Posts Tagged ‘DefendDefenders’

Ubuntu Hub in Accra will serve as a safe haven for Human Rights Defenders

March 28, 2022

Accra set to house threatened African Human Rights Defenders

An interesting example of what African NGOs can do in their own region for human rights defenders:

The Gender Centre for Empowering Development (GenCED) and African Defenders, a Pan-African Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) Network, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to set up the 7th Ubuntu Hub in Accra.

The Hub will serve as a safe haven for Human Rights Defenders and in some instances, their families within the continent who are subjected to attacks, threats, violence, and extreme pressure as a consequence of their human rights works.

The MoU would ensure that such victims are given medical, social, educational and psychosocial support in Accra or another African country if they so will, to ensure their wellbeing and development.

Mr Shire said it was prudent for Africa to stay alive and support each other to close the gaps such as threatening, torturing, murmuring, and crying caused as a result of the lack of protection of its people.

A feasibility study conducted by the parties proved that Accra in Ghana was the most suitable host for the initiative as its political, security, and human rights records gave the idea that the city provided an appropriate environment for the relocation of at-risk HRDs, he said.

Why do human rights defenders need to travel to Finland, just to seek a safe haven, why can’t we seek one from another country within our own continent,” he said.

He explained that the cost of relocating African HRDs at risk to another continent was prohibitory expensive, and the HRDS often faced cultural displacement, stigmatization and cultural and language barriers, hence, finding themselves unable to actively continue their human rights activism when relocated outside of the continent.

In 2019, he said the African Defenders, therefore, launched the Ubuntu Hub Cities, with the aim of providing at-risk African HRDs, with options for safe internal and external temporary relocation without having to leave their home continent.

The initiative since its inception has created a Hub in Kampala, Abidjan, Tunis, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town.

Through their diverse local partnerships, Mr Dire said relocation also provided an opportunity for HRDs at risk to learn and share experiences, so that, they could have a positive impact on the host community and return home with enhanced capacities to protect and promote human rights.

Under the Ubuntu Hub Cities Initiative, he mentioned HRDs, Journalists, Writers and Scholars, Trade Union Workers, Human Right Lawyers and Artists as some of the groups they supported.

Ms Esther Tawiah, the Executive Director, GenCED, said African leaders had to stay true to the power and give voice to the ordinary citizen who gave them the mandate.

https://www.modernghana.com/news/1147846/accra-set-to-house-threatened-african-human-rights.html

Good example of broadcast on Human Rights Day

December 15, 2021

At the occasion of International Human Rights Day, Ugandan NTV Uganda broadcast on 13 December 2021 a talk show: “DEFEND DEFENDERS: Human rights defenders’ voices at the centre”.

I am referring to this as it is a remarkable use of mainstream media by human rights groups. at national leval. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/10/human-rights-day-2021/.

Sandra Aceng, profile of a woman human rights defender from Uganda

March 19, 2021

In February 2021 Defenddefenders announced Sandra Aceng as Human Rights Defender of the Month Sandra Aceng is an outspoken and energetic woman human rights defender (WHRD). She is a gender and ICT researcher and policy analyst for Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) where she coordinates the Women ICT Advocacy Group, advocating for internet access for all. In addition, she writes on various platforms such as Global Voices, Freedom House, and Impakter Magazine. Her regular contributions to Wikimedia Uganda often focus on profiling WHRDs, female politicians, and journalists. “After Uganda’s January [2021] elections, many female politicians joined parliament. We want to increase their online visibility. For example, most of the profiles on Wikipedia  are on men, so we need to close the gender digital divide,” Sandra says.

After Uganda’s January [2021] elections, many female politicians joined parliament. We want to increase their online visibility. For example, most of the profiles on Wikipedia are on men, so we need to close the gender digital divide.

Having grown up in the digital age, the 27-year-old is a digital native and mainly focuses on defending women’s rights online. Her employer WOUGNET empowers women through the use of ICT for sustainable development. Their three main pillars are information sharing and networking, gender and ICT policy advocacy, and providing technical support to WOUGNET staff, beneficiaries, and members. As a Programme Manager, Sandra analyses internet and ICT policies to ensure that they are gender inclusive. She has noticed that oppressive patriarchal structures are shifting and perpetuating online. Part of her work is to document women’s rights violations and gather evidence, but she has also learned that it’s not enough to just talk about statistics. To truly understand the problems, it is important to talk to the victims and listen to find out what they face, she says.

Having experienced some forms of online gender-based violence (GBV) herself, she knows how stressful and draining it can be. On top of receiving non-consensual content, she also felt pressure to keep quiet, women are not supposed to complain, she says. As a WHRD, she is used to the subtle pressure that women not abiding by patriarchal gender norms experience. A continuous trickling of seemingly small questions can be rather stressful: “Why are you so loud and outspoken as a woman? When will you get married? How will you take care of your family if the authorities come for you? These kinds of questions make me feel uncomfortable, they make me wonder if I am doing the right thing,” Sandra shares, “but if we want online GBV to end we also need to end these harmful gender stereotypes. Establishing women’s rights is a slow process and keeping quiet won’t speed it up.”

Why are you so loud and outspoken as a woman? When will you get married? How will you take care of your family if the authorities come for you? These kinds of questions make me feel uncomfortable, they make me wonder if I am doing the right thing.

There is still a lot of work ahead of Sandra and her fellow Ugandan women’s rights activists. She recently researched digital rights violations during the COVID-19 pandemic and struggled to find female interviewees. Female journalists reporting on politically sensitive topics experienced reprisals like rape, but due to stigma and worries how this will affect their future, they were not willing to speak out. While male journalists on the other hand expressed themselves freely: men are often perceived as bold and brave, making it easier to speak out on reprisals and rights violations they endured.

But the more women speak out, the easier it gets, Sandra is convinced. “It really motivates me when I see that other women have faced the same kind of challenges with online violence, and they have dealt with it. Whatever I go through, it’s not the end of life. Hearing other stories helps me to keep working hard, to be a better version of myself and to go beyond the difficulties.” Fighting the digital gender divide is Sandra’s way to make sure that it gets easier for women to speak out and be loud.

https://defenddefenders.org/human-rights-defender-of-the-month-sandra-aceng/

In memoriam Diallo Abdul Gadiry from Guinea

October 29, 2020

On Wednesday 28 October 2020 Hassan Shire Sheikh, Executive Director of DefendDefenders, wrote the following obituary in memory of Diallo Abdul Gadiry

On behalf of AfricanDefenders (Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network) & DefendDendefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) I would like to pay a tribute to a friend we honour and respect. His great love of people was rooted in his faith.

As African human rights defenders fraternity, our hearts are filled with sorrow as we mourn Diallo’s death. Loosing someone we love is nothing easy, Diallo’s passing is even more painful to us. Knowing that we were part of his life, we can realize that we were blessed to have been able to share in his life.

Diallo was a founding member of the West African Human Rights Defenders Network, a Steering committee member of AfricanDefenders and the Forum for the Participation of NGOs to the ACHPR Sessions. We can’t weigh the energy he invested, the enthusiasm and dedication he put to promote and protect human rights in West Africa. Given the difficulties of travelling within the continent, Diallo would often times cross rivers or ocean move through the desert, and use many inter-regional connections to attend sessions of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to raise awareness or simply for solidarity with others.

We note numerous sacrifices and risks he made for the protection of the vulnerable. This courageous intellectual was an investigative journalist in West Africa who never shied away from controversial topics. Diallo leaves behind a legacy of enriched human rights defenders across West Africa and his loss will be felt deeply by many, especially those for whom he secured justice.

May the soul of our departed friend rest in eternal peace.

https://www.seneweb.com/news/Necrologie/guinee-deces-du-president-des-droit-de-l_n_332120.html

DefendDefenders seeks TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMME MANAGER for Kampala office

October 29, 2020

DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) seeks to strengthen the work of human rights defenders (HRDs) in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region by reducing their vulnerability to the risk of persecution and by enhancing their capacity to effectively defend human rights. DefendDefenders focuses its work on Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia (and Somaliland), South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

DefendDefenders is recruiting a Technology Programme Manager for its work in supporting HRDs. Under the overall supervision of the Director of Programmes and Administration, the Executive Director, and in direct partnership with other staff members, the Technology Programme Manager shall be responsible, but not limited to the following duties:

Key Responsibilities

  • Manage and give direction to the Technology Programme and projects;
  • Empower and mentor the team to take responsibility of their tasks and encourage a spirit of teamwork within the team;
  • Manage overall operational and financial responsibilities of the team against project plans and manage the team’s day-to-day activities;
  • Participate in management meetings and contribute grants, proposal design and implementation for the Technology Programme;
  • Ensure proper adoption and usage of internal IT tools and organisation systems by designing training programmes for staff and streamlining /recommending systems that can improve operational efficiency;
  • Communicate regularly with other managers, Director of Programmes & Administration and the Executive Director within the organisation. Ensure that the team works closely with other departments;
  • Plan budgets and work plans from inception to completion;
  • Work with partners, consultants, and service providers to ensure delivery of project goals;
  • Design and implement the IT policy, security protocols and best practice guides for the organisation and partner organisations; and
  • Represent DefendDefenders and the Technology Programme externally, develop partnerships, and attract funding and resources

Working conditions

  • Full-time position based in Kampala, Uganda;
  • The selected applicant must be able to relocate to Kampala immediately, or within a short timeframe; and
  • Health insurance (in Uganda) and travel insurance are provided.

Requirements

  • Previous experience in managing a team;
  • Strong communication and presentation skills;
  • Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships in a culturally diverse environment;
  • Willingness to travel;
  • Self-motivated, organised, and the ability to meet deadlines with minimal supervision;
  • Resourcefulness and problem-solving aptitude; and
  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Information Technology or related discipline, plus professional certifications.

Languages

Fluency in English is a must (spoken and written). Fluency in French is a strong asset, and in Arabic an asset.

Location

The position will be based in Kampala, Uganda, with frequent travels within and out of the country. Applicants should be eligible to work in Uganda without restriction.

Applicants should send a letter of motivation, CV, and contacts of three references to: jobs@defenddefenders.org by 15 November 2020. Do not send scanned copies of certificates. Interviews will be held in person (in Kampala, Uganda), or online late in November.

The subject line of the email should read “Application for Technology Programme Manager position.”

Questions about the position can be directed to jobs@defenddefenders.org

8 March 2020 International Women’s Day

March 9, 2020

This week, the International Women’s Day 2020 (8 March) celebrates the remarkable work carried out by women human rights defenders worldwide. However, the work of women human rights defenders is often accompanied by intimidation, violence, imprisonment, and threats. In the 2019 report on the situation of women human rights defenders by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, it is stated that “women defenders are often perceived as challenging traditional notions of family and gender roles in society, a perception that can generate hostility from State actors, and from the public, the media, and other non-State actors.”

Many organisations, especially NGOs, used the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020 to highlight work carried out by women human rights defenders. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/27/women-human-rights-defenders-in-focus-at-43rd-human-rights-council/. Here one example: Civil Rights Defenders and DefendDefedners:

Collage of five women human rights defenders
Women human rights defenders Diane Bakuraira, Maysaa Osama, Bernadette Ntumba, Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, and Mélanie Sonhaye Kombate. Photos: Civil Rights Defenders.

Civil Rights Defenders and DefendDefenders highlight individual women human rights defenders who, despite threats and challenges, continues their fight for human rights in Africa.

DefendDefenders seeks Communications Officer for office in Kampala

January 15, 2020
DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) is a regional NGO based in Kampala, Uganda, that seeks to strengthen the work of human rights defenders throughout the sub-region by reducing their vulnerability to the risk of persecution and by enhancing their capacity to effectively defend human rights. DefendDefenders works in Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia/Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. DefendDefenders is seeking a highly motivated, self-starting, detail oriented, and well organised Communications Officer to support and promote the work of the organisation. The Communications Officer will be responsible for developing and distributing content on the organisation’s work and maintaining its public profile. The successful candidate must be able to work effectively under pressure, be a good team player, and be willing to travel occasionally, as required.

Apply by email in a single submission with the following documents: a letter of motivation, a CV, and two references, as well as unedited writing sample between 1000-1500 words, on the human rights situation in one of our mandate countries, to jobATdefenddefenders.org no later than Sunday 19 January 2020.

https://www.brightermonday.co.ug/job/communications-officer-6kr6pg

THE THREE WOMEN: audio from AfricanDefenders

December 1, 2019

AfricanDefenders & DefendDefenders launched on 29 November 2019 their audio campaign about African women human rights defenders and courage, simply called THE THREE WOMEN”. The story by Gentrix Barasa and beautiful Illustrations by Primordial M. Here is the first episode (https://twitter.com/hashtag/IAmTheThreeWomen) in the context of the 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Based Violence:

THE STORY OF MARTHA. A woman could be heard screaming from a distance in the town square. The distinct sound of a whip hitting her body could be heard reverberating throughout the town. A small crowd of onlookers were gathering around quietly, curious to see what was going on and to find out why this woman was being beaten. Nuru was rushing home so she could prepare lunch when she spotted the crowd of onlookers. Despite being aware that she would get in trouble with her father if she was late, she was drawn towards the woman.

“What is going on?” she asked the man standing beside her.

“Oh, Martha started with her nonsense again. They should beat that devil out of her.”

The men in the town, especially the elders, did not appreciate when women challenged societal norms. In their mind, Martha was turning their wives and daughters against them with all this talk of women’s rights and liberation. They had complained to the mayor of the town, Mr. Tapiwa, when they caught wind of the women’s march that Martha was organising.

“This one is from Tapiwa,” one of the policemen said before hitting Martha.

“I heard she is secretly a man,” Nuru heard a woman whisper, “why else would she behave like this? This is not how women are supposed to behave.”

“I heard she is just trying to break our marriages, so we are miserable and alone like her,” another whispered.

“She is a witch. She does not even have children and she is trying to tell us how to bring up our daughters.”

“I heard she is a prostitute. She is just trying to corrupt us,” the whispers continued.

“I feel bad for her, but she should know that activism is not the work of a woman,” a man chimed in.

The police eventually stopped harassing and beating Martha, before taking off. The crowd slowly dispersed, without offering her any help. Eventually, Nuru was the only one left.

She looked around nervously as if trying to make sure no one was looking. As much as she felt sorry for her, she was scared to go against the people of the town. She did not want to be an outcast like Martha. When she was sure no one was looking, she reached out for Martha’s hand helping her to her feet.

“Why did they do this to you?” Nuru asked, while watching the older woman wince in pain as she started walking.

“I was fighting for your rights.”

“What do you mean my rights?”

Martha gestured at a nearby bench for them to sit on.

“Don’t you want to live in a world where you have choices?” Martha asked.

“I do have choices. I make choices every day,” Nuru said defensively.

Martha looked at Nuru, slightly raising an eyebrow. “Did you know you could own property, get an education, be equal to your father and brothers?” Martha continued.

Nuru stared into the distance with a look of longing. She had always wanted more for herself, but she had come to accept her life. Also, she was too scared to go against her father. “My father would never allow it, “she finally said.

Martha reached into her bag and retrieved a card. “This organisation can help you to learn more about your rights and can find you a good school. It is not his place to allow it. It is your right.”

Nuru hesitantly took the card and quickly pocketed it, afraid someone would see.

“I heard you are organising a march tomorrow.”

Martha nodded and handed her a flier with all the information about the march. “You don’t have to come to this if you don’t want to, but at least think about what I told you.”

Nuru nodded while gathering her things. She was still not quite sure if she would dare to go against her father, after all, who would take care of the house? “You are really nice,” Nuru said. She felt like Martha needed to hear some kind words. Then, Nuru took off.

Despite a restless night and the pain from the beating, Martha got up early the next morning to get ready for the march. The beating was the worst she had gotten since she started being outspoken about women’s rights. She had received calls and text messages all morning from people backing out of her march. It had worked – the beating had served as a warning to anyone planning to participate. Martha felt ashamed to admit it to herself, but they were really close to breaking her. She had tried so hard to not let them win, but that beating might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

She held out hope that at least one other person would show up, but she had been standing there for an hour. At that point, it was apparent that the march was a complete failure. In that moment, it was hard to remember why she was fighting so hard for this. As she sat down on the side of the road, with the sign Don’t tell me how to dress – tell them not to rape, next to her, a single teardrop ran down her face. With a sigh she reached out for the sign, resigning to go home. Instead of feeling the wooden base of the sign, she felt a hand touching hers. She looked up in panic, expecting to see the policemen from the previous day. Instead, it was Nuru.

“What are you doing here?” Martha asked in a confused tone, quickly drying her tears.

“We want to fight for our rights.”

“We?” asked Martha, even more confused. She then saw a group of women behind Nuru.

“We came to stand with you and all the women and girls in town,” Nuru said.

Martha smiled. She stood up grabbing the rest of the signs and handing them out to the group. They started chanting the slogans on the signs, marching towards Mr. Tapiwa’s office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE THREE WOMEN

Congo’s Hip-Hop artist Moses Kabaseke Defender of the Month for DefendDefenders

October 23, 2019
Human Rights Defender of the Month (September 2019): Moses Kabaseke 

Moses Kabaseke, a talented hip-hop artist and activist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was forced to flee to Uganda in 2013 only 16 years old. Kabaseke, known by his stage name Belidor, has produced music since he was a child. “I use music as a weapon – music has power. I use music to promote human rights.

Moses Kabaseke refers to DRC as the rich country with the poor people. “Back home a life means nothing. In Congo, life is something that can be taken from human beings easily – there’s no justice,” he states. “It’s difficult for people that have not experienced atrocities to understand how that feels like. With my music, I try to capture the trauma and injustices experienced by so many.” When he was only seven years old, his father was killed. “Every night when my mother was crying, I felt so bad. Since that age, I decided to fight for what was right.” In 2012, history repeated itself when his stepfather was killed before his eyes. At that point his mother had to make the difficult decision to leave home. In a quest to find safety, she brought her four children to Uganda.

“We don’t want to be here, but we are forced to be here,” he stresses, pointing out that life in exile is difficult. Being away from home, without external support and regular income, they face many challenges. “We need to look for ways to pay our bills. However, my siblings and I all have the blood of our father, so the thing we know how to do is music; so, we perform.”

In Uganda, Kabaseke continued his human rights promotion by composing music. After five years of hard work, often performing in Kampala’s bars, restaurants, and churches to finance his music, he recently finished his first autobiographical album. The album, ‘Les Mille Cris’ (Thousands of Cries), which contains ten songs written and produced by himself, conveys messages about human rights violations and injustices in DRC, and life as a refugee, among others. “Les Mille Cris is about breaking down the truth, sensitising Africans and victims of violations, and giving a voice to the voiceless.”

Through his music, he encourages people to tell their story, and moreover, urges the world to listen. Speaking the truth can come at a high cost. “As the number of my followers increase, my personal insecurity increase. Personal safety is essential as an artist talking about human rights,” he says. When asked what inspires him to continue despite the many challenges he is faced with, he states that “I promote human rights because I have been a victim of the system […] we are the main actors in the process of change. We have to stand for our rights.” Moses Kabaseke has partaken in several trainings organised by DefendDefenders, and performed at DefendDefenders’ events.

Check out Moses Kabaseke’s music:

Human Rights Defender of the Month (September 2019): Moses Kabaseke

Gladys Mmari is African Human Rights Defender of the Month (July)

August 8, 2019
On 7 August 2019 DefendDefenders’ blog annouinced that Gladys Mmari, Tanzania, was chosen as Human Rights Defender of the Month July 2019:

Gladys Mmari is a driven Tanzanian human rights defender (HRD), and the founder of MAFGE (Male Advocacy For Gender Equality) – a non-governmental organisation (NGO) focused on women empowerment through educating both women and men. “So much of the work that I do is cultural conversation. We have grown up talking about these issues among women, but now, I have to work with men as well – making it more challenging,” Mmari stresses. She fosters the idea that male voices should be heard, and educated, in women’s rights, and that it is important to establish an equitable understanding between the genders, while breaking down gender stereotypes. “We need to stop romanticising the idea of women empowerment, and co-empower one another to achieve the goals of an equal world,” Mmari affirms.

After obtaining a law degree, she worked as a human rights researcher in Tanzania, with a focus on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and indigenous rights. Then, she worked for AfricAid, an NGO specialised in cultivating leadership in young women and girls. She recalls a young boy who, following one of her sessions, asked her why he could not participate in the dialogues. He also wanted to boost women and girls’ rights. “It was a turning point for me,” Mmari says. “The time has come to work together and empower each other to revisit the many socio-cultural constraints that have stopped us from equality.” Her organisation MAFGE was hereby born.

She pinpoints numerous challenges faced in her work. “It is challenging to mobilise men to join, to ensure impact to women empowerment.” Furthermore, “most organisations that deal with women empowerment want to fund women organisations. And they do not want to see men in women organisations.”

She also points out the political situation in Tanzania as a great hurdle. Political rallies in the state deviate and misconceive the importance of HRDs, putting them at risk. As she expresses a sincere concern for Tanzanian HRDs, she mentions that the government is currently registering all NGOs under a single entity. “Here there is potential importance of this initiative, as this could be used for something productive such as acting as a more centralised human rights platform allowing more structured approaches, information passage, and funding opportunities. It is a step forward, unless it is a political interest”.

Gladys will continue to fight for women’s rights. “Women are born into unequal societies, and their achievements are unacknowledged and their potential left untapped [..] I can imagine my children and grandchildren living in a world with equal rights, and that they’ll get the opportunities and securities that I missed as a woman. That’s what keeps me going.”

Through MAFGE, she is also running a crowdfunding campaign, to strengthen gender equality in Tanzania.

Human Rights Defender of the Month (July 2019): Gladys Mmari