Shaharzad Akbar is an Afghan human rights defender who campaigns in particular for the rights of women in Afghanistan. She has been the Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission since 2019. Until the Taliban took power, she focused on the inclusion of women, young people and civil society in the peace process and on the investigation of serious rights violations. She is currently outside of the country.
Chang Weiping is a Chinese human rights lawyer. He has been in detention once again since 22 October 2020. Chang has primarily worked to advocate LGBTI rights and fight discrimination against women and HIV‑positive people, which led to his losing his licence to practise. He was first detained in January 2020 in an operation known as the Xiamen crackdown. Following his release he publicly discussed the torture he had experienced, which led to a second arrest in October 2020. Despite having been formally arrested and charged in April 2021, he has not yet been granted direct access to lawyers.
Jacques Letang is a trained judge and lawyer in Haiti, where he campaigns for human rights and the rule of law. He is a founding member of the Human Rights Office in Haiti and since 2015 has led a legal team which has facilitated the release of over 150 arbitrarily detained people, supported hundreds of victims of gender-based violence and handled symbolic cases of human rights violations such as the La Saline massacre.
Cristina Palabay from the Philippines has led the national association Karapatan, which brings together human rights defenders and organisations, since 2010. Palabay and her association support victims in court and fight against restrictions on civil liberties by the Duterte government. She is a co‑founder of the Gabriela Women’s Party, which stands up for women’s rights and works to protect women from violence and combat people smuggling, among other issues.
Noelah Godfrey Msuya promotes the rights of children and women in Tanzania. She is a trained special education teacher and the founder and head of the NGO Child Support Tanzania. She and her organisation are dedicated to enabling disadvantaged and disabled children to receive an education. She has founded women’s self-help groups and children’s rights clubs which have a total of 2500 active members.
Erika Lorena Aifán Dávila ist seit über 19 Jahren Richterin in Guatemala und seit über fünf Jahren als Strafrichterin Erster Instanz eines Hochrisikogerichts tätig, wo sie die Fälle schwerer Straftaten von Unternehmern, Beamten, Richtern und Drogenhändlern behandelt. Sie setzt sich dabei für unabhängige und transparente Rechtsprechung ein, wie sie von der großen Mehrheit der guatemaltekischen Gesellschaft gewünscht wird. Trotz enormer Behinderungen und Drohungen setzt sie ihre Arbeit mit Beharrlichkeit und unermüdlichem Einsatz fort.
Monika Borgmann is a German-Lebanese documentary-maker who founded the company UMAM Productions with her husband Lokman Slim in 2001. She has won a number of prizes for her work, which includes the film Tadmor about the experiences of inmates in Syrian prisons. Most recently she has focused her efforts on the MENA Prison Forum, which calls attention to inhumane conditions in detention in the Middle East. Since her husband Lokman Slim’s murder on 4 February 2021, Monika Borgmann has continued alone with the work that they began together.
Narges Mohammadi campaigns against capital punishment and against sexualised violence in Iranian prisons. She was first detained in 1998 and has since been handed several long prison sentences for “acts against national security”, “propaganda against the regime” and her advocacy for the abolishment of capital punishment. This May, she was sentenced to 30 months in prison and 80 lashes for “propaganda against the regime”, “organising a sit-down strike outside a prison” and “disobeying prison staff”. She has been in detention since 16 November.
Nebahat Akkoç has dedicated herself entirely to human rights work since her husband was murdered in 1993. She founded the women’s rights organisation Kamer in 1997. It is based in Diyarbakır and primarily campaigns to stop violence against women. Ms Akkoç has already received several awards for her work, including the Anne Klein Women’s Award presented by the Heinrich Böll Foundation (2015).
PROVEA is a Venezuelan NGO which has been advocating human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural human rights, since 1988. It is based in Caracas and provides legal counsel to human rights defenders and NGOs as part of its work. PROVEA also documents human rights violations, which has helped to raise a great deal of international awareness about the situation in Venezuela. Its staff risk their own safety in pursuit of their mission, and its coordinator Rafael Uzcátegui has already been detained on multiple occasions.
Jake Epelle works to combat the ongoing stigmatisation and discrimination faced by people with albinism in Nigeria, with the help of an organisation founded in 2006 called The Albino Foundation. The problems that he seeks to tackle range from difficulty accessing healthcare and education, to disadvantages on the job market, to experiences of violence. Jake Epelle has also become a spokesperson for the rights of people with disabilities and a driving force for improving their integration into society and political affairs.
Alexandrine Victoire Saizonou is an advocate for women’s and children’s rights in Benin. In 2013 she founded an association for women lawyers which provides support and legal advice free of charge to women and children who have been victims of sexualised violence. She has twice served as a Board member of Benin’s Bar Association, and since 2019 has been a member of the Beninese Human Rights Commission with responsibility for the sub commission on children, stateless persons, refugees and internally displaced persons.
Tabelo Timse is receiving the prize for her outstanding work as a member of an independent non‑profit media centre in South Africa. As an investigative journalist, she works with her colleagues to report on the influence exerted on the state by private interest groups as well as mismanagement and state failures in the provision of public goods.
Ajna Jusic from Bosnia discovered at the age of 15 that she was born as a result of rape during wartime, and since then she has advocated for others in the same situation. In 2015, with the support of a therapist, she set out to find other young people who were also “children of war”, and founded an organisation to combat discrimination against them. Jusic’s primary goal is to improve everyday life for people in her situation, for example by having them recognised as civilian victims of war and by ensuring that they are no longer formally required to disclose their father’s name.
May Sabe Phyu has been the director of the Gender Equality Network in Myanmar since 2011. The network unites 120 civil-society organisations in the fight to prevent violence against women. May Sabe Phyu works to promote confidence-building across different ethnic groups and to improve the circumstances of ethnic minorities in the country, particularly the Kachin. Since the military coup on 1 February 2021, she has spoken out about the specific issues faced by women and has fought for equitable access to justice.