WINNERS OF THE 2018 HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AWARDS ANNOUNCED
30 November 2018 – Nairobi, Kenya.
The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya (NCHRD-K) and the Working Group on Human Rights Defenders announced today the winners of the 2018 Human Rights Defenders awards during a ceremony held in Nairobi at the Residence of the Belgian Ambassador.
The 2018 winners are:
For the third consecutive year, and chosen by an independent selection panel of eminent Kenyans, chaired by Dr Willy Mutunga, the three different awards were handed out to the winners for their outstanding work in the field of human rights. Some of the selection criteria included civil courage, leadership, innovation, demonstrable impact of the Human Rights Defender’s work on the community, and creativity.
“In every community, there are individuals who stand out. They defend human rights, and they do so at times under very extraordinary circumstances,” says Kamau Ngugi, Executive Director of the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders. “The good bit is that their work is appreciated by the society but they are rarely honoured with state commendations. The awards ceremony is a special occasion to honour those courageous individuals who do excellent work within our communities.”
The objective of the Awards ceremony is to honor the extraordinary work of Human Rights Defenders in the protection of human rights while they face many challenges in their capacity of agents of social change and transformation. An important aim of the awards is to improve the safety and protection of Human Rights Defenders as they benefit from the visibility and international recognition.
“As a country, Belgium strongly believes that respect for human rights is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society, as well as of development,” says H.E. Nicolas Nihon, Ambassador of Belgium to Kenya. “Human rights and the protection of Human Rights Defenders are a very important part of our foreign policy and we believe that solidarity in this domain is essential.”
The Awards ceremony is an initiative of the Human Rights Defenders Working Group, currently presided by the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders of Kenya and co- chaired by Belgium. The Working Group brings together civil society organizations, activists and development partners to pursue the universal goal of protecting human rights and the defenders of these rights.
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Notes to the Editors:
Further details on the 2018 Winners:
Anastasia is a mother, a preacher by profession and an avid advocate of environmental rights. She started her human rights defence work in 2009 when a metal refinery was established in the Uhuru Owino slums without community consent or consultation. The adverse effects of the metal refinery led to active advocacy and lobbying by Anastasia and community members. Their struggle bore fruit in 2014 when the refinery was closed. Anastasia and the community have undergone various challenges including demolition of their homes, she has faced verbal attacks, threats through texts and attempts to break into her home. To deal with these challenges she sought refuge in Uganda for some time. She also realized that she had to have resilience to overcome some of the challenges. However, these challenges do not deter her from her quest for justice. The award will encourage members of her community that despite the challenges and struggles involved in advocating for what is right, there is hope of celebrating their successes with the world.
Is’haq was born and educated in Lamu County where he is a public relations manager working with the indigenous community. He is also a human rights defender focusing on environmental rights issues. Is’haq was initially involved with the Wanaharakati Okoa Lamu Community Based Organisation (CBO), which his father founded together with Imams in Lamu. He however then went on and co-founded Save Lamu, an umbrella of CBOs established in Lamu in the onset of the LAPSSET project. Save Lamu sensitizes the community on the environmental impact of the LAPSSET project and represents the interest of the community by seeking legal redress through an environmental petition filed on human rights violations associated with the LAPSSET project. Is’haq is also the founder of Lamu Coastal Indigenous Peoples Right for Development. His father’s work and legacy is his greatest inspiration and keeps him going despite the challenges he faces in his human rights work. He has experienced threats from anonymous people and police harassment, which he has overcome through strategic partnerships with mainstream organizations in the country such as NCHRD – K, MUHURI and KNCHR. Is’haq believes that the award will legitimize his work, encourage and enhance efforts of HRDs in Lamu to work openly and in partnership with duty bearers in defending indigenous peoples’ rights.
Christine is a mother, an accountant and a woman leader in her Endorois community. Over time, Christine has grown to be a strong human rights defender advocating for the rights of the Endorois community both at a local, national, regional and international level. She has placed special focus on Endorois women land rights through her work with the Endorois Welfare Council (EWC) as a Program Officer – Women’s Land Rights. As a human rights defender, she advocates against FGM in the community and for the empowerment of the Endorois women and girls. She has also trained women in her community on their rights which has boosted their participation and confidence in the community. One of her
successes was when she represented her community and strongly articulated issues affecting her community at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) session in 2011. She was able to share the progress of the case that the community won in 2010 at the same session in Banjul, The Gambia. Christine has walked the fine line between being a woman from a conservative community and leading from the front as part of the community negotiating team, despite being a woman with a disability. The award will boost her spirits and will provide her a platform to advance the Endorois community case, as well as highlight the plight of indigenous women land rights.
Okiya Omtatah Okoiti is a member of the Catholic Church who believes in the social doctrine of the Good Samaritan, and the call to be the salt of the earth as a witness of Jesus Christ, which influences his work. He is also a published author and an accomplished playwright who has published five plays in Kenya and in the USA. As a HRD, he mostly engages in civic action in defence of human rights for he believes a human being is created in God’s image and likeness and, therefore, must be respected in all circumstances. He advocates for rights through litigation as the outcome goes on record and becomes part of the law. He has prosecuted many cases on various issues to defend the Constitution and uphold the rule of law, because he believes that if the law is respected, violations of human rights will not occur. Okiya has been active in human rights for decades. One of his key earliest successes being his campaign in 1994 against the attempt by powerful individuals in Government to illegally acquire the land occupied by the National Theatre in Nairobi so that they could construct a silo for parking cars on it. He also notes that an important achievement for him as a creative writer was to defend the freedom of creative expression in the petition he successfully filed against the Government’s decision to ban a stage play titled Shackles of Doom, which was a winning script performed during the year 2013 National Drama Festivals by Butere Girls High School. As a result of his success, the girls were able to perform their play at the National Finals in Mombasa, with the Court ordering the Government to foot their bill. What is outstanding about Okiya is that he is driven by conviction in the worth of his work, which has served him well. He believes that winning the award will profile his work and offer him a veil of protection.