On 22 October 2013, the winners of the first annual African Human Rights Defenders Award were announced in Banjul, the Gambia, following the opening session of the 54th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Awards are given by the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network. Winners are selected by a jury composed of the Chairperson of PAHRD-Net, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.
IMAM BABA MUHTARR LEIGH
Pan-African Shield Award Award Winner 2013
Imam Baba Muhtarr Leigh Imam Leigh fights for the elimination of harmful traditional practices that include female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage. As a Gambian national, his cause of eradicating FGM in the Gambia incurred resistance from some religious conservatives who promote FGM as a religious necessity. Despite this danger and fractious environment, Imam Baba Leigh took a firm stand, supporting women in the fight against FGM, meanwhile incorporating religion into his argument. He is empowering communities and encouraging them to protect their children from FGM and other detrimental traditions. His stand on the death penalty in the Gambia after the killing of inmates sentenced to death led him into exile from his country after 5 months of detention.
Northern Africa Shield Award Winner 2013
Ms. Yara Sallam is a Human Rights lawyer whose activism in the promotion of the rights of women in Egypt is outstanding. From the tender age of 15, she had already sown the seeds of activism. She forwarded legislative changes within the Egyptian judiciary in regards to women’s rights and has worked as a professional legal assistant at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in The Gambia. She worked as program manager of the Women Human Rights Defenders Program (WHRDP) at Nazra for Feminist Studies in Egypt and is currently working with Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
MARIA LUCIA DA SILVEIRA
Southern Africa Shield Award Winner 2013
Maria Lucia da Silveira’s advocacy efforts throughout Angola and the rest of Africa have been widely recognized. Maria plays pivotal roles in the Associaçao Justiça, Paz e Democracia (AJPD) to champion the cause for change. She is a Focal Point at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and leads the training of NGOs on the African and international systems of human rights. She has successfully exposed the situation in her home country Angola and continues to practice human rights activism with research, publication and advocacy.
East & Horn of Africa Shield Award Winner 2013
Livingstone is a Ugandan Human Rights Defender and the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative. FHRI is an NGO that addresses the entire range of human rights: civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights as defined in international human rights covenants. Livingstone is well known for his activism on the death penalty and continues to fight for the rights of all Ugandans.
PAULETTE OYANE ONDO
Central African Shield Award Winner 2013
Paulette Oyane Ondo Paulette is a defence lawyer from Gabon whose reputation for her strong stands. She is firmly committed to the protection of civil rights for her fellow Gabonians; the action for republican principles and the values of democracy. Her courageous front has inspired women across the continent.