On 26/01/2018, during a busy & buzzling Award Ceremony in Nairobi, the Human Rights Defender of the Year awards were handed out for the second time. Out of many good nominations, three winners(Upcoming HRD of the Year, HRD of the Year and Munir Mazrui lifetime achievement award) were chosen by an independent Selection Panel for their outstanding human rights work.
The independent selection panel, consisting of eminent representatives of the human rights community (chaired by former CJ Willy Mutunga), looked at several criteria amongst which: demonstrable impact of the HRD’s human rights work on the community, civil courage, leadership, innovation and creativity.
In recognizing the work undertake by HRDs in Kenya in the year 2017, the following HRDs emerged the best in their categories:
Upcoming HRD of the Year: Dr Kizzie Shako is Kenya’s first female Police Surgeon. She attends to over 50 cases of sexual violence weekly. She started Vunjakimya (Break the Silence), a social media platform that addresses sexual violence and the negative stigma associated with it. Vunjakimya is a voice for the voiceless. Dr Kizzie also founded the Dr. Kizzie Shako Network which functions as a real time rapid response hotline.
Human Rights Defender of the Year: Elias Kimaiyo Kibiwot is a human rights defender from the Sengwer community. Inspired by forced evictions and human rights violation of the community, Elias joined leaders of the Sengwer indigenous community, advocating for communal land rights. He has documented violations in Embobut forest and raised the profile of the situation of the Sengwer community. During his work, he was injured and is still nursing his injuries to date.
Munir Mazrui Lifetime achievement: Njeri Kabeberi activism career spans over three decades; as a young girl in 1982, she quietly began supporting mothers and wives of political prisoners. Later, she joined Wangari Maathai’s campaign to release Kenyan political prisoners. Njeri served on the board of KHRC for 12 years and worked for Amnesty International. In 2004 she formed the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy (CMD). Njeri’s current vision is to power an Environment Movement in Africa.
When interviewed, Ambassador Frans Makken of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, who is also the outgoing chair of the EU Working Group on Human Rights Defenders said: “I congratulate todays winners and nominees for their exemplary work. I am extremely proud to have hosted this important award for the second time. In Kenya, so many brave women and men stand up for other people’s rights, in spite of challenging circumstances, repercussions, and sometimes even threats to their lives. Today we celebrate all of them.”
Kamau Ngugi of the National Coalition on Human Rights Defenders Kenya had this to say: “The awards have demonstrated that every good deed by citizens, to speak out, stand up for human rights, at the smallest village or town, by anyone including people working with the government, is noticed and appreciated. I am proud to be associated with the enviable work of protecting rights.”
The HRD Awards are an initiative of the HRD Working Group, a group that brings together civil society organizations, activists and development partners to pursue the universal goal of protecting human rights and the defenders of these rights. Together with the National Coalition on Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD-K), the group has been chaired by the Netherlands for the last 4 years, and the chairmanship was handed over to Belgium during the awards Ceremony.
Article written and submitted by Francis Ndegwa