Close this search box.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Mariam Nakibuuka

On 26th July 2021, Mariam Nakibuuka, 35, breathed her last at Uganda’s Kampala hospital, succumbing to the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic. Mariam joined DefendDefenders as an intern in 2015, and rose through the ranks from being a fellow, to a Protection Assistant, and finally to a Senior Protection Associate, at the time of her death. 

“She was a dedicated and committed employee and human rights defender, who worked tirelessly to ensure that human rights defenders at risk received the support needed to continue their work. She will be remembered for her passion for human rights, care for the safety and wellbeing of both her colleagues and human rights defenders,"

In the security and protection management department where she worked, Mariam was a valued member of the team, distinguishing herself with boundless energy and enthusiasm for her work.  

“She was passionate about human rights, about making the world a better place for all human beings. She did what she did not because she studied about it – even when she had studied law at university, or because it was a job, but because the passion for justice was something ingrained in her. Watching her go about her work, you got a sense that this was something she believed in, and that in DefendDefenders, she had gotten the perfect platform to release her energy and passion,”

In 2019, Mariam helped relocate a Burundian WHRD who stood up for women rights and purposed to document human rights violations against women in the wake of the 2015 political violence in Burundi. In the process, the WHRD, also a victim of sexual violence, lost her husband to the ensuing violence. Mariam tirelessly coordinated the relocation of the WHRD and her five children to Uganda in a manner that bore the hallmarks of her dedication.

“The WHRD was deeply traumatized and needed psychosocial support. Mariam helped her access this support, and in a very short time, she was able to win her and her children’s trust and confidence with an ease that reflected both her sensitivity and unique ability to connect with the suffering of others,”

At DefendDefenders, Mariam helped invigorate the work of the protection and security management Department by mainstreaming the use of the database and customizing it to meet the different functions of the department. She also took lead on emergency grants’ programming, which enabled the department to swiftly come to the rescue of several HRDs in our focus countries whenever they needed our aid.

One of our partners from South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN), John Ador Akoy, remembered Mariam as “A hardworking, friendly, and thoughtful advocate for human dignity, who was also full of empathy.” “She was destined to make the world a better place,” he noted.

She hoped to become a leading figure in the human rights field globally, using her law training to carryout extensive research in the field of human rights.

DefendDefenders honours Mariam’s memory and celebrates her short, but impactful life lived in service of others. She is posthumously recognised as the HRD of the month for July 2021.