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 .
Executive Director, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants-Nigeria
Sylvester Uhaa, a graduate of the 2013 Human Rights Advocates Program, was recently awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue his MA in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford, UK.
Sylvester is the founder of Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE-Nigeria), which he initiated as a chapter of International CURE in 2008.CURE-Nigeria advocates for the provision of opportunities for those in prison to change their lives; the use of alternatives, especially for juveniles and women; the respect for the rights and dignity of those in prison; the minimum use of pre-trial detention in accordance with legal instruments, as well as a moratorium on the construction of new prisons in Nigeria; the abolition of the death penalty and torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment of suspects, and extra-judicial killings. Also, CURE-Nigeria provides legal aid for detainees who are poor and cannot afford to pay for the services of a lawyer, and establishes educational programs in the prisons, among other things. Under Sylvester’s leadership CURE-Nigeria has developed from a state to a national organization.
Reflecting on recent accomplishments, Sylvester notes the release of eight detainees from prisons through legal aid provided by his organization. They also recently published their newsletter, “The Advocate,” online and in print. Additionally, he shipped a 40-foot container of books from the Minnesota-based organization Books for Africa, which he is distributing to prisons and school libraries across Nigeria. He is also in the midst of planning research on female detainees and prisoners and babies leaving in prison, as well as people incarcerated on debt-related issues. Other on-going projects include the establishment of libraries in prisons and public primary schools, legal aid for indigent detainees, campaigns against the use of torture, and the building of an ICT center in the Kaduna Juvenile Borstal Institution.
Sylvester observes the merits of the program on his work: “HRAP presented me with the biggest stage or platform to spring up since I began CURE-Nigeria in 2007 in terms of exposure to new funding opportunities, networks and people; it added to my confidence; gave me additional skills and sharpened already acquired skills.” Another benefit was his collaboration with Jaclyn Sawyer, a current graduate student in Social Work at Columbia University, who was awarded the Davis Project for Peace grant to go to Nigeria and work on his “Books Behind Bars” Project.
November 2016 update: Sylvester earned a master's degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford in 2015.
Updated by Gabrielle Isabelle Hernaiz-De Jesus in 2016.
Secretary General, Youth Action Nepal
Rupa is a passionate advocate for sexual and reproductive rights for the youth of Nepal and for gender equality overall. Of her work, Rupa says “Since I was a child I have seen that in my country there is not the same level of respect for women as there is for men. I observed consistently that women were not at the same level and are put on a different track from early on in their lives. Seeing this gender inequality coupled with the caste system made me want to fight injustice in my country and to fight for equal rights and opportunities for all.”
Seeing how deeply embedded stereotypes were being used to justify gender-based violence in her country, Rupa became interested in working with youth to combat these attitudes. As a core team member and the Secretary General of Youth-Action Nepal, Rupa focuses on coordinating coalition activists and facilitating training workshops focused on sexual reproductive rights and health. Rupa is currently also a youth representative on the Adolescent Reproductive Health Subcommittee organized by the government of Nepal. A lawyer by training, Rupa is also a member of the National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders.
In terms of her motivation, Rupa says, “I really believe that we all are the same, we are all human beings and we should all be treated equally. Yet each day we hear of murder and rape cases. Even if I am struggling or thinking about a different type of work, seeing these types of injustices continue is what inspires me to keep going. I feel inside me that as a youth, I have a duty to my country to use my voice for the thousands who cannot. I need to speak up for them also.”
Rupa says she greatly enjoyed the course on Gender Justice, in addition to the workshop on human rights research, writing and documentation with Human Rights Watch.