Human Rights Defender of the Month (December 2018): Joseph Parsambei

Joseph Parsambei is the founder and Executive Director of the Tanzania Pastoralist Community Forum (TPCF), a network of organisations dedicated to the protection and promotion of pastoralist and indigenous rights in Tanzania. As a lawyer, his outstanding human rights work focuses on forced displacement of marginalised communities, as well as addressing their lack of inclusion in the justice system. Joseph has devoted himself to cases concerning indigenous peoples’ and pastoralists’ land rights, as well as environmental cases.

Furthermore, he is the co-founder of additional human rights organisations, including Tanzania Human Rights Defender Coalition (THRDC), Ngorongoro Paralegal Foundation NPF and Tanzania Pastoralist Students Association TPSA.

Joseph has help thousands of Maasai pastoralist human rights violation survivors to access justices in different local and regional courts with successful outcomes. He brought indigenous peoples issues to national and international advocacy mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review. Joseph has faced various threats to life and harassment by unknown peoples as a result of his noble work of defending indigenous peoples rights in Tanzania, as well as having to witness and support colleagues and friends facing arbitrary arrests and attacks due to their activism.

“They didn’t even want to arrest me – they just want to shoot me. This was because of my clear, frontline defence of my community. I do it to defend community and my own livelihood. I am a lawyer, I don’t run from the law”

For more information about Joseph Parsambei and the human rights situation of indigenous people in Tanzania, see the video interview with Joseph and our report on Marginalised Human Rights Defenders in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

See more HRDs of the Month

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Karis Moses Oteba

Karis Moses Oteba is DefendDefenders’ Protection Officer and Well-being Lead, promoting self-care and effective stress management amongst human rights defenders. He started defending human rights at the early age of 11, as a member of the children’s parliament, convened to listen to the views of children concerning Uganda’s 1997 Children’s Act.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Vanessa Tsehaye

Vanessa Tsehaye started her work as a human rights defender at an early age: at 16, she founded a high school group in support of imprisoned Eritrean journalist Seyoum Tsehaye. Seven years later, the same diaspora organisation, One Day Seyoum, is one of Eritrea’s leading human rights organisations – spear-headed by the now 23-year old Vanessa.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Edmund Yakani

Edmund Yakani is one of South Sudan’s most prominent human rights defenders (HRDs). The Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2017 has worked on an array of topics – the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), transitional justice, and the protection of HRDs in cooperation with DefendDefenders – that are all connected by the common thread of human rights promotion and protection.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Onyango Owor

In March 2020, Uganda’s Constitutional Court nullified the Public Order Management Act, 2013, a law that made arbitrary restrictions on freedom of assembly possible. One of the people behind the successful petition of POMA is Onyango Owor, a Ugandan lawyer with 15 years of experience in representing human rights defenders.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Kadar Abdi Ibrahim

Kadar Abdi Ibrahim is an outspoken human rights activist and journalist from Djibouti – a country where journalists are frequently harassed, subjected to government-orchestrated intimidation and reprisals, and prevented from pursuing their work independently. Yet, Kadar continues to use his voice and pen as tools to promote justice.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Aluel Atem

Aluel Atem is an ambitious woman activist from South Sudan who plays a vital role in the promotion of women’s rights in the country. However, life as an outspoken feminist in a patriarchal country is not a walk in the park. “It’s not only about being a female, but a young female. You get undermined for being a woman in all-man spaces, and for being young in older spaces,” Aluel explains.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Faiza Abdi Mohamed

The Somali activist Faiza Abdi Mohamed has promoted human rights in her home country for a decade, which has made her a target of verbal abuse, threats, and arbitrary arrest, forcing her to flee Somalia and seek exile in Uganda. Yet, she remains extremely vocal about human rights violations in her country. “I’ve lost so many of my friends due to cruelties, so I can’t keep quiet,” she says.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Omot Agwa Okwoy

In Ethiopia, land grabbing and villagisation has resulted in severe human rights abuses, however, being vocal about these abuses can be extremely risky. Omot Agwa Okwoy, our human rights defender of the month for December 2019, has fought for land rights and the rights of indigenous people in the Gambella region in Ethiopia for almost 20 years – leaving him with visible and invisible scars.

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