Human Rights Defender of the Month: Elrudia Abdalla Hussein

By the time Elrudia Abdalla Hussein, a Sudanese woman human rights defender was in secondary school, she had witnessed the killings of countless people. Growing up in Darfur, she observed violence and human rights abuses. “If you do not have power, you do not have rights,” she concluded.  As a result, she decided to join a student association during her tertiary education to raise awareness about human rights and fight injustice.

When strangers entered their family home in 2010, Elrudia and her husband decided to flee to Uganda with their children. As a refugee, Elrudia faced new human rights challenges. Many of the Sudanese refugee women in her community are single mothers struggling financially. Coming from a war zone, they often face mental health challenges. Many of them only know basic English, making it difficult to navigate the Ugandan refugee system. When one of the women in Elrudia’s community struggled to pay rent, she got together with a group of Sudanese refugee women to help out.

“We decided to come together as sisters, and all put in a financial contribution to pay two months of her rent. After this, we decided to continue the communal support and founded an association.” Sudanese Women for Peace and Development association not only helps refugee women financially, but also with asylum procedures, referrals for support by other NGOs, counselling, trainings, and raising awareness about their rights. It is run entirely by volunteers from the Sudanese refugee community, who also fund the project to a large extent.

As refugees, it can be quite tricky to defend human rights in Uganda: involvement in politics can lead to an investigation that could ultimately revoke refugee status, but the line between politics and human rights is often rather thin. Elrudia’s association clearly focuses on social work, yet they carefully steer clear of any speech or activity that could be interpreted as political – a difficult balancing act sometimes. Another difficulty Elrudia and other exiled HRDs face is how to generate income for their families. Refugees have to rely on informal jobs to cover expenses like rent, food or school fees, so Elrudia often sells food she has prepared – while running the women’s association and also completing her master’s degree in Agriculture and Economics.

What keeps her going is hope: “I see things getting better around me. It’s easier to be in touch with friends and family back in Darfur. That gives me hope. Seeing the impact that we make in our community pushes me to continue, despite the difficulties. And: when I start something, I finish it!”

 

See more HRDs of the Month

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Sandra Aceng

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.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Chantal Mutamuriza

Chantal Mutamuriza does not wait for problems to be solved. When the Burundian woman human rights defender (WHRD) encounters a problem, she will seek a solution there and then. When hundreds of thousands Burundians had to flee from political unrest in 2015, many of them were stranded in refugee camps with little economic opportunity or access to education. In her problem-solving spirit, Chantal felt compelled to act: she quit her job to put her skills and network to use and founded the NGO Light For All.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Foni Joyce

Foni Joyce has engaged in humanitarian work since the age of 20, when she joined a refugee student organisation to amplify the voices of refugees. Originally from South Sudan, Foni grew up as a refugee in Nairobi, Kenya, but she makes it clear that ‘refugee’ is merely a legal definition: “I firstly define myself as a human being who has been uprooted.”

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Meskerem  Geset Techane

Meskerem Geset Techane has fought injustice since she can remember: as a child she was known to stand up for herself and others, whether against bullies, teachers, her parents or church. Fighting injustice and promoting human rights is a common theme in the lawyer’s life. “It’s a passion, promoting human rights is not something you choose to do for a living or as a career opportunity. It’s more of a calling for me.”

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Andrew Gole

Andrew Gole’s journey to become a human rights defender (HRD) was sparked by a small request: in 2015, a human rights organisation reached out to the trained software engineer about a digital security training. “I didn’t know much about the HRD eco-system or about digital security as an environment on its own,” Andrew says. “So, I did some research, and realised digital security support is just the basic support I used to provide in an internet café.”

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Onesmo Olengurumwa

Protecting human rights is Onesmo Olengurumwa’s passion. When his secondary school lacked access to water and was threatened with closure, Onesmo successfully rallied his fellow students together and protested for their right to education. While at university, he was the human rights association’s president. Becoming a human rights defender was not really a conscious choice, but just the natural course of Onesmo’s life.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Malab Alneel

Malab Alneel was only 20 when Sudan’s revolution started in December 2018, but she knew it was the moment to get involved: “I grew up in a house that was very political. All of my sisters are activists, my parents are very involved. Activism has always been there. But for me it started with the revolution. It just felt like a time for change.”

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