Human Rights Defender of the Month: Jaqueline Mutere

Jaqueline Mutere’s motivation to establish Grace Agenda was a response to the post-election sexual violence of 2007 and 2008 in Kenya. Additionally, as a survivor of sexual violence which resulted into conception of a child, and following the experience of other survivors, Jaqueline identified the need to form an organisation that advocates for reparations for survivors of sexual violence. 

“I was sexually violated, conceived and had a child. It is the path of dealing with the trauma, working, and walking through the pain, and surviving the experience that inspired the initiation of the community-based organisation”

Jaqueline Mutere, Founder and Director of Grace Agenda Tweet

In her work, one of the key challenges she faces is bridging the gap between the survivors’ expectations from the government and vice versa. For the government to give reparations, the survivor needs to have documentation to show that they qualify to take the government to court. Unfortunately, the burden of proof falls on the survivor. Survivors on the other hand believe that it is the government’s responsibility to provide reprieve, relief, and support.

“I noticed that others in the country like internally displaced people (IDPs) are acknowledged, recognised and compensated while survivors of sexual violence were only referenced in reports. Among the IDPs, many suffered the double tragedy of being a survivor of sexual violence. This is what inspired the walk towards seeking reparations from the government and assurance of non-repetition of the violence.”

Jaqueline Mutere, Founder and Director of Grace Agenda Tweet

Moreover, women and children face stigma associated with sexual violence. Another challenge she faces is that some civil society organisations view victims of sexual violence as a source for funding. Furthermore, there is limited knowledge on survivor-centred approaches, and donors are reluctant to fund projects related to sexual violence.

Jaqueline believes that national actors in Kenya should provide compensation and restitution, sensitively and speedily try sexual violence cases, and endeavour to embrace grassroots organisations that work with survivors. They should also adhere to international instruments Kenya has signed, and train officers to have a human-centred response while keeping peace during conflict.

Regional actors need to hold governments accountable for actions and omissions and engage protection actors on the ground to ensure human rights defenders are supported in their work. International actors should take culprits to international courts after investigations to ensure access to justice, Jaqueline says.

Despite all the challenges Jaqueline faces, the women, and children she supports, and the reality of the long-term effects of mental and physical trauma motivate her to continue promoting and protecting human rights.

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.