Pan-Africa Human Rights Defenders Shield Award 2023

Mary Pais Da Silva

Pan-African Shield Award


Mary Pais Da Silva is a human rights lawyer from Eswatini. Born in Lubombo, Eswatini, Mary’s upbringing exposed her to the pain and injustice of those fleeing the Mozambican civil war, which fuelled her passion for justice. After becoming a lawyer, she became disillusioned by the reality that justice was only available to those who could afford it which fueled her focus on public interest cases, particularly women and children’s rights. Mary joined Lawyers for Human Rights in 2012, but her work as a leading attorney in a terrorism case made her a target of the government and chief justice. Despite facing constant threats, Mary continued to advocate for human rights. Frustrated with litigation, Mary withdrew and focused on full-time human rights advocacy, in honor of her fallen comrade, Thulani Maseko, working towards a safe working environment for human rights defenders.