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 .
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Alaliyaa
Taima Al-Jayoush is a 1999 Human Rights Advocate from Syria. After HRAP, Al-Jayoush continued her work as a lawyer, focusing her career on advocating for women rights in Syria. In 2009, she founded Alalyiaa, a pro-bono law firm in Damascus, Syria that provides legal aid for Syrian women in cases of violence such as honor crimes, trafficking, divorce settlements and custody disputes.
The Human Rights Advocates Program at Columbia University is an intensive capacity building program that provides Advocates with the resources to expand their knowledge and skills through trainings, workshops and relevant graduate coursework. When asked how her participation in HRAP assisted her work in human rights law and advocacy, Al-Jayoush writes, “HRAP gave me the space to learn more about human rights at the academic level. I closely studied the human rights conventions and treaties. I implemented what I learned at HRAP when representing political prisoners at the Supreme State Security Court in Damascus or Syrian women in Sharia, civil or criminal courts.”
Al-Jayoush is currently living in Montreal, Canada and continues managing her law firm Alalyiaa and assisting the Mahmoud Aljayoush Law Firm with various law cases. Al-Jayoush frequently communicates with former participants of the Human Rights Advocates Program over e-mail. She writes, “I still keep in touch with my friends in the program. I continue to respect and admire their work.”
—Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, June 2013
Senior Lawyer, Delphine K. Djiraibe's Law Firm
<p>A 1999 graduate of the Human Rights Advocacy Program, Delphine Djiraibe recalls the importance of the tools and education she learned during her time in HRAP by saying, “I still have course materials that I am using, especially for advocacy and fundraising.” When Djiraibe came to HRAP from her home country of Chad, she was serving as Human Rights Attorney at Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDDH), an organization that she co-founded. While participating in HRAP, Djiraibe followed coursework in human rights at Columbia University and attended some of the many training seminars and workshops that HRAP offers, which include fundraising, public-speaking, and grant writing, among others.</p><p>Since her participation in HRAP, Djiraibe has made new notable accomplishments. After returning to Chad, she initiated a prosecution of Hissen Habre, the country’s former dictator, and created a network of civil society organizations to advocate for a peace and reconciliation process. She also opened the first Public Interest Law Center in Chad, which is the first of its kind in Central Africa.</p><p>In Djiraibe ’s words, participation in HRAP “gives me a high profile.” HRAP participants routinely use their access to New York City and Columbia University during the four months of the program in order to meet with high-profile organizations in New York and Washington, D.C., and demonstrate their capacity to undertake rigorous, graduate-level coursework. Djiraibe has continued her post-secondary studies and completed an LLM program at American University Washington College of Law where she majored in International Human Rights and Environmental Law. She has also since served on the Board of Trustees of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).</p><p>When asked what the greatest benefit was of her participation in HRAP, Djiraibe responds, “It helped me connect to the international world.” Because of her extensive grassroots, organizing, and advocacy work in Chad, Djiraibe was selected for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2004. The award is presented to honor courageous and innovative individuals striving for social justice. Today, Djiraibe acts as Senior Lawyer at Delphine K. Djiraibe’s Law Firm. She also continues to work as Chief Attorney with Public Interest Law Center as well as National Coordinator of the Follow-up Committee on Peace and Reconciliation Initiative. Her regular duties include giving legal advice, representing clients before tribunals and courts, representing organizations, and regularly contributing to advocacy work and fundraising for her organizations.</p><p class="textsm">—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, June 2010</p>
Project Manager, Black Sea Peace-Building Project, Crisis Management Initiative
Mikheil (Misha) Mirziashvili is a 1999 graduate of the Human Rights Advocacy Program from Georgia. At the time of his arrival in HRAP, Mirziashvili had been working as Executive Director of Association Studio Re, an independent television studio and NGO he had founded in 1992 to use media to focus on human rights, conflict resolution, and peace-building in his home country. Through his participation in HRAP, Mirziashvili acquired many skills in advocacy and human rights tools that he has used since to advance a career supporting non-profit organizations for nearly two decades. He says that his time during HRAP “was the first such long, intensive, and diverse experience for me…I’m continuing to work in the non-profit sector, but the field of my work is widening (geographically and thematically), giving me the opportunity for self-actualization.”
HRAP brings together human rights advocates from around the world for a four-month training session at the campus of Columbia University in New York City. Explaining the benefits of his experience in HRAP, Mirziashvili states, “It helps with improving knowledge of human rights and with skills how to advocate. Participants come in contact with colleagues and partners and learn how to network.” The participants will gain these skills through coursework at Columbia University, training workshops on topics such as fundraising and networking, and attending meetings and presentations with foundations, NGOs, and financial institutions in New York City and Washington, D.C. relevant to the advocates’ personal work and profiles.
After leaving HRAP, Mirziashvili continued making a difference with Association Studio Re until moving on to become a Program Coordinator and then Program Manager of the Integration and Civic Education Program at the Open Society Institute Georgia Foundation in 2005. While serving there, he had been one of the persons responsible for the recommendations on Georgia's action plan for the European Neighborhood Policy. At the same time, he was involved in various activities aiming at conflict resolution in Abkhasia and South Osetia. He also coordinated a number of projects that addressed the problems of the integration of ethnic minorities into Georgian society. In addition, Mirziashvili was one of the initiators of the “South Caucasus Documentary Film Festival of Peace and Human Rights – Nationality: Human” during the festival’s startup years in 2006 to 2008.
Many participants also find that after leaving HRAP they are better suited for their work and the careers on which they embark. Mirziashvili remarks that in all his work since HRAP, he has “had favorable reception.” He was recently appointed to the position of Project Manager of the Black Sea Peace-Building Project at Crisis Management Initiative, a Finnish independent NGO working to resolve conflict and build sustainable peace founded by Martti Ahtisaari. Working out of his office in Brussels, Mirziashvili oversees operations of the Black Sea Peace-Building Project operating in seven countries–Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. His project provides support for self-ruling civil society expert councils for conflict resolution/transformation and peace initiatives.
—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, July 2010
Director of the Cabinet for the President, Cambodia National Rescue Party
1999 Advocate Chantha Muth is the Director of the Cabinet for the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party. After HRAP, he continued to work with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. He then joined the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs as Senior Program Manager. From 2010 to 2012, he worked with the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur. Before HRAP, he worked for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Border Relief Operations, and the UN Transitional Authorities in Cambodia (UNTAC). He also worked as journalist and was a General-Secretary to an international corporation for another two years.
—Article composed by Claire Kozik, Program Assistant, Summer 2018
South Africa, 1999
Senior Manager - Skills Implementation and Monitoring, Safety and Security Sectoral Education and Training Authority
1999 Advocate Makubetse Sekhonyane is currently serving as Director of Strategic Planning Management and Monitoring in South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services. Sekhonyane is responsible for planning, monitoring, and evaluation and reporting.
After attending HRAP, he was strongly motivated to complete his master’s degree in Public and Development Management and pursue his Ph.D. in Monitoring and Evaluation from Wits University in Johannesbsurg. He adds, “I wrote articles for a number of publications as a result of networking from HRAP. I was also invited to West Papua by fellow 1999 Advocate John Rumbiak (deceased) to talk about my human rights experience in South Africa.” His latest article, “Human Rights and Restorative Justice”, which was published in Handbook of Restorative Justice (2007), explores in detail the fundamental question of how the risks that restorative interventions might pose to human rights can be managed.
When asked about the benefits of participating in HRAP, he replies: “I could improve the advocacy and advancement of human rights. I was hoping to do my master’s degree in Human Rights, which I couldn’t. However, HRAP provided an academic cornerstone to abridge my graduate studies to the field of human rights. As a result, my current studies are still in the right direction.”
—Article composed by Junghwa Lee, Program Coordinator, June 2011
January 2014 update: Sekhonyane is currently a Senior Manager at Safety and Security Sectoral Education and Training Authority in South Africa.
Secretary, National Women's Committee, Hind Mazdoor Sabha
1999 Advocate Maya Sharma currently serves as a program director for an India-based community organization known as Vikalp Women’s Group. Working in the most impoverished areas of rural and urban Baroda Gujarat, Sharma focuses on improving the livelihoods of women through addressing issues of labor, sexuality and women’s inequality. When asked to speak about how HRAP has improved her human rights advocacy skills, Sharma shares that besides allowing her the “grand opportunity to get away and simply be,” the program has given her an “overview of the international human rights available at the global level and on the ground--the gaps/connections often fragile sometimes not even visible. My participation in HRAP brought home these crucial connections and a perspective that is incredibly useful.”
The capacity building program offers advocates the opportunity to network with various organizations, providing a platform for them to engage a larger audience of activists and share their message. Sharma says she remembers “networking with different stake holders for getting our voices heard, giving ‘a women’s direction to campaigns, picking on detailed and correct information to show the injustice and where and how it can be remedied.”
Sharma highlights the greatest benefit of her participation in HRAP simply as the exposure it afforded her. She recalls, “Being in the university, imbibing and absorbing, all that learning that solidifies years after the interlude, the friends I made, my teachers, the films, the talks, the libraries.” She fondly says, “Scattered as my learning is, it goes on through the relationships and the evocative associations that came through the smells like the coffee when we opened the cold door handle of SIPA.”
Sharma shares that since her participation in HRAP, one of her personal accomplishments is the improvement in her writings on human rights. As she reflects on the benefits of being in the program, she states, “Getting a free space there was material to read and fantastic classes/lectures to attend by professors, and to hear the students debate - there my perspective on sexuality matured.” Since returning from her time in HRAP, Sharma has written a book entitled, Loving Women: Being Lesbian in Unprivileged India, New Delhi: Yoda Press, soon expected to be released in its second edition.
—Article composed by Tiffany Wheatland, Program Coordinator, July 2010
January 2014 update: Sharma is currently the Secretary, National Women's Committee at Hind Mazdoor Sabha.
, Lagos State University
When Tunde Akanni joined HRAP in 1998, he was working with the Centre for Free Speech in Nigeria, a free expression group co-established by 1997 Advocate Babatunde Olugboji. At the time, the group was in the process of advocating for the release of four Nigerian journalists who had been arrested for writing about the alleged 1995 coup attempt. The experience would be one of many in which Tunde was involved as an international consultant dedicated to human rights advocacy.
During HRAP, Tunde writes that he had “the opportunity to effectively internationalize [his] activities and improve [his] skills.” In fact, he credits a fundraising course taught by Paul Martin, the director at the Center for the Study of Human Rights at the time, with helping him to secure a $20,000 grant to support his organization. Apart from building his skillset, Tunde connected with colleagues that he now remains in contact with even 20 years later.
Today, Tunde is involved in a number of initiatives related to internet governance at the Information Aid Network (IFAnet). He lectures at Lagos State University.
When Anna Penido participated in HRAP in 1998, she was working in Bahia with the Odebrecht Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing youth and adolescents with life skills. Her passion to improve education in Brazil continues to evolve and motivate her successes to this day.
Penido reports that HRAP gave her fundamental tools which have guided throughout her career: “HRAP was a turning point not only in my career, but also in my personal life. The time I spent at Columbia University opened my eyes, my heart, my horizons and my connections to a much broader world. Not only did I learn about more effective ways to advocate for human rights, but I also had a chance to interact with initiatives and specialists involved in youth rights movements.”
The experience that Penido gained at HRAP was so influential that she was motivated to put it to work in a tangible way: “As soon as I got back to Brazil, the knowledge, experiences and connections I gained from HRAP inspired me to create a non-governmental organization whose mission is to empower young people to use communication strategies and tools to advocate for their own rights…Years later, the classes and materials on international human rights I got from HRAP were very supportive to my work as the chief of the UNICEF field office in São Paulo.”
Penido’s founding of the CIPO initiative to teach young people about media professions and to provide them with the skills to succeed led her to chosen as an Ashoka Fellow in 2001.
Today, Penido is the director of Inspirare, a family institute dedicated to inspiring innovation in public policies and initiatives to improve the quality of education in her home country of Brazil. Inspirare’s programs are guided by “Innovative Holistic Education,” an idea that Penido describes as the following: “In today’s world, younger generations see things very differently to those that preceded them. Technology has changed the world and climate threats have shown that global society’s model of organization and operation is no longer viable. However, our current model of education does not address these questions and demands. Inspirare believes we must develop a new concept of education. The main aims of Innovative Holistic Education are the development of the student in all facets of life and answering the demands of today’s world and the interests of children, teenagers and young people of the 21st century.”
Even though she attended HRAP nearly 20 years ago, she writes that she still feels its impact: “At my current job, HRAP still influences the way I advocate for public policies aimed at ensuring every and each Brazilian student to have access to good schools and education.” Her vastly impressive experience in promoting education as a fundamental human right has given her important insights on how to be successful in this field. She leaves human rights advocates at the start of their careers with the following words of wisdom: “Be resilient… the journey is full of obstacles and detours.” And, perhaps even more importantly: “Give voice and power to those you serve! Never forget they are the true agents of change.”
-Article composed by Gabrielle Isabelle Hernaiz-De Jesus, November 2016
Ombudsman, Republic of Indonesia
Budi Santoso is a graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program from Indonesia in 1998. After finishing the program, Santoso returned to his home country of Indonesia to continue his work as the Director of the Legal Institute (LBH) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. In 2001, he was appointed the Director of the Independent Legal Aid Institute (ILAI) and head of the People Services Division of the Indonesian Bar Association. In May of 2002, he left Indonesia to study international human rights law at Northwestern University on a prestigious Fulbright fellowship. He returned in 2003 and continued managing the Independent Legal Aid Institute, a position that he held until 2011.
HRAP is a four-month intensive human rights training program that provides participants with a broad overview of the international human rights system through a series of seminars, trainings and courses. In addition to academic coursework on human rights, HRAP provides Advocates with networking opportunities in both New York City and Washington D.C. to meet with human rights organizations to strengthen their networks. Fifteen years later, Santoso fondly reflects on his experience as a HRAP participant. He writes, “The ability to meet with several human rights organization greatly expanded my network for years to come.”
Presently, Santoso is a member of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Indonesia in Jakarta. On Saturdays, he teaches at his alma mater, Islamic University of Indonesia in Yogyakarta.
—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, Turner 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). Turner 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 Turner 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
Principal, Reos Partners
1997 Advocate Fernando Rossetti Ferreira currently works as principal of Reos Partners, an international social business that specializes in systemic transformations. He has more than two decades of experience working with leading foundations, NGOs, and associations in Brazil and around the world. He started his career as a journalist with Folha de S. Paulo in Brazil, where he covered education and civil society organizations, and served as a correspondent in South Africa soon after Mandela became president. He was executive director of Grupo de Institutos Fundações e Empresas, a Brazilian association of philanthropic organizations, Greenpeace Brazil, and Cidade Escola Aprendiz. He also served as chair of the board of WINGS-Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support.
When he was participating in HRAP in 1997, he was a journalist interested in human rights issues. He highlights that the knowledge that he gained by participating in HRAP was “very important” for his professional development. He states: “After the program, I entered the non-profit sector and began to advocate for strengthening civil society worldwide. The global perspective that the program gave me has been a cornerstone of my strong commitment to human rights. I have devoted myself to human rights in all my activities since then.”
—Article composed by Junghwa Lee, Program Coordinator, August 2011
—Updated by Claire Kozik, Program Assistant, Summer 2018
Deputy Program Director, Human Rights Watch
“The program opened a few doors for me… it came at the right time in my career.”
Looking back on his experience in HRAP in 1997, Tunde Olugboji recalls making good use of the networking opportunities offered through the program. During HRAP, Olugboji was working with the Constitutional Rights Project, an NGO devoted to ensuring that legislation relating to the rights of citizens in Nigeria complies with international human rights standards. His participation in the program connected him with donors that would become important to his future work.
In fact, it was during this experience that he met his “wonderful mentor, Paul Martin,” who at the time served as executive director at the Center for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University. Martin’s course was also one of the few that Olugboji had the opportunity to audit, including a Law School lecture by Michael Posner and a seminar with the highly regarded father of human rights law, Louis Henkin. Attending these courses provided Olugboji with a new set of skills that aided him both immediately after the program and throughout his career.
Olugboji went on to complete further training programs in Denmark, empowering him to co-establish Nigeria’s first free expression group: Centre for Free Speech.Olugboji ’s unyielding passion for human rights advocacy led him to continue taking on larger projects, and today he serves as Deputy Program Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), a multinational NGO. He currently oversees several programs including the HRW arm in Africa–which is HRW’s largest program–Health and Human Rights, Disability Rights, and Business and Human Rights. His aim to create a new sub-program focusing on environmental human rights. When Olugboji is not devoting his time to advocating for international rights, he shares his valuable insights from years of experience as an adjunct professor at Hunter College in New York.
Written by Gabrielle Isabelle Hernaiz-De Jesus in 2016.
Masters in Sociology of Law Candidate, International Institute of Sociology of Law
In 2013, 1996 Advocate Chitra Balakrishnan received a Masters in the Sociology of Law from the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Onati, Spain. She serves as a consultant on human rights issues to numerous non-governmental organizations and academic institutions.
After HRAP, Balakrishnan co-founded the Alternative Law Forum, a pro-bono human rights law practice based in Bangalore with a group of lawyers to respond to issues of social and economic injustice.
Shortly after, she was named a “Scholar of Peace fellow” by the Women in Security Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP). This prestigious fellowship encourages innovative research on gender, security and conflict issues. The Foundation of Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama provided her with financial support to publish a monograph entitled, “Research to Evolve Gender-Sensitive and Culture-Specific Models of Alternative Dispute Resolution” in the WISCOMP Perspectives in 2003.
In 2004, Balakrishnan was named a mid-career Chevening scholar in Peace and Conflict Studies by the British Council at the University in Ulster in Northern Ireland.
She writes that the opportunity to meet a diverse group of committed individuals in the field of human rights is one of the greatest benefits of HRAP. Balakrishnan still remains in touch with her fellow advocates in the program such as Dr. Aurora Parong, Philippines, Maria Beatriz Sinisgalli, Brazil, Shiva Hari Dahal, Nepal.
February 2017 Update: Balakrishnan is currently working with the Centre for Social Justice in Ahmedabad.
Founder and Executive Director, Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project
Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, a 1996 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program, began his advocacy work with the organization, Human Rights Concern (HURICO), located in his home country, Uganda. Kaguri co-founded HURICO to help victims of human rights violations in Uganda and to educate the public about their rights. Reflecting on the impact of HRAP to his work, Kaguri says, “Without skills and knowledge from the Advocates Program, I would not have continued with HURICO.”
HRAP provides its participants with a greater understanding of human rights tools and methods as well as the confidence and leadership skills to enhance their individual pursuits. In addition, many participants take advantage of the courses available at Columbia University and the infinite resources available in New York City. Kaguri recalls that during the program, “I started using a computer for the first time and never stopped.”
Since leaving HRAP, Kaguri has made a number of professional and personal accomplishments. He served as a Program Assistant for People’s Decade for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) after having met the founder and director during his participation in HRAP. He also completed a second bachelor’s degree, specializing in fundraising and management, from Indiana University as well as received numerous certificates in various areas of fundraising.
Kaguri currently works with the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, which he founded and directs. Nyaka builds schools for HIV/AIDS orphans in rural Uganda, using a holistic approach to provide free education, uniforms, books, healthcare, shelter for the children, community water, and a community library. Kaguri has successfully started two schools in the villages of Nyaka and Kutamba, the impacts of which have been profound for the two villages and brought wide praise to Kaguri. He has been named Ugandan of the Year, Ugandan Making a Difference, and Social Entrepreneur by Global Giving. In addition, in June 2010, Kaguri and Nyaka were featured in Time Magazine. He is also the Associate Director of Development at Michigan State University.
Kaguri has also completed publishing a book entitled “The Price of Stones: Building a School for My Village,” released in June 2010 and which details the founding, evolution, and impact of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. However, Kaguri still recalls his experience in HRAP as a crucial component of his accomplishments, saying the greatest benefit had been “networking with fellow professionals and other organizations all over the world.” He concludes, “Without this program, I would not have accomplished what I have accomplished. Our children, their grannies, and communities Nyaka serves would not have anything if not for the exposure I got while at Columbia University.”
November 2016 update: Kaguri has been awarded the 2015 Waislitz Global Citizen Award, named a 2012 CNN Hero, a Heifer International Hero, recognized in Time Magazine’s ‘Power of One’ Series, and spoken to the UN about his work. In 2016 Kaguri received an honarory PhD in Humanities from Shenandoah University recognizing his work with Nyaka. Kaguri divides his time between Uganda and Michigan where he lives with his wife Tabitha, their two sons and two twin girls.
—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, June 2010
Director, Amnesty International - Philippines
Aurora Parong, from the Philippines, began her career as a medical doctor by training community health workers in marginalized villages, then later by joining the Medical Action Group in Quezon City. An alumna of the 1996 Human Rights Advocates Program, Parong became one of the early advocates for economic, social, and cultural rights in the Philippines by contributing to the development of human rights modules on the right to health, the right to housing, the right to water, and the right to food. “HRAP helped me better understand the broader human rights work,” she says, “to include promotion, protection, and fulfillment of economic, social, and cultural rights by deepening my knowledge about the universality and indivisibility of various human rights.”
Parong has attended trainings, conferences, and seminars where she has been trainer or resource person in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Europe in addition to her home country. The array of human rights topics Parong has addressed include rights-based approaches to development, gender justice, indigenous peoples’ rights, UN and ASEAN human rights mechanisms, and human rights in the Philippines, among others. Parong is repeatedly referred to on human rights topics because of her experience, professional work, and education. When asked how the education from HRAP has assisted her, Parong says, “It was at HRAP that I got a clearer idea on the work of UN human rights bodies as well as truth and reconciliation bodies,” and “HRAP enhanced and strengthened my human rights advocacy work.”
HRAP acts as a multi-dimensional training program bringing together human rights advocates from around the world. For Parong , “The debates about various human rights concepts (in the books we read and in the class sessions) encouraged me to further read and study human rights principles and practice in various contexts. The sharing on the human rights situations of various countries by my colleagues (co-students) widened my world.” Since HRAP, she has gone on to receive special certificates, some of which include a Diploma on International Humanitarian Law, Certificate on Forensic Sciences in Human Rights Investigations, Gender Justice at the International Criminal Court, and Human Rights and Elections. She also co-wrote and/or co-edited “Breaking the Silence, Seeking Justice for Victims of Violence in Intimate Relationships” with Women Working Together to Stop Violence Against Women, “Uphold the Sanctity of Life, Enhancing Remedies for Victims of Extrajudicial Executions and Enforced Disappearances” with the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, and “Women Strategizing Justice, Women’s Resource Book on Gender Justice” with Philippine Coalition on the International Criminal Court in 2009 alone.
After receiving special recognition in 2005 from Task Force Detainees of the Philippines for her service as Executive Director for nine years, Parong moved on to her current position as Director of Amnesty International Philippines for which she serves as spokesperson and manages all aspects of Amnesty International’s operations in her country, ensuring that strategic plans, priorities, and projects create positive changes in human rights in various parts of the world. Aside from her already prestigious work, Parong serves as Board member of PhilRights and Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court.
December 2016 Update written by Parong :"After serving as Director of Amnesty International Philippines for almost 7 years, I was appointed by the Philippine President as one of the nine (9) members of the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board (HRVCB), a quasi-judicial body created in 2014 which is tasked to evaluate claims and provide recognition and reparation to victims of human rights violations during martial law in the Philippines.
We are currently evaluating 75, 730 claims. The HRVCB is playing a key role in transitional justice within the Philippines, but may have an impact on other countries faced with transitional justice issues in the future. The HRVCB was created by Republic Act (RA) 10368 (or the Reparation and Recognition Act for Victims of Martial Law) to recognize and provide reparations to victims of human rights violations during martial law. Through RA 10368, it is State policy to recognize the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos during martial law, the people who had key contributions to achieve the democratic reforms that we now enjoy in the country.
I head the Working Group on Non-monetary reparations, within the Claims Board. Non-monetary reparations, which include among others health, psychosocial and training programs for victims of abuses and their families, will be provided by various agencies of the Philippine government.
Aside from my regular work, I continue to disseminate information and take action on various human rights concerns affecting my country and some other countries.
I will be a recipient of the Outstanding in Community Service and Public Health Award for 2016 on December 21, 2016 from the University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society. (I went to the University of the Philippines College of Medicine for my medical education)."