YOUNG HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES
At age the age of 11, while playing with friends, Abraham Gebreyesus lost his sight and right forearm in a land mine explosion outside his village in Eritrea. Since that accident, a legacy of the war between the Ethiopian army and liberation forces, Gebreyesus has campaigned and advocated for the rights of land mine survivors.
Abraham Gebreyesus, from Eritrea is a member of Forefront, a global network of young Human Rights Advocates. All of the young human rights advocates featured are past winners of the Reebok Human Rights Awards, which are supported by the American Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.
Established in 1988, the Reebok Human Rights Award honors young people from the United States and around the world who have, often against great odds, made significant contributions to the cause of human rights. In the ten years of the award, there have been nearly 60 recipients in more than 25 different countries.
1999 Reebok Human Rights Award Recipients.
Ka Hsaw Wa, Burma
Ka Hsaw Wa, is 28 and an advocate for the ethnic and rural minorities of Burma. He has endured imprisonment and torture in his efforts to document the oppression, discrimination, and abuse of the people of Burma. First as a student activist and later as a human rights monitor, he founded two organizations and has taught hundreds of his own people how to investigate, document, and expose human rights abuses. His first-hand knowledge of the international forces that sustain human rights abuses led him to file a precedent-setting, class-action law suit in the United States against an oil company allegedly complicit in the Burmese military regime abuses of human rights.
Ka Hsaw Wa is the founder of EarthRights International, an organization that documents government-sponsored human rights abuses in Burma. His work has led to substantial publications documenting government and military abuses :- of ethnic suppression, including systematic rape and forced labor. In addition, Ka Hsaw Wa co-founded the Karen Human Rights Group to disseminate information to international human rights groups on abuses against the Karen ethnic minority of Burma. Detained and tortured several times, Ka Hsaw Wa was forced to flee Rangoon, and has worked under cover in areas - off limits - to international agencies. He has traveled thousands of miles on foot throughout Burma to interview and record the testimonies of victims and witnesses of human rights abuses.
Suba Meshack, Kenya
At 26 years of age, Suba is co-founder and chair of a Kenya University Student Organization that seeks to broaden student representation in Kenyan universities, challenging the current one party system under the leadership of President Moi. Suba has been arrested eight times, tortured, and expelled from his university in Egerton, due to his successful efforts in exposing corruption and human rights abuses.
In 1996, he became the subject of an Amnesty International Campaign that sought to bring charges against his torturers. The charges against him, restrict his ability to work and his mobility. He is his countrys most prominent student leader, working for constitutional reform to address pressing issues for his country.
He is currently the Youth Representative and Chair of the Implementation Commission of the National Convention Executive Council, a highly influential coalition of Non Government Organisations that work together to organize political opposition groups to achieve constitutional reform. Suba has also founded the National Youth Convention, a branch of the National Youth Movement in Kenya, where he fights violations of studentsí rights and prepares youth for democratic leadership. In addition, he is a founding member of the Kenyan chapter of the Youth Federation for the release of Political Prisoners- which works to secure the release of detained prisoners worldwide. In the future, Suba hopes to create a legal fund to represent students who have been arbitrarily arrested.
Tanya Green, USA
U.S. lawyer Tanya Greene is 28, and is a national leader in the advocacy for the just application of capital punishment law in the United States. Her work in the courtroom and her research have exposed gross instances of racial discrimination and other injustices in the application of the death penalty. Her work on this issue has inspired a variety of public research and advocacy projects that have brought the application of the death penalty under much sharper scrutiny and prompting widespread changes in how juror forepersons are selected.
As the Death Penalty Resources Counsel, for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, she consults daily with attorneys who need assistance in identifying viable trial and appellate challenges, locating experts, and crafting pleadings. At twenty-eight, Greene has worked with the Southern Center for Human Rights since graduating from Harvard Law School in 1995. She represents indigent clients in Alabama and Georgia and is a national spokersperson on death penalty issues.
Juliana Dogbadzi, Ghana
Juliana Dogbadzi 26, was a victim of fetish slavery in Ghana for 17 years until the time that she escaped just over a year ago. Fetish slavery, called Trokosi, is a practice that requires young girls under the age of 10 to be made a slave in order to atone for the alleged offenses of their family members. More than 45,000 of these girls are subject to physical, mental, and sexual abuse.
Although the constitution of Ghana outlaws slavery, the practice persists due to traditional belief that it is a spiritual affair. Although Juliana has only been free for a short time, she has dedicated her life to fight the complacency of the government and the superstition of Trokosiís ardent supporters. In October 1988, Julie began International Needs Ghana, a human rights organization that has been actively working for the release of individual Trokosi. She returns frequently to fetish shrines to speak to priests about her campaign and to other slaves about their freedom. Due to her work, the International Needís campaign has liberated over 1,000 slaves from 15 shrines.
by Lesley Carson, Forefront
Forefront:A global network of Young Human Rights Advocates