Sara Seerat, an Afghan journalist born in 1993, is committed to helping girls gain access to education and to the labour market. In 2016, Seerat was named director of the association of women journalists in Kapisa province, as well as regional representative of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. She has appeared in numerous television and radio interviews, in which she denounces violence against women. In March 2019, she joined women from all provinces of the country as they called for, among other things, the protection of women’s rights and respect for the democratic constitution in connection with negotiations with the Taliban. Despite her engagement at national level, she remains deeply attached to her home province of Kapisa. For example, she converted the social and cultural women’s institute that she leads there into a sewing studio to produce COVID-19 face masks, which she then distributed free of charge.
Azza Soliman from Egypt is a lawyer who works tirelessly to advance the causes of women’s and human rights. In 1995 she founded the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), to offer legal support to victims of abuse and domestic violence. Soliman advocates for a modern interpretation of Islamic law that takes into account the realities of people’s lives and human rights Standards.
Sérgio Piçarra, who was born in 1969 in Luanda, is probably the most well-known Angolan comic book artist and author. His work has been shaped by Angola’s recent history as a country that became independent in 1975 and has only lived in peace since 2002. Piçarra is a pioneer of satirical comics in Angola, and he publishes his work in independent weekly newspapers. Since his comics are also shared on social networks, they are available to the general public, and they have become a standard point of reference for political discussions, such as on the reform policies of the Angolan Government. Piçarra collaborates with numerous civil society organisations. In 2019, he became the first Angolan cartoon artist to participate in the initiative Cartooning for Peace in Africa.
Francinara Soares Martins (Nara Baré) – of the Baré people who live along the upper Rio Negro (Amazon/Brazil) – is the first woman to lead the largest indigenous organisation in Brazil, with 75 member organisations from the nine federal states in Brazil’s Amazon region (COIAB). COIAB was established in 1989 and promotes the rights of Brazil’s indigenous population. COIAB represents approximately 160 indigenous peoples, who account for some 60% of Brazil’s indigenous population. Nana Baré is one of their most influential leaders, both with regard to their political representation and when it comes to strengthening the rights of indigenous women.
The historian Yury Dmitriev has been in pretrial detention since 2016. Prior to this he had served as head of the Karelian branch of the human rights NGO Memorial since the 1980s, researching and publicising mass executions carried out in the forest of Sandarmokh under Stalin’s rule. Memorial campaigns within Russia for human rights and efforts to address historical human rights violations, as well as remembrance of the victims of Stalinist repression. Over almost 30 years, Dmitriev compiled a list of 40,000 names of people executed or deported during the Great Terror, and discovered historical mass graves in Sandarmokh and Krasny Bor and on the Solovetsky Islands. He deserves particular recognition for his exceptional commitment to addressing historical crimes in the former Soviet Union and preserving the memory of the Stalinist Terror despite sometimes significant opposition, not least from official Russian policy on the country’s past.
Li Yuhan was born in 1957 and is a Chinese human rights lawyer who for many years worked to advance human rights and the rule of law in China. After the wave of arrests that targeted Chinese human rights lawyers, Li Yuhan worked to uphold the rights of the family members of those who were detained. In October 2017, she herself was arrested. Since then, she has been in detention in Shenyang City, Liaoning Province. According to the most recent reports, a trial has not yet been held.
Nagham Nawzat Hasan is a Yazidi gynaecologist originally from Bashiqa. Since 2014 she has been an advocate for women victims of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq that have been abducted, sold, raped and tortured. She provides these women with psychosocial support and medical care, also in camps for internally displaced persons. Moreover, the NGO that she founded, Hopemakers Organization for Women, works to promote the economic reintegration of these women and girls. Dr Nagham Nawzat Hasan studied medicine in Mosul and is currently the chief physician at the local hospital in Sheikhan, a city northeast of Mosul.
Zoya Rouhana is the director of the feminist organisation KAFA (enough!) Violence & Exploitation. She is a pioneer in Lebanon and the wider region when it comes to tackling the problem of violence against women. In 1995, she organised the first Arabic public hearing for victims of violence, which led to the establishment of the Arab Women’s Court. In 2005 Zoya Rouhana founded the KAFA women’s rights movement. KAFA drafted the first bill for the protection of women from domestic violence that was adopted by the Lebanese parliament in 2014. Moreover, KAFA advanced the national agenda with regard to migrant domestic workers, trafficking in women and the sexual abuse of children and is currently fighting for the introduction of a uniform personal status act.
Nayyab Ali has for ten years been a political and social activist, fighting for the rights of the transgender community in Pakistan. She was one of the first transgender people to run for office in the 2018 parliamentary elections. Ms Ali is also the national coordinator of the All Pakistan Transgender Election Network, the first national association striving for the political emancipation of transgender people, and she played a prominent role in drawing up the bill for the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act. She has served as an independent adviser to the United Nations and for government institutions. She founded the first school for transgender people in Okara (Punjab). The survivor of an acid attack, she is also the co-chairperson of the Pakistani NGO Ending Violence against Women/Girls Alliance. She has been awarded the Irish LGBT+ GALAS Activist Award and the transgender HERO Asia award in Thailand.
Issam Younis has for 30 years been engaged in promoting human rights and the rule of law in the Palestinian territories, especially in the Gaza Strip. Since 2000 he has served as general director of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, and since 2017 he has also been a member of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights.
Mathilda Twomey is the first female judge in the history of the Seychelles. She is also the first woman to be appointed Chief Justice – a position that in the administrative system of the Seychelles makes her equivalent to a Minister of Justice. As a member of the Constitutional Commission, she helped draft the country’s new constitution between 1992 and 1993.
During the past four years, the Slovak ombudswoman Mária Patakyová has daringly fought for her fellow citizens’ human rights and fundamental freedoms. By persistently drawing attention to irregularities in the judiciary and unfair treatment of vulnerable groups (children, old people, Roma, prisoners, people with disabilities, etc.) she has helped create better conditions for upholding rule-of-law principles and implementing better protection measures for vulnerable groups. Recently, against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Patakyová has advocated for non-discriminatory treatment of the Roma, for the full realisation of the right to legal abortions and for the humane implementation of state-sanctioned quarantine measures.
Merekaje Lorna Nanjia is a founding member of the South Sudan Democratic Engagement, Monitoring and Observation Programme, one of the largest civil society organisations in the country that focuses on human rights, gender mainstreaming and conflict resolution. As a civil society representative, she participates in numerous national political processes and has been advocating for human rights and a stronger civil society since the country gained Independence.