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 .
Palestinian Authority, 2012
Women Department Program Manager , Wi’am, The Palestinian Transformation Center
A member of the 2012 HRAP class, Lucy Talgieh has been advocating for human rights in Palestine since 2007. Specifically, she has been instrumental in creating awareness around issues such as gender based violence and, more broadly, women’s rights. When she joined HRAP, she was working with the Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center, a grassroots organization committed to establishing a culture of acceptance and justice in Palestine. It was during her time at HRAP that Lucy gained a multitude of skills that would aid her as she continued her human rights work. She writes: “HRAP assisted me in many ways.” Not only did she learn more about international human rights issues and enhance her leadership abilities, but she also broadened her network in important ways. During a program visit to Washington D.C., Lucy made a lasting connection with the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) that has allowed her to receive grants for programming and participate in ICAN’s yearly forum.
Lucy continues to work with the Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center as the Women’s Project Coordinator. In addition, Lucy is involved with a number of different coalitions both regionally and nationally and recently helped organize a workshop series inspired by UNSCR 1325, a resolution highlighting the impact of warfare on women’s rights. Because of her tireless efforts, Lucy was honored by the International Commission for Human Rights in Palestine during International Women’s Day in March 2016.
Written by Gabrielle Isabelle Hernaiz-De Jesus in 2016.
Case Manager and Policy Advocate, African Services Committee
In reflecting on his participation in the Human Rights Program, 2010 Advocate Bakary Tandia writes, “Receiving the HRAP certificate from the Institute for the Study of Human Rights is a constant reminder that one must take more responsibility for human rights protection and demonstrate effective leadership in human rights promotion.”
Since leaving HRAP, Tandia has continued working as both the Case Manager and Policy Advocate at the African Services Committee, an NGO dedicated to improving health and self sufficiency of the African community in New York City and beyond. As Case Manager, he provides assistance to African immigrants in accessing health and legal services. As a Policy Advocate, he works to raise awareness of public health and human rights issues in the African community through participating in advocacy and lobbying activities at city, state and federal levels.He also represents the African Services Committee at the United Nations.
In summarizing the impact of HRAP on his current work at the African Services Committee, Tandia writes, “HRAP has assisted my work in human rights in many ways. It significantly increased my level of confidence when drafting press releases, media advisory or petitions. In addition, the program broadened and strengthened my network.”
His participation in the Human Rights Advocates Program has led him to become involved with numerous advocacy initiatives. Recently, he was on a panel for a congressional briefing on comprehensive immigration reform in Washington D.C. Earlier this year, he led a group of African community leaders to the Immigrant Leadership Summit in Albany, New York. He sits on the board of the New York Immigration Coalition, a coalition of more than 200 organizations advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. During Immigrant Heritage Week, Tandia received an award from the New York City Police Department/Community Affairs Bureau for his continued support to the NYC immigrant community on April 22, 2013.
In April of 2012, he was awarded a fellowship that allowed him to attend the International Human Rights Colloquium organized by Conectas Human Rights in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This conference provided him with the opportunity to meet with human rights scholars and advocates from the Global South. He shared his valuable experience at HRAP with the conference participants and strongly encouraged them to apply for the program.
In collaboration with the Justice Initiative Program at Open Society Institute, he attended a conference on transitional justice in December of 2011. The conference attendees had a productive meeting Nouakchott, Mauritania with the representative of United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights. Besides these conferences, he has attended numerous meetings with various national human rights organizations to learn more about their perspectives on the human rights conditions in their home countries. In April 2011, he was featured on The White House Blog for his work in advocating for immigrant’s rights.
Tandia is well-connected to both the Advocates and the Institute for the Study of Human Rights. Tandia remains in New York City, which allows him to frequently attend events hosted by the Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He also facilitates workshops for new advocates every year. He writes that these workshops, “keep me actively engaged with the Institute while providing me with an ongoing opportunity to learn from the rich and inspiring experiences of advocates.” He adds that the continued support from Advocates and the Institute for the Study of Human Rights is the greatest benefit of HRAP.
-Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, April 2013
February 2017 Update: Bakary has continued to lead the fight against slavery in Mauritania, going on to co-found the Abolition Institute in 2013 with fellow human rights advocate Sean Tanner. The organization was highlighted by CNN.
Sierra Leone, 2006
Program Manager, Peace and Security Program, Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD)
Agnes Sia Tamba is a 2006 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program. After leaving HRAP, Agnes returned to Sierra Leone to continue working at the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD). Presently, Agnes is the Program Manager of the Peace and Security Program at NMJD. She works to address the root causes of conflict in the southern province of Sierra Leone. Agnes manages NMJD’s peace education program and helps communities claim their rights without resorting to violence.
HRAP is a capacity building program that strengthens the skills, knowledge and networks of accomplished human rights defenders. When asked about the impact HRAP has had on her work at NMJD, Agnes writes, “I gained a new perspective of how I can promote peace education as an area of conflict transformation.” She writes that her participation in HRAP has helped her successfully mainstream human rights based approaches within NMJD’s programs.
Advocates attend skill-building courses in a myriad of topics such as developing fundraising and advocacy campaigns. Agnes highlights the benefits of these courses on her work at NMJD. She writes that as a result of these trainings, she successfully developed advocacy strategies as part of NMJD’s chieftaincy reform campaign.
Concluding on her experience at HRAP in 2006, Agnes writes, “The diverse cultural experience of New York City and the hospitality of the HRAP staff and Columbia University community is something I will always remember fondly.”
—Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, June 2013
Democratic Republic Of Congo, 2005
Masters of Laws candidate, , Witwatersrand University
Hubert Masoka Tshiswaka is a 2005 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Presently, he is a Masters of Laws candidate at Witwatersrand University in South Africa. His graduate coursework explores human rights and multinational corporations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to his studies, he is a legal consultant to Koikanyang Inc, a law firm based in South Africa.
A year before participating in HRAP, Hubert co-founded Action Against Impunity for Human Rights (ACIDH) in 2004. ACIDH is an NGO based in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo that works to promote corporate responsibility in the Katanga mining areas. Although he left his role as Executive Director, he remains deeply involved with ACIDH by serving as an informal advisor. After HRAP, he served as the DRC Program Manager for the Open Society Initiative in Southern Africa (OSISA) for almost 7 years from June 2006 to January 2013.
When asked about the greatest benefit of HRAP, he writes, “The global network of HRAP alumni has been an incredible resource, providing me with opportunity learn from HRAP alumni and share my experiences in working to move the global human rights agenda forward. He fondly reflects, “Now, I have friends in Indonesia, China, Philippines, Nigeria, Ghana, Mexico, US and Italy.”
—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, Silvana 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). She 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 Silvana 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
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 Yildiz joined HRAP in 1996, that reality consisted of a fight against the violation of fundamental human rights in Turkey.
During her HRAP experience, Yildiz 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, Yildiz 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.
Yildiz 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, Yildiz 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.