Human Rights Defender of the month: Abacha Ahmed Ibrahim

Abacha Ahmed Ibrahim is one of his country’s leading advocates for the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

 

Born 34 years ago into a family of Eight, in Kajokeji County, East of Juba, the Capital of South Sudan, Abacha ’s passion for human rights was born out of grim personal experience. At birth, he was immediately neglected by his father on discovering that the little infant was visually impaired.

“My own father denied me access to education because he considered my disability a kind of misfortune brought to him by my mother,” he says.

Consequently, Abacha had to rely on his mother to fend for him through school, an experience that brought him face-face with the deep-seated and far-reaching social stigma against PWDs prevalent in South Sudan society and institutions.

“This (the stigma) was my earliest motivation – by the time I was getting done with secondary school, I was determined to pursue a career in human rights, particularly the rights of PWDs, to show that they too are people like others, he says.

Today, Abacha works as a Senior Program Manager at Action for Community Education, one of the leading NGOs in Juba, where he manages education projects and human rights advocacy. Here, for the last 10 years, he has been organising people into local group focus discussions and community dialogues as a way of creating civic consciousness and creating social awareness about the importance of education and the human rights, including the rights of PWDs.

documented over 100 cases of missing persons, and helped locate about 60, from prisons to hospitals. Among these, at least five were found dead in city morgues.

“We mobilise all people including PWDs to participate in these discussions. That way, people are able to appreciate that no matter one’s physical ability, or disability, we all are human beings with common needs and aspirations. This contributes to eliminating stigma against PWDs,” he says.

Like in many other countries around the region, Abacha notes that PWDs in South Sudan continue to face challenges, from poorly designed buildings with neither rumps nor lifts, no parking spaces designated to PWDs, to insufficient social welfare programs designed to uplift PWDs from poverty.

Things are made even more complicated by South Sudan’s history with political conflict.

“Working in the field of human rights in a country recovering from a civil war is not easy. There is a lot of suspicion, and it is difficult to pursue accountability. Oftentimes, we’re denied access to accountability institutions, we face threats and intimidation. In one such incident, I even received a death threat from one of our security agencies following an opinion I wrote in the press criticizing the human rights abuses in the country,” Abacha observes.

Still, he is optimistic of better days ahead for human rights defenders and PWDs

“Recognition of persons with disability, community mindset and perception attitudes are gradually changing towards PWDs. The enactment of inclusive policies like the National Inclusive Education Policy 2014 and the South Sudan National Disability Inclusion Policy 2013 also shows that the authorities that be recognise the existence of an issue that needs to be addressed,” he says.

There is still work to be done though. Abacha notes that there is need to among others ensure that PWDs participate in identifying barriers that impede their access, involve them in planning, designing, and implementing town building plans and community programs, include PWDs and their caregivers in community decision making structures and processes, and finally, to create a nationwide corporate environment with the right business strategy and attitude to recruit, hire, retain and advance the careers of PWDs.

“That is our next frontier,” he says.

See more HRDs of the Month

Human Rights Defender of the month: Alex Njenga John

Alex Njenga has always believed in egalitarianism both as a principle and as a tool for justice. As a result, he has always been suspicious of, and at times hostile to social prejudices that treat some people as “more equal than others,” – to use a line from George Orwell’s famed political fable, Animal Farm.

Some of the experiences that have shaped his social and political outlook have been personal. As an adolescent in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County, Alex was stigmatised and denied healthcare after he identified himself as belonging to Kenya’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) community.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Abacha Ahmed Ibrahim

Abacha Ahmed Ibrahim is one of his country’s leading advocates for the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

Born 34 years ago into a family of Eight, in Kajokeji County, East of Juba, the Capital of South Sudan, Abacha ’s passion for human rights was born out of grim personal experience. At birth, he was immediately neglected by his father on discovering that the little infant was visually impaired.

“My own father denied me access to education because he considered my disability a kind of misfortune brought to him by my mother,” he says.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Fadia Khalaf

Fadia Khalaf was not meant to be an activist. By her own admission, she was born into a conservative Muslim family – the first of six siblings. In Saudi Arabia where she was born and raised, the ruling ideology in the Kingdom was wahabbism – a puritanical version of Islam in which women are strictly expected to stay in the background and not play any public role. Yet even in that conservative setting, she managed to nurture a political consciousness:

“I think reading at young age helped build my awareness on concepts like justice and rights in general. I was exposed to concepts around human freedom, and that nurtured the rebel in me,” she says.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Mugisha Jelousy

As the rest of Uganda readies itself to finally get its oil out of the ground with the conclusion of the Final Investment Decision (FID), Mugisha Jealousy, 50, is one of those following the events with a mournful resignation.

A resident of Kasenyi village, Nile Parish in Buliisa district, Mugisha is one of those affected by the Tilenga project, a multipronged project by Total E&P. The project involves reservation and development of land in districts of Buliisa and Nwoya for oil exploration, setting up of a crude oil processing plant and related infrastructure to support Uganda’s oil production activities.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Anny Kapenga

As a young student, Anny Kapenga used to cringe at the cult-like worship of Mobutu Sese Seko, the then Zaire’s President. By then, in the early 1990s, Zaire was still under one party rule, and calls were increasing for Mobutu to open political space to allow other parties to operate. In the meantime, however, all Zairians were expected to show affection for Mobutu wherever they gathered in public.

Students across Zaire’s schools were required to sing and dance adoringly before his (Mobutu)’s portrait every morning before they went to class, and all school scholastic materials were emblemed with his portrait. A young Anny never really appreciated the obsession:

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Fadwo Hassan Jimale

Women in Somalia are not supposed to be ‘loud.’ Historically, conservative religious traditions combined with a resilient patriarchal system ensured that women in the coastal nation remain veiled and meek, always in the shadow of their husbands.

Not so for Fadwo Hassan Jimale, Somalia’s crusading human rights defender. As a ranking member of Somalia’s Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Fadwo and her colleagues host regular capacity building sessions for current and emerging women human rights defenders (WHRDs).

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Oliver Rubama

As a lone girl in a traditionally patriarchal & heteronormative Muslim family in Tanzania, Oliver Rubama grew up with so much pressure to conform. She was expected to conform to socially expected patterns of female behavior and dress, and to aspire to get married to a man approved by her family.

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