Human Rights Defenders of the Month: Anastsia Nambo and Is’haq Abubakar

Anastsia Nambo and Is’haq Abubakar were awarded the Human Rights Defender (HRD) Award 2018, given out annually by the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya (NCHRD-K) and the Working Group on Human Rights Defenders (WGHRD). This award recognises HRDs who have conducted extraordinary work to promote and protect human rights in Kenya.

Anastasia Nambo

Anastasia Nambo was selected as award winner due to her extraordinary human rights work as an environmental activist in her local community in Mombasa. Since 2009, she has become a well-known and strong human rights figure in her community. When a metal refinery was established in Uhuru Owino slums in Mombasa, without the consent of the community, she initiated active advocacy and lobbying to close the refinery. Her efforts, together with other community members, culminated in the metal refinery being shut down in 2014.

While fighting for the human rights of the people of Uhuru Owino slums, she faced verbal attacks and anonymous threats, in addition to people attempting to break into her home. Her home was later demolished due to her advocacy initiatives against the refinery. The human right attacks she faced forced her to flee to Uganda for a while, for her safety.

Despite the challenges and violations faced, Anastasia continues to stand up for her rights, and the rights of the people in her community. She is dedicated to continue her resilience and to advocate for human rights, while encouraging others to follow her path to ensure that human rights are upheld.

Is’haq Abubakar

Is’haq received the award due to his outstanding human rights work in the organisation, Save Lamu. The organisation, located at the island of Lamu, fights for the island community and environment, in the onset of the LAPSSET project – a regional project between Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan aimed at linking the three countries to each other, and to the rest of East Africa. Additionally, Is’haq is the founder of the organisation Lamu Coastal Indigenous People’s Rights for Development.

Through his work in Save Lamu, Is’haq sensitises the community on the environmental impact of the LAPSSET project, and protect the indigenous community during the process. He further represented the interests of the community by seeking legal redress through an environmental petition filed on human rights violations associated with the LAPSSET project. In addition to being an active HRD at local level, he engages closely with NCHRD-K and other Kenyan human rights platforms.

Is’haq has faced vast threats and harassment due to his human rights work, including from governmental officials. Yet, he continues to promote the rights of the people of Lamu, and push for justice and legal accountability for the environmental damages caused by LAPSSET. He is committed to protecting the environment and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples, in addition to encouraging and enhancing the efforts of HRDs in Lamu, and their ability to speak freely and stand up against violations by duty-bearers.

See more HRDs of the Month

Human Rights Defender of the month: Esther Tawiah

In Ghana, Esther Tawiah is one of the loudest voices for women empowerment and gender. It is also why she is one of the most loathed. Born and raised in New-Tafo in the country’s eastern region, Esther grew up surrounded by a culture that frowned at the idea of women participating in public affairs, and witnessed firsthand, the backlash those who dared to challenge that cultural norm faced.

“I grew up in a society where ageism and sexism were so entrenched. As a young person, you weren’t supposed to give your opinion on public issues, especially if you were a woman. Women who dared to speak up were caricatured and branded as frustrated, unmarriageable prostitutes, all designed to shut them up,” she says.

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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