ISHR announces the formation of the Human Rights Advocates Program (HRAP) Alumni Committee

Thursday, January 18, 2024
The Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University proudly announces the formation of the Human Rights Advocates Program (HRAP) Alumni Committee. Established in the fall of 2023, the Committee is charged with identifying and exploring new funding possibilities for HRAP, increasing the visibility of the program, and reaching out to the HRAP alumni community throughout 2024 as HRAP marks its 35th anniversary. The chair of the committee, Nazibrola Janezashvili, said “I am proud to give back to HRAP as the inaugural chairperson of the alumni committee. The program contributed immensely to my growth as a human rights advocate. Before the program, I was supporting the development of human rights in background roles. My confidence increased tremendously thanks to HRAP. When I returned to Georgia, I joined the Unity of Judges of Georgia as executive director, served on the High Council of Justice in Georgia and more recently founded Georgian Court Watch. I want to make sure that HRAP can continue to do this for other advocates for the next 35 years.”
The members of the 2023-24 HRAP Alumni Committee are:
Elvis Mbembe Binda (he/him) has been appointed Dean of the School of Law of the University of Rwanda. Elvis is a trained lawyer. At the School of Law of the University of Rwanda, he teaches Economic and Financial Law with an emphasis on the East African Community regional economic integration. He earned a PhD at the University of Utrecht. He is the president and a co-founder of the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights, which focuses on the rights of detainees, Indigenous People, women and children, the LGBT community, the disabled and people living with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda. Elvis attended the 2011 HRAP.
Stephanie V. Grepo (she/her) has been contributing to the development of human rights advocates and their organizations for more than 20 years. With the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) from 2000 to 2007, she developed multi-ethnic peace building and education programs with local activists in Kosovo, North Macedonia, Croatia and Serbia; created and led a grants program to support grassroots NGOs in North Macedonia; worked on return and integration issues and led a field office of 10 staff in Lika-Senj County, Croatia; and served as the youth and education advisor to the OSCE Head of Mission in Serbia. More recently, Stephanie developed and taught the first course on human rights at The School of The New York Times. For nearly a decade, she was a lecturer at The New School. At ISHR since 2008, she has directly worked with more than 150 human rights advocates from 50+ countries, put diversity and inclusion at the forefront of the program, secured several multi-year grants, and elevated ISHR’s outreach through initiatives including a massive open online course (MOOC) on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights which is available on edX and side events at the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Her volunteer work resettling refugees through Catholic Charities of Greater Boston led her to work in human rights.
Nazibrola Janezashvili (she/her) is a founder and director of a new organization Georgian Court Watch.  She is a former non-judge member of the High Council of Justice of Georgia elected by the Parliament of Georgia in 2017. She has worked at different NGOs focusing on human rights and the judicial system. In 2016-2017 Nazi participated in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship program and studied at Montana University and American University College of Law. Before that, in 2008, Nazi received the Lane Kirkland Scholarship and studied law at the University of Warsaw. In 2009, she attended HRAP.. She is serving as the chair of the HRAP Alumni Committee in 2023-24.
Twesigye Jackson Kaguri (he/him) is the founder of Nyaka Inc., a nonprofit organization he created in 2001 to tackle systemic inequalities, poverty, and hunger in his village of Nyakagyezi in southwest Uganda. Jackson has raised over $150 million for Nyaka to provide free education and healthcare to 86,000 AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. To foster sustainable economic empowerment, Nyaka provides micro-loans and entrepreneurial training for the 20,000 grandmothers who look after the children. He is a board member of Global Giving, an international award winner and author of seven books, has been named CNN Hero of the Year, Heifer Hero, Global Citizen, and Power of One by Time Magazine. Jackson attended the 1996 HRAP.
Karyn Kaplan (she/her) is an independent health and human rights consultant based in Bangkok. Karyn has 30 years’ global experience working with grassroots activists on HIV and hepatitis C treatment access, drug policy and harm reduction, decriminalization and other human rights issues facing marginalized and criminalized populations, such as people who use drugs, sex workers, and LGBTQI people. 
Karyn’s previous positions include: Executive Director at Asia Catalyst (2016-2022), Director of International Hepatitis/HIV Policy and Advocacy at Treatment Action Group (TAG) (2012-2016), and co-founder/Director of Policy and Development at the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG) (2001-2013). She also worked at International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC, now OutRight International) and Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Karyn is a recipient of the Health GAP Founders’ Award and the John M. Lloyd Foundation HIV/AIDS Leadership Award (with TTAG co-founder, Paisan Suwannawong). Karyn attended the 2009 HRAP.
Samuel Matsikure (he/him) is a self-identifying gay man from Zimbabwe. He is a human rights activist, community development practitioner and social change maker. He has more than 20 years of experience promoting and defending the rights of LGBTIQ persons in Zimbabwe and Africa working for GALZ, an association of LGBTI people in Zimbabwe. He recently joined Aidsfonds, a Dutch funding organization as Team Lead for Key Populations in the international department.
He is a holder of a master's degree in Human Rights, Peace and Development with Africa University, Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Sociology and Gender Development from Woman’s University in Africa, a Diploma in Systemic Family Therapy with Zimbabwe Institute of Systemic Therapy and a Diploma in Education (Secondary Level) with Mutare Teachers' College, an associate of University of Zimbabwe. 
He was recognized by a South African publication Exit Magazine as a Queer Warrior in 2022 for his accomplishments in fighting for LGBTQIA rights in Zimbabwe. He was a recent recipient of the Africa Feather of the Year Award 2023 bestowed by South Africa Feather Awards for his impact as an advocate. He was inducted in the African GBMSM (Gay, Bisexual, Men who have Sex with Men) Hall of Fame, in recognition of his outstanding contributions as an African gay activist, his tireless efforts and dedication to advocating for rights and well-being for the LGBTIQ and GBMSM community in Africa and beyond by Global Gay Men Connect. Samuel attended the 2016 HRAP.
Miriam Ruiz Mendoza (she/her) has more than 25 years of experience in journalism, research, project management, and volunteering, She is a passionate communication consultant for health, human rights, and gender issues who has worked with international organizations including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to design and implement HIV prevention and advocacy strategies throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. She attended the 2006 HRAP.