Between 1989 and 2023, more than 350 advocates from nearly 100 countries have attended the program. HRAP participants have ranged from early-career advocates who cut their teeth in very urgent human rights situations to mid-career advocates who have founded organizations. HRAP alumni have served as UN special rapporteurs, in the ministries of their governments, and at leading human rights organizations around the globe. They have been recognized with honors including the Rafto Prize, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the highest acknowledgment from the international human rights community.
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 , TGEU
Lenny Emson is the Executive Director at TGEU. Born in Ukraine, Lenny Emson is a bigender trans activist with extensive knowledge in growing the movement, fundraising, and political presence. Lenny has been involved in the LGBTQI movement as an activist, founder, and employee of several LGBTQI organisations for over 20 years. Lenny has served as Executive Director for KyivPride, and represented the international community in the ILGA World Trans Steering Committee, the Eurasian Key Populations Health Network’s “Global expert group on Transgender People and HIV/AIDS”, TGEU Board, and the Grant Making Panel of the International Trans Fund. Lenny is an active Board Member of the European Pride Organisers Association.
Researcher/Project Manager - The Global Justice Program, HAAS Institute for a Fair & Inclusive Society at UC-Berkeley
Recent 2009 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program, Elsadig Elsheikh from Sudan, remarks, “HRAP has increased my understanding to the larger framework of human rights work and advocacy, and the applicability of human rights framework to several aspects of our modern global and local social problems.” Upon entering HRAP, Elsheikh was acting as Research Associate for the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University. The Institute pursues among its goals to deepen the understanding of the causes and consequences of racial and ethnic disparity with a focus on racially and ethnically marginalized population.
HRAP allows admitted advocates to expand their knowledge and capabilities using international human rights mechanisms and applying international law frameworks to their career and work objectives. The Program administers workshops and seminars in public speaking, leadership, and networking, among others, which impress upon many of its participants a renewed sense of commitment and fulfillment to their personal causes. For Elsheikh, “To be able to articulate the immediate needs to employ the human rights framework to tackle global challenges and to believe in the collective actions to challenge injustices and structures in so many different fronts” has been a personal accomplishment since his participation.
After leaving HRAP, Elsheikh went on to serve as a Resident Director at the Office of International Affairs/Honors Scholars Program in Bolivia. He has recently returned to his post at the Kirwan Institute as a Senior Research Associate to lead the institute’s Global Justice Program. His responsibilities include supporting the Institute’s short and long-term research projects, maintaining awareness of emerging research methods and investigative frameworks, and effectively representing the Institute’s directors with the Institute’s partners and collaborators at local, national, and international organizations.
Another feature of HRAP is the opportunity it provides for its participants to experience life in New York City, meet with other advocates and practitioners, and possibly make new lifelong friends. When asked what he felt was the greatest benefit of participating in HRAP, Elsheikh says, “I think beside the great exposure to Columbia University, it was the fact to be able to know and to interact with the staff of ISHR and my colleagues in HRAP 2009 who added tremendous touch of humanity to my knowledge and enable me to reach new horizons.”
—Article composed by Andrew Richardson, Program Assistant, July 2010
April 2017 update: Elsheikh is currently Researcher/Project Manager of the Global Justice Program at the HAAS Institute for a Fair & Inclusive Society at UC-Berkeley.
Updated by Gabrielle Isabelle Hernaiz-De Jesus in 2017.
Project Director, Center for the Right to Health (CRH) in Nigeria,
2002 Advocate Bede Chimezie Eziefule currently serves as Project Director at the Center for the Right to Health (CRH) in Nigeria. CRH advocates for the full realization of the right to health in Nigeria and to promote respect for ethics and human rights in healthcare policies and practices for vulnerable groups such as people living with HIV/AIDS, women, youth and children. He manages the project from development to evaluation and designs capacity building projects on human rights issues such as sexual health, HIV/AIDS, STI and sexual minorities. He also conducts human resource development trainings on grant writing, research and human rights activism within the organization.
He highlights that his participation in HRAP “greatly enriched” his career and “immensely benefitted” his organization. He states, “The partnership with human rights organizations I developed while participating HRAP have facilitated my professional career with an opportunity to attend numerous international conferences and meetings. Also, the skills I received sharpened my theoretical understanding of human rights.” As a result, his profound understanding of human rights positively influenced on “increasing the quality of human rights researches and reports” that he conducted after the program.
Since his participation in HRAP, Bede developed the Sexual Minorities Project that mitigates the impact of HIV/AIDS among sexual minority groups. He also has started managing a project called “Health on Wheels” that provides mobile primary healthcare and education services to the rural communities suffering from poverty and geographical isolation. Due to his significant leadership role in HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, he was chosen to participate in International Leadership Visitors Program in 2008.
When asked for his final thoughts about his participation in HRAP, he concludes, “The friendships that I gained in New York have remained my greatest pillar of hope and encouragement for my work.”
—Article composed by Junghwa Lee, Program Coordinator, August 2011