NEW YORK (May 21, 2019) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is pleased to announce the creation of the Freedom Fellowship, a unique program that awards 10 human rights advocates, social entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders from authoritarian countries around the world with the unique opportunity to dramatically increase the impact of their work. HRF is partnering with the Center for Applied Nonviolent Tactics and Strategies (CANVAS), founded by Srdja Popovic, for this exciting program. The fellows will work with HRF staff and a team of specialists to improve leadership, movement building, fundraising, marketing, and digital security.
“There are so many professional fellowship opportunities around the world, but so few are tailored for individuals working inside authoritarian societies,” said Alex Gladstein, HRF’s Chief Strategy Officer. “Across more than 90 countries, approximately 4 billion people don’t have the same personal growth and mentorship opportunities as do their counterparts in places such as London or San Francisco. HRF is excited to provide new opportunities for extraordinary individuals operating under difficult circumstances to scale their work in the service of freedom and democracy,” The 2019 Freedom Fellows class includes:
- Rania Aziz, Sudanese activist organizing professional and youth groups in the country against the dictatorship of Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. She is part of the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an outlawed group of unions currently leading protests in the country.
- Fred Bauma, Congolese human rights activist also known as “Congo’s Gandhi”. He is the leader of the pro-democracy youth group LUCHA, which advocates for nonviolent, community-level change and governmental reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- Vanessa Berhe, Eritrean free-speech and democracy activist. She is the founder of One Day Seyoum, a human rights organization that campaigns for the release of jailed Eritrean journalist Seyoum Tsehaye, and raises awareness around a continued crackdown on democratic ideals in Eritrea.
- Andrei Bystrov, lawyer, historian and democratic activist from Moscow. He is a co-founder of the December 5 Party, a pro-democracy political party that was born out of the 2011 anti-Putin protests.
- Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal is a student activist, publisher, and author who advocates for education reform in Thailand. He founded Education for Liberation of Siam, a student group that challenges the Thai military junta’s unjust actions in the country’s education system.
- Rodrigo Diamanti, Venezuelan human rights activist and nonviolence expert. He founded the international NGO, Un Mundo Sin Mordaza, which has coordinated creative protests against Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship in more than 52 countries.
- Edipcia Dubón, Nicaraguan pro-democracy and women’s rights advocate. She is the coordinator of Dialogue of Women for Democracy, a think tank that promotes open discussions about the challenges faced by women in Nicaragua.
- Asma Khalifa, Libyan activist and researcher who has worked on human rights, women’s rights, and youth empowerment since 2011. She is the co-founder of Tamazight Women’s Movement, an organization working on gender equality and research on the indigenous women of Libya and North Africa.
- Farida Nabourema, Togolese writer and democracy activist who began her career in activism when she was 13 years old. She co-founded the Faure Must Go movement, a hallmark of the Togolese struggle against Faure Gnassingbé’s oppressive rule.
- Johnson Yeung, Hong Kong human rights advocate who works on freedom of assembly and expression, protection to HRDs, and capacity building to right-based CSOs. He is the chair of the board of the Hong Kong Civil Hub, which produces regular briefings on Hong Kong shrinking civic space, and builds solidarity around international rule of law and human rights communities.
In partnership with CANVAS, HRF launched the Freedom Fellowship in 2018 with a pilot opportunity for Jhanisse Vaca Daza, a civil society activist from Bolivia. During her Freedom Fellowship experience, Vaca Daza co-founded the Bolivian movement: Ríos de Pie (Standing Rivers), which has quickly gained a national following, becoming one of the leading nonviolent resistance movements in response to Evo Morales’ authoritarian regime. Vaca Daza will provide her insights from the past year as the manager for the Fellowship.
“This is a truly diverse class of fellows, and they are going to learn as much from each other as from their mentors,” said Vaca Daza. “Anyone running a non-profit or civil society organization or start-up needs help and guidance with personal leadership, movement building, marketing and media strategy, fundraising, and digital security. My own experience was transformative, and I’m looking forward to bringing world-class expertise in each of these areas to 10 new Fellows.”
The Fellows will meet one another as a group for the first time at this year’s Oslo Freedom Forum, which will be held from May 27-29 in Norway. There will be special programming curated to begin their Freedom Fellowship experience starting May 25. If you would like more information about the program, please contact: [email protected].
The Human Rights Foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
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