Panel Discussion with the Winners of the 2018 Human Rights Prize

By: Kristen Kimmel

 On December 18th, the UN held an event with the winners of the 2018 Human Rights Prize. The first human rights prize was given out in 1968. There were four individuals who won the Human Rights prize and participated on the panel.

Ms. Rebeca Gyumi is an activist for the rights of women and girls based in Tanzania. Her main focus is on education, and access to education for girls. The environment that these girls are in makes it hard for them to stay in school and study, and unleash their potential. 2 out of 5 girls are married before their 18th birthday in Tanzania. Each year, almost 8000 girls are dropping out of school due to becoming pregnant. She helped create and file a petition that would raise the minimum age of marriage to 18, which ended up being successful. She spoke about the importance of young people getting involved in these issues in order to make a difference.

Ms. Asma Jahangir was a human rights lawyer in Pakistan. Asma’s daughter, Munizae, spoke on her behalf, due to her passing away. She decided to become a lawyer after fighting to prevent her father from being arrested and sent to jail. Ms. Jahangir was thrown into jail at one point for defending a 13 year old rape victim. She defended another 12 year old boy who was accused of blasphemy. While defending him, she was threatened and many people wanted her dead, but she continued to defend him. Munizae stated that she always remembers her mother as being extremely dedicated to human rights.

Ms. Joênia Wapichana is an activist for the rights of indigenous communities in Brazil. In Brazil, the indigenous population and their culture is being attacked. It is important that people are aware and paying attention to this issue, because this population needs help. The president of Brazil wants to review the rights of the indigenous population and possibly change things that will not be in their favor. The president does not value the lands of the indigenous population either. Luckily, there are many indigenous rights defenders located in BRazil who work very hard to make sure that this population can keep their rights.

Andrew Anderson works for Front Line Defenders, which is an Irish organization advocating and working for the protection of human rights defenders. There are so many human rights defenders who are being hurt, killed, and disappearing all over the world. Two thirds of the defenders who were killed were working on land rights, environmental rights, and indigenous rights. There are many defenders who are stuck in jails around the world today, and they are working to help defenders in these situations.

To watch the event click here