Posts Tagged ‘York Press’

Human Rights Defenders from York: Hikma Rabih, Sudan

January 26, 2015

On 16 February 2015, the York Press carried a feature story by Stephen Lewis about 5 human rights defenders in the temporary shelter programme at York University. The aim of the placements is to give those fighting for human rights around the world a breather, as well as the chance to forge contacts with other human rights workers and organisations around the world.

In York, Hikma can wear jeans – something she’d never be able to do in her own country. “Sudan is a very patriarchal society,” the 33-year-old human rights lawyer says. “Women cannot wear trousers, and I cannot go out in public without a scarf on my head. I want to wear my trousers.

Born in North Darfur, she graduated with a law degree from Elnileen University in Khartoum in 2002, then started work as a protection officer at a refugee camp in South Darfur for civil war victims. In 2009, her organisation was closed down by the government.

York Press:
Hikma Rabih

Undeterred, in 2011 she set up a legal aid centre in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. Her organisation provides legal aid and representation for women who would otherwise have no chance of getting justice. Because of strict adultery laws, women who have sex outside marriage face 100 lashes, she says: married women who commit adultery can be stoned. If a woman is raped, but fails to prove it in court, she can be given 100 lashes as an adulteress. “The men always go free,” Hikma says.

5 human rights defenders in York tell their incredible stories (From York Press).

Human rights defenders from York: Valdênia Paulino Lanfranchi

January 24, 2015

On 16 February 2015, the York Press carried a feature story by Stephen Lewis about 5 human rights defenders in the temporary shelter programme at York University. The aim of the placements is to give those fighting for human rights around the world a breather, as well as the chance to forge contacts with other human rights workers and organisations around the world.
 

Valdênia grew up in the slums – or favelas – of Sao Paolo, Brazil’s biggest city. Home for her mother, father, three brothers, two sisters and herself was a small house with a tin roof. Her mother took in sewing. Her father worked in a factory until, in his mid-40s, he became ill. Because of poverty, many children end up on the streets, where they’re at risk of violence, abuse, disease and hunger. They have little chance of an education – and many girls end up in prostitution, Valdênia says.

When she was 14, Valdênia helped open a ‘safe’ house for young girls who worked as prostitutes. The police didn’t approve. “Who controls prostitution?” she says. “The policemen, and the men who have money.”

York Press:
Valdênia Paulino Lanfranchi

She lived with the girls for ten years, then helped open two human rights centres to help families in the favelas. She went to university, and got degrees in education and law. Eventually, after suffering repeated attacks and threats, she and her husband Renato, also a human rights worker, moved to Paraiba, in north-eastern Brazil. There Valdênia, now 47, joined the Oscar Romero human rights centre, working to protect the rights of local ‘indigenous’ people.

She also, in 2011, became Police Ombudsman for Paraiba – the first woman to hold the post. It brought her into conflicts with ‘those in power’. “I was then a victim of everything from raids on the headquarters of our organisations to sexual violence and death threats.” Brazil is supposed to be one of the world’s emerging democracies. “But we have more than 100 human rights defenders threatened with death,” she says. “We have inequality, poverty, hunger. Why? What has happened?”

5 human rights defenders in York tell their incredible stories (From York Press).

Human rights defender from York: Ahmed Al-Kolaibi, Yemen

January 23, 2015

On 16 February 2015, the York Press carried a feature story by Stephen Lewis about 5 human rights defenders in the temporary shelter programme at York University. The aim of the placements is to give those fighting for human rights around the world a breather, as well as the chance to forge contacts with other human rights workers and organisations around the world.

Ahmed Al-Kolaibi grew up in a mountain village in Dhamar in rural Yemen where the law counts for little, and what matters is tradition and custom. For more than 30 years, there have been ‘revenge’ wars between neighbouring villages. When he was seven, Ahmed lost his own father in one of these revenge killings. An uncle was also badly hurt As he grew older, Ahmed, now 27, began trying to persuade other young men in his village that the killings were senseless. The village elders, incensed that he didn’t want to fight for the ‘honour’ of his village, decided to make an example of him.

íYork Press:
Ahmed Al-Kolaibi

They punished me. They took my house, they took my land, because they wanted me to be an example,” he says. He went to Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, where he began to work for a peace-keeping organisation, the Dar Al-Salam Organisation. He works as a mediator in the warring villages, trying to arrange truces between rival sheikhs. He has helped train 360 other mediators – and has even secured the release of abducted foreigners. But being a mediator is very dangerous. “We have lost 15 people,” he says quietly.

It can also be deeply frustrating. Once, trying to negotiate a peace between two villages, he was told that 25 people had been killed in one, and ‘only’ 23 people in the other. Before the fighting could be resolved, he was told, ‘we have to kill two people from that village so it is 25/25′.

5 human rights defenders in York tell their incredible stories (From York Press).

Human rights defenders in York programme tell their story: Ruth Mumbi

January 22, 2015

On 16 February 2015 the York Press carried a feature story by Stephen Lewis about 5 human rights defenders in the temporary shelter programme at York University. The aim of the placements is to give those fighting for human rights around the world a breather, as well as the chance to forge contacts with other human rights workers and organisations around the world.As these are not the human rights defenders who figure highly in the news, I will in the coming days give you their stories. The first is Ruth Mumbi from Kenya:

York Press:
Ruth Mumbi

LIFE is tough in Nairobi’s Mathare slums in Kenya and “a lot of young people opt for crime so that they can have something to put on the table,” says Ruth Mumbi, who grew up here. There are small seeds of hope, however: among them the Bunge la Wamama Mashinani. It means the ‘grassroots women’s parliament’, says Ruth, flashing a smile. She helped found it, and now acts as coördinator.

We wanted to create a space for women to come together to discuss the challenges they are facing. Most women felt that we were not being fully heard.” The Bunge has few resources – not even a building. “We usually use small open spaces in the slums to hold our debates“.

The slum is riven by racial divides as well as crime – in 2006, fighting between rival Luo and Kikuyu groups saw at least ten people killed and hundreds of homes burned. But the young men who go out to rob, and rape, and kill, all have mothers or wives, Ruth says. “At the end of the day, they go back to their households, to their women. We should be talking with our kids to stop this.”

The Bunge also lobbies for better access to health care – and better access to justice for women who are raped or abused. The law can be an impossibly expensive business. “So we have been working with pro-bono lawyers and women’s rights organisations to provide free legal representation to women,” Ruth says.

As a human rights defender, she herself has faced harassment and intimidation. In 2011, she and a colleague were charged with incitement and remanded for two days in prison after leading a protest about the high death rates at a local maternity ward. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/kenya-rights-defenders-remain-under-attack/]. The harassment continues Ruth says: “Telling me to stop, sending threat messages, sending my mother messages telling her daughter to shut up or else.” And who is this shadowy ‘they’? “I believe they were the police.”

5 human rights defenders in York tell their incredible stories (From York Press).