect of HRAP has been attending the different workshops that capacitate us to become more effective advocates and to have greater impact in our human rights work. It has been such a great opportunity to hear new ideas, presented in a simple and practicable manner that can be easily adapted and applied to the human rights situations in our home countries. The workshops—especially the one on Research, Writing and Documentation with Diederik Lohman and Jane Buchanan at Human Rights Watch, Jo Becker of HRW on campaign advocacy, Bukeni Waruzi of WITNESS on video advocacy, Erik Detiger on fundraising, and TR Lansner on media presentation—equipped us with the necessary tools needed to strategically improve our work. Another important workshop was the stress management workshop with Sheila Platt. The kind of work we deal with is truly challenging and oftentimes stressful. Frequently, advocates neglect to deal with their own situations and struggles. It was thus very helpful to have this session to learn ways to adequately cope and in the process become better advocates. Finally, the thing I loved most about HRAP are both the formal and informal conversations we have with our fellow advocates during and after workshops where we not only learn from each other, but at the same time develop a deeper sense of camaraderie and warm friendship.
HRAP has provided me with lessons that I can transfer not only within my own organization, but within the human rights community in my country. Specifically, I plan to include in our strategic planning the various aspects of advocacy I’ve learned from the program, which will include the revisiting of our advocacy methods and strategies to make them more efficient and effective, as well as intensifying our fundraising efforts wherein the networking activities we did will truly be helpful. I also plan to replicate the different workshops conducted in HRAP to help capacitate my fellow human rights defenders in the Philippines. It has been a great privilege to be included in HRAP. I plan to maximize every opportunity I can to apply and further develop the skills and lessons I learned here, and share them with others as well.
Program Coordinator, Saathi
Founder, Trustee and Director, Centre for Women’s Development and Research
2004 Advocate K.R. Renuka is the founder, trustee and director of Centre for Women’s Development and Research (CWDR). She is responsible for fundraising, staff-training, planning, monitoring and reporting.
Since HRAP, she attended a training in social entrepreneurship conducted by Dasra Mumbai, which bridges the gap between those investing in social change and those spearheading the changes, and She also completed the M.A. in Economics from Madurai Kamaraj University and M.Phil. in Micro-level Planning from Gandhigram Rural University, Dindigul, Tamilnadu.
HRAP provides advocates invaluable opportunity to network with numerous organizations in the field of human rights. As one of accomplishments after the program, she highlights, “After attending HRAP, I registered a trade union called Manushi for women domestic workers and have been involved in advocacy, lobbying and campaign activities. I was able to raise funds from Global Giving because of HRAP.” Renuka’s work through Manushi has prompted the government to initiate a welfare board for domestic workers. She says, “They have also set up a committee to fix minimum wages for domestic workers. In fact, domestic workers gained recognition as workers and they are now included in the informal workers list.”
Renuka highlights that her organization received the Outstanding Organization Award from Anbu Palam, an Adyar-based NGO, for its work with women’s rights. She says of HRAP:
It helped me to understand the human rights approach to women’s development. I have also learned the international human rights conventions and its use. I know how to work with policy makers and use advocacy to change government policies.
—Article composed by Junghwa Lee, Program Coordinator, June 2011
Human Rights Program Manager, USAID/Colombia
When asked about the benefits of his experience in the Human Rights Advocates Program, Leonardo Reales, a 2002 graduate from Colombia states, “HRAP gave me key tools to improve my work as a human rights activist and academic.” HRAP is a four-month training program that takes place annually at Columbia University in New York City and provides human rights advocates from around the world with new skills and tools to advance their human rights work and professional careers.
Upon entering HRAP, Leo 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 workshops, seminars, and training sessions, he says that HRAP “improved my speaking and writing skills and made relevant contacts at the international level, which has had an extremely-positive impact on my professional activities.” Public speaking, writing, and networking are just a few of the many skills HRAP aims to impress on its advocates who regularly find that they are more confident and more prepared for further education and career objectives at the end of the four months.
Since his departure from HRAP, Leo has earned his M.A. Degree in Economic, Political, and International Affairs from Externado University in Bogota as well as a certificate on Regional Human Rights Systems from the Asser Institute at Den Haag and the Catholic University of Leuven. He also completed his Ph.D. coursework in Political Science at Louisiana State University and the New School University in New York City. He has also received prestigious awards for his work and education including a Fulbright Scholarship in 2005 and the Sue Davis Award for Talented Latin American Ph.D. Students in 2007. Because of his expertise, he has also been invited to the UN Forum on Minority Issues as an International Expert several times.
Asked how his participation in HRAP has assisted his work, Leo responds, “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.”
April 2017 Update:
Leo continued in his role as Coordinator of the Human Rights Committee and Social Development Committee of CIMARRON for almost ten years and also became the Regional Correspondent of the World Association of School as an Instrument of Peace (EIP), 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. From 2015 to date, Leo has been the Human Rights Program Manager at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Colombia, where he heavily works with government institutions and civil society to promote human rights in the regions most affected by the conflict. Outside of his professional accomplishments, Leo is a professional comedian, was married in 2004 and has two Colombian-American baby girls born in New York, Sahara and Salome.
Leo encourages those with questions to contact him via social networks (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram) at: @leonardorealesj
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, Juan Bernardo 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.
Juan Bernardo 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, Juan Bernardo 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.”
—Article composed by Marta Garnelo Caamano, ISHR Intern, June 2011