Posts Tagged ‘woman human rights defender’

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

Profile of Abirami Jotheeswaran, Dalit Human Rights Defender

July 17, 2019

In Conversation With Abirami Jotheeswaran: Dalit Human Rights Activist
visiting Geneva to address the UN about issues faced by Dalit Women.

Abirami Jotheeswaran is a human rights defender and the National Program Coordinator of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights NCDHR. Most recently, she was part of a fact-finding team in Mirchpur to investigate a case of caste-based violence. Anagha Smrithi interviewed her for Feminism in India (FII) of 1 July 2019:

Anagha Smrithi: Can you describe your journey towards becoming the National Program Coordinator of the NCDHR?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: Residing in Chennai, I experienced many forms of caste-discrimination throughout my lifetime. A striking incident was during my graduation, when a classmate asked me what caste I belonged to in front of all my other classmates. The question was irrelevant, more so because she was aware of my social background as she knew my family. I felt insulted in front of my classmates and realised that caste certainly exists in urban cities like Chennai. After my Masters in Computer Science, I got married and settled in Delhi. A few years later, I got the opportunity to sit for an interview with the NCDHR. Even though I didn’t have a social work or human rights background, as someone who witnessed caste discrimination during my college days, I excelled in the group discussion and interview about caste-based discrimination. NCDHR changed me as a Dalit Human Rights Defender. When I joined as a Monitoring Associate in 2005, the work was new to me and I learnt everything through trial and error. I had to work hard to improve my Hindi to be able to coordinate with the State Coordinators of Northern states. I also equipped myself with legal knowledge of various legislatures surrounding the question of Dalit human rights. I used to work more than 10 hours a day, sometimes even carrying home documents to meet my deadlines. At the same time, I was also a mother. But I persisted at work so that I could be on par with my colleagues, most of whom were men. The 14 years I have been associated with the NCDHR has deepened my understanding of caste, violence, human rights and Dalit perspectives and ideologies. Today I am the National Program Coordinator and my primary responsibilities are to keep track of human rights violations, torture and ill-treatment of Dalits, and to provide legal assistance to the victims and survivors of caste atrocities across 12 States in India.

As a National Program Coordinator, I have participated in conferences and consultations at the State, National and International level to highlight Dalit human right violations in India, and to hold the state accountable. ..My 14 years with NCDHR has taught me the importance of struggling for justice in the courtroom. Because of this, I decided to pursue my higher studies in law. Most importantly, my association with NCDHR built my Dalit ideology and my strength as a leader to deepen the struggle against the caste system.

Anagha Smrithi: You were part of a fact-finding team about caste atrocities in Haryana. How did you obtain facts when the information was hidden/ fudged by the police and administration?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: On 24 April 2010, the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and Anhad facilitated a national fact-finding visit to Mirchpur in Haryana’s Hisar district, where a dominant-caste mob had attacked Dalits in the village. The team consisted of a diverse group of people of journalists, activists, publishers and human rights defenders, including myself. The NDMJ Haryana state team visited the site of violence the day after the incident took place. They identified active victims, witnesses and built trust and a relationship with them. During our fact-finding process, we held detailed interviews with the victims—this was crucial in obtaining information that the police otherwise would not reveal. Through the interviews we gained information about the social background of the victims, the occurrence of previous atrocities in the same village and the events leading up to the incident. We discovered how the mob had planned to commit the offence, which differed from the police claim that it was a spontaneous conflict. We surveyed the loss of property and investigated the collusion of the police, administration and the Khap panchayat in committing the crime and obstructing justice.

Anagha Smrithi: Was any action taken after the fact-finding report?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: Soon after the fact-finding report, the NDMJ conducted a press conference to give visibility to the caste and build pressure on the government. We demanded appropriate sections of the SC & ST act be invoked for the immediate arrest of all those involved in the violence, along with resettling the affected Dalits in a secure place. We strove to register cases against the police and administration for the negligence of official duty, and demanded employment to all the members of the affected families, as well as a proper estimation of the damage inflicted upon the families. At the state level, we participated in protests, approached the Human Rights Law Network for legal interventions and took up advocacy with the Minister of Social Justice and other state authorities to ensure immediate arrest, complete investigation, the submission of a charge sheet, relief and rehabilitation for the affected and protection for the involved witnesses. As of today, we are still consistently engaging with the legal system and following up with the victims to achieve justice.

……
Anagha Smrithi: Even in cases of cruel atrocities & oppression, there is often still resistance and assertion from the community. What sort of resistance did you observe during your fact-finding process?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: Before the incident, violence had taken place against Dalits, but no proper action was taken by the police administration. But when this carnage happened, the Dalit community lost 2 lives and immeasurable damage to the property and possessions. Despite the losses, they unanimously decided to fight for justice and not tolerate any more violence by the dominant caste. They left their houses in Mirchpur and moved towards Mini Secretariat, demanding for justice. Their journey took them to Delhi, and finally to a farmhouse in Tanwar, protesting for justice, security, rehabilitation and jobs all the way. The State Government, faced with renewed pressure finally took action against the accused and the negligent administration. Though the victims continue to live away from their homes, in difficult conditions, the spirit of resistance is still alive.

In Conversation With Abirami Jotheeswaran: Dalit Human Rights Activist

Eren Keskin in Turkey sentenced to prison and more to come..

May 28, 2019

On 28 May 2019 Euromedrights brought out a press release “Sentencing of Eren Keskin: another blow against freedom of expression in Turkey”.

This extremely courageous human rights defender has received attention in this blog recently [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/12/martin-ennals-award-finalist-eren-keskin-honoured-in-ankara/].

On 21 May, at the final hearing of the Özgür Gündem “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” campaign trial, woman human rights defender and co-chair of the Human Rights Association-Insan Hakları Dernerği (IHD), Eren Keskin, was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months prison term for “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” and “openly inciting to commit crime”

As deeply concerning as this sentencing is, it is far from an isolated case: across Turkey, civil society activists struggling to ensure basic human rights and fundamental freedoms are targeted by the judiciary, acting as an extension of the legislative power, for legitimately and peacefully exercising their constitutional rights. EuroMed Rights strongly condemns the judicial harassment against Ms Keskin and her fellow activists. 

EuroMed Rights calls on the Turkish authorities to respect their obligations under international human rights treaties, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Turkish constitution, end the crackdown on critics and halt the persecution of human rights defenders. and release all those detained for peacefully expressing their opinions.

Note The Editors-in-Chief on Watch campaign of Özgür Gündem daily began on May 3, 2016 and ended on August 7, 2016. Daily was closed through the Statutory Decree No. 675 issued under the State of Emergency. At the end of March, Ms. Keskin has been sentenced to 7 years and a half on charges of “insulting the President and State institutions” over three reports published in the newspaper in 2015. On 3 July, she will again stand trial in front of 23th High Criminal Court in Istanbul for the “ Özgür Gündem main trial”.

https://mailchi.mp/euromedrights/sentencing-of-eren-keskin-another-blow-against-freedom-of-expression-in-turkey?e=1209ebd6d8

Profile of Sri Lankan Marini de Livera: a lawyer and a ‘Woman Of Courage’

May 23, 2019

REBECCA ELLIS published a profile of Marini de Livera under the title “She’s A Lawyer … A Thespian … And Now A State Department ‘Woman Of Courage‘”

Marini de Livera’s plays are not for the faint of heart. In her home country of Sri Lanka, the pro bono lawyer has found that crimes against women and children often take place behind closed doors — in homes, orphanages and schools. With her traveling theater group, de Livera seeks to shed light on the human rights abuses in her country by putting the violence on stage, front and center. “There are beautiful laws in the law books,” she says. “But when I went out to the slums, to the rural areas, to conflict-ridden areas, I found what is in the law books is not a practical reality.”

A pro bono attorney with a degree in speech and drama from Trinity College London, de Livera has spent her career using theater to ensure that the lofty lessons she learned in law school can be used to assist Sri Lankans who are unlikely to ever see an attorney. Her dedication to helping women and child victims of crime has made her one of the 10 recipients of the 2019 International Women of Courage award [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/11/international-women-of-courage-awards-2019-given-out-at-the-us-state-department/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/one-journalist-who-did-not-get-the-women-of-courage-award-but-almost/].

De Livera has served as the chairperson of Sri Lanka’s child welfare agency, the National Child Protection Authority, and now runs Sisters at Law, an advocacy group for impoverished women and children. She spoke with NPR about her creative approach to addressing human rights in her country, and why she’s focusing on using her theater training to better the situation of children in Sri Lanka’s orphanages.

What are some of the legal issues that women and children in Sri Lanka need help with?

Women and children are denied justice if they’re uneducated, and if they live in rural areas. They don’t enjoy the same basket of human rights that privileged people have because they don’t have access to lawyers.

What needs to happen to accomplish that?

There has to be legal literacy. These women and children have to know what the laws in the country are and what their human rights are. If they are educated about their rights, they can go to court and demand them.

You’ve often used theater to promote this legal literacy in Sri Lanka. Can you give me an example of how this works?

One of my favorite plays I put on was about corporal punishment. I went to a Catholic school where a priest was hitting boys every day. I explained to the school that there are different forms of violence – cultural violence, psychological violence, physical violence. Then I asked the boys to make a play about their experiences with violence. And one of the boys reenacted what the priest had done to him. [It helped] these boys find an outlet to say, “We don’t want to kneel down when we come late to school. We don’t want to be beaten by a cane.”

How did you come to see theater as a way to educate the public on their legal rights?

I had been a lecturer in law [in Sri Lanka], and one of the things I had to teach was U.K. law principles. And the students were bored to death. So I said, these are the books, you read, then you tell me what the rule of law and separation of powers are through a performance. I realized if I could use this in the classroom, why not in the village to simplify the law?

What is your theater group working on now?

I’m working on a street theater [program] to create awareness for parents [and encourage them] not to send their children to orphanages. I’m going to show that family is the place for the child. In Sri Lanka, we have a lot of “social orphans” where they have both parents, but the children are suffering in orphanages.

Past reports have found that over 80 percent of the 20,000 children in Sri Lanka’s child-care institutions, including orphanages, have at least one parent. These parents are often unable to provide for their children or the child has a disability and requires extra care. And sometimes the children are sent to such an institution because of a criminal offense.

Orphanages should be the last resort. So I’m promoting alternative care. Some of the mothers are capable of looking after their children, but they’ve handed over their child to an overcrowded orphanage. I’m thinking of giving parenting skills training to these mothers and economically empowering them, finding them a nice home and settling the children with them.

You mentioned earlier that this prize is the first time in your life you felt appreciated for “walking in the opposite direction” from others in the law profession. Do you have hopes other attorneys will follow in your path?

I’m very unhappy to say each time I go to court people come up to me like a swarm of flies and say, “We don’t have a lawyer to appear on behalf of us.” I want to take all the country’s young attorneys and train them to be another Marini – to clone myself. Because I have to hand this on to the younger generation.

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/03/08/701212104/shes-a-lawyer-a-thespian-and-now-a-state-department-woman-of-courage

Profile of Putla: a 75-year-old indigenous rights defender in Cambodia

May 16, 2019

….if you drive two and a half hours West of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, you reach a community consisting of five small villages with a total population of around 1,350 people. They are the last members of the indigenous Souy people, who until recently, lived peacefully on their ancestral land. This is where the indigenous rights defender Putla has lived most of her life – except when she was forced to move away by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

Today, she is a 75-year-old woman whose skin has been tainted by the sun and from a hard life. She is a tiny woman, not more than 150 centimeters tall, and often dresses in the Souy people’s traditional black cloth. Putla is a woman who looks fragile at first sight – but this impression only lasts until she starts to speak, or until you look into her eyes. She has a strong and crisp voice, and her eyes reflect the hardships that she has endured in her life. She is a very warm woman who often finishes her tirades with heartfelt laughter. Read the rest of this entry »

Martin Ennals Award Finalist Eren Keskin honoured in Ankara

May 12, 2019

Today the Martin Ennals Award announced that on 9 May a special ceremony was held in Ankara, Turkey for Ms Eren Keskin who is one of the finalists for the 2019 Martin Ennals Award. Ms Keskin continues to be subject to a travel ban imposed by the Turkish authorities, and so was unable to attend the award ceremony held on 13 February 2019 in Geneva. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/29/eren-keskin-mea-nominee-2019-speaks-out-fearlessly-turkey-more-oppressive-today-than-ever/]. She has been accused of denigrating the Nation and insulting the Turkish President.

She is free, pending the outcome of her appeal. 143 charges were brought against her, but she decided to remain in Turkey whatever the cost. “Even in jail, I will continue to fight. This is my way of living, I will not change it”, said the laureate, who is also very vocal in denouncing sexual violence and rape in detention and defending victims.

Eren Keskin is honoured for her exceptional and unrelenting commitment to fundamental freedoms and rights in Turkey. “The jury was impressed by the courage and tenacity she has shown, over the past 30 years, in advancing the rights of women, Kurds and LGBTI+ notably”, explained Dick Oosting, Chair of the Martin Ennals Foundation. « We add our voice to all those who call on the Turkish authorities to drop all charges on free speech grounds. Turkey must respect and uphold the fundamental rights of its citizens, in all their diversity. »

This award is vital not only for me, but also for all human rights defenders in Turkey and for the people we stand up for. Freedom of expression and freedom of thought are severely punished in Turkey nowadays. The government tolerates no dissenting voices. ..I know that by resisting we can change the world. Thank you for not forgetting us. Your solidarity and support give me the courage to continue the struggle “, she declared.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1905/S00085/martin-ennals-award-finalist-eren-keskin-honoured.htm

Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2019 goes to Hungarian Márta Pardavi

April 5, 2019

Hungarian human rights lawyer Márta Pardavi has been awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2019. As an outspoken critic of the Hungarian government and its policies, Márta is often smeared and her work discredited. The award is a recognition of her work of many years, fighting against the attempts to systematically dismantle democracy, normalisation of xenophobia and hate crimes in Hungary.

Márta Pardavi is the Co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, one of Hungary’s leading human rights organisations. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee is a watchdog organisation that protects human dignity and the rule of law through legal and public advocacy methods. Being both vocal and successful in its activities, and particularly because of their work to support asylum seekers, the organisation has become a prime target of the government’s toxic campaigns.

“Democracy is under threat all over the world and now we see what authoritarians do when they get to power. They target critics, human rights defenders and treat marginalised groups as threats to society. We see this happening in Hungary, but also in other countries such as Poland. This award sends a very strong message, that our work is recognised, and that we as civil society organisations will continue to defend democratic values”, said Márta Pardavi.

Márta Pardavi, Civil Rights Defender of The Year 2019

“For many years, human rights lawyer Márta Pardavi has courageously defended civil and political rights in Hungary. She is leading the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s work in the field of refugee protection, and with dignity and professionalism, confronts those who attempt to systematically dismantle civil society and normalise xenophobia and hate crimes. For her dedication and exceptional contribution to resist inhumane treatment of the most vulnerable, Márta is awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2019”, , said the Board of Civil Rights Defenders in its motivation.

During the first two decades of Hungary’s post-communist history, the country was a young but stable democracy, and a role-model of successful transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Today, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been in power almost a decade, a period during which Hungary has undergone dramatic changes. Too many posts in this blog have been devoted to this, see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/hungary/.

….But despite this climate, human rights defenders and human rights organisations continue to challenge state policies and propaganda, and the public support for their activities is growing.

“Many civil society organisations are working to address this and while it was probably both unwanted and unintended, the Hungarian government’s pressure has made us better at working together, making us stronger. And the same is true for the government’s anti-NGO campaigns – we have seen that civil society support is growing as an unintended consequence of the state propaganda”, said Márta Pardavi.

For  more on the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award

https://crd.org/2019/04/04/civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-2019-marta-pardavi/

 

In memoriam human rights defender Tejshree Thapa of Human Rights Watch

April 3, 2019

Profile of Nayaali Ramirez Espinosa, indigenous rights defender of the Maya

March 31, 2019

Last year ISHR interviewed Nayaali Ramirez Espinosa, a lawyer providing legal assistance to Mayan communities in the region of Holpelchén, in the State of Campeche in Mexico. She expresses her satisfaction with some legal achievements such as the indigenous consultation in the region. It was published on 13 December, 2018.

Profile of Valentina Rosendo Cantu, human rights defender in Mexico

March 13, 2019

On 8 March 2019 LEXICON marked International Women’s Day  – in partnership with Peace Brigades International,- with a profile of Valentina Rosendo Cantu, a human rights defender in Mexico. This is the story of a woman who fought for her dignity and transformed her trauma and suffering into resilience. Her case led to a groundbreaking verdict by the Inter-American Court in June 2018.

Read the rest of this entry »