Human Rights Defenders
Podium Finish - Celebrating Our Female Human Rights Defenders In Africa

International Women Human Rights Defenders Day
Women's activism

Protesters marching for their rights and those of others.

© Shutterstock

It is arguably one of the most perilous professional and advocacy arenas to engage in. Plagued by numerous reports of physical torture, unlawful imprisonment, threats to their own safety and that of their families, and, more grievously, forced disappearances and death, human rights defenders bear the brunt of the worst acts of violence aimed at silencing and deterring their efforts. The work of all human rights defenders, irrespective of gender, is arduous. However, it becomes more complex for women human rights defenders as they often encounter gender-biased references and stereotypes upon entering the field. This diminishes their visibility and impact, requiring them to overcome initial barriers before their intended work can commence.

The work is far from glamorous, and the purpose of human rights defenders' efforts was never oriented toward seeking personal recognition. It is for this reason that, as a global community, we celebrate and honour our heroes and heroines dedicated to championing the causes of others.

In May 2023, the FNF Africa Regional programme featured six (6) Human Rights Defenders from the region during a study tour. This delegation, with diverse expertise, operates across various disciplines to promote awareness of human rights protection. The tour, titled "Face Me - Interface and Unpacking Experiences with Frontline Human Rights Defenders in Africa," comprised a two-city visit to Berlin and Nurnberg. During this tour, the human rights defenders engaged with and discussed matters with international organisations working on human rights worldwide. Amongst this delegation, four (4) members, all women, have been celebrated in 2023 for their remarkable achievements and unwavering dedication to their causes.

Esther Njomo Omam

Esther Njomo Omam, the Executive Director of Reach-Out Cameroon, has been honoured with multiple awards, including the German Africa Prize 2023 and the prestigious Global Pluralism Award 2023.

Esther Omam

Reach Out Cameroon’s Esther Omam wins Global Pluralism Award

© Global Center for Pluralism

Nice Nailantei Leng’ete

Nice Nailantei Leng’ete, the Founder of Nice Place Foundation—a leadership academy and safe-house for young girls rescued from Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriages—has been appointed as an ambassador for the Postcode Lottery Group International. This distinguished group, which includes influential figures such as Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton, acknowledges Leng’ete’s remarkable efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) and childhood marriages in Kenya and beyond. Additionally, Nice Place Foundation has been awarded a grant of €250,000.00 to further its outstanding work.

Nice Lengete

Nice Nailantei Leng’ete is the newest International Ambassador

© Postcode Lottery Group 

Valerie Zviuya

Valerie Zviuya, the Executive Director of Legal Resource Foundation Zimbabwe, was honoured with the prestigious Director of the Year award in the NGOs and Civil Society category.

Valerie Zviuya

Director of the Year (2023) award in the NGOs and Civil Society Category

© Valerie Zviuya

Namatai Kwekweza

Ms. Namatai Kwekweza, the Executive Director at WELEAD Trust, was awarded the inaugural Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize.

Namatai Kwekweza

Namatai Kwekweza wins the inaugural Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize

© Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Africa regional programme is immensely proud to collaborate with human rights defenders, recognising their tireless dedication in advancing human rights globally. Gratitude is extended to these heroes and heroines for their commitment to social justice and human rights causes.