The Defenders’ Coalition and HRD Working Group in Kenya announced the winners of the Human Rights Defender of the Year 2019 last Friday. The awards are an initiative to honour, promote and protect the work of HRDs in the Kenya.
Wilfred Olal and the Social Justice Working Group are the winners of the Human Rights Defender of the Year 2019. Wilfred is the coordinator of the Dandora Community Justice Centre and Convener of the Social Justice Centres Working Group. He began his work in human rights in 2005 when he joined The Bunge la Mwananchi social movement. He started as a member then rose to the position of national coordinator. The movement is an advocacy for the expansion of civic space and a campaign on the right to protest against corruption and impunity.
In 2014, Wilfred and other HRDs decided to set up social justice centres to advocate for social justice and human rights in informal settlements of Nairobi. He started the Social Justice Centres Working Group (SJCWG) in Mathare, then later Dandora. SJCWG advocates and fights for the promotion of human rights in all spheres through documentation, monitoring, reporting of cases of human rights violations and holding community dialogues within their areas of advocacy. Today, SJCWG is a consortium of 28 social justice centers mainly based in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa’s informal settlements.
PBI Kenya is involved in supporting this initiative as they are part of the HRD Working Group and has been working with Wilfred Olal, the Human Rights Defender of the Year since 2013. This year marks the fourth edition of the awards.
Other awards also included Upcoming Human Rights Defender of the Year and the Munir Mazrui Lifetime Achievement Award. Benazir Mohammed and the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya won Upcoming Human Rights Defender of the Year while Denis Nzioka, Peninah Mwangi and the late Onyango Oloo won the Munir Mazrui Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Human Rights Defenders Awards ceremony was hosted by the French Embassy in Nairobi, with the support from the Belgian, Dutch, German and Swedish Embassies and Haki Africa – a national human rights NGO based in Mombasa, Kenya.