PROJECT REVIEW: strengthening the work of human rights defenders and enhancing their protection.

Katiba Institute held a validation meeting of a report on the project “strengthening the work of human rights defenders and enhancing their protection” which is in its final phase of implementation. The event was held on 18th May 2023 in Nairobi. The project, supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi, enhances the promotion and protection of human rights and human rights defenders. It aims to empower individuals and communities to actively engage in the defence of human rights and foster a culture of human rights awareness and respect.

Speaking at the validation meeting Katiba Institute Executive Director, Christine Nkonge expressed gratitude to the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi for supporting the work of human rights in Kenya and particularly supporting Katiba Institute to implement the project for the last 3 years. She highlighted that the work on human rights is important and aligns with Katiba Institute’s vision to promote a culture of constitutionalism, and specifically the strategic pillar on rights and fundamental freedoms.

“Human rights defenders are critical in the realization of the Bill of Rights as enshrined in chapter four of the Constitution. Empowering them therefore provides impetus in demanding accountability from the government on implementation of the constitution in totality.”

Christine underscored the importance of the validation meeting in that the findings could provide valuable lessons learnt during the implementation of the project.

Kenya National Commission of Human Rights (KNCHR) CEO Dr. Bernard Mogesa outlined the important role human rights defenders play in society noting that their protection is critical. Dr. Mogesa stressed the importance of partnerships and encouraged participants to explore opportunities for joint initiatives and resource sharing. He also highlighted the necessity for a comprehensive policy on human rights defenders. Dr. Mogesa proposed the need to expand stakeholders in the human rights defense work noting that the move would foster a better understanding among all the stakeholders.

In his remarks, the Chairman of the Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) William Oloo Janak advocated for the incorporation of journalists in human rights work. Janak observed that by the nature of their work, journalists are human rights defenders and should be treated so.  He acknowledged the crucial role played by journalists in promoting transparency, accountability, and human rights awareness through their reporting.

Janak highlighted the importance of grassroots engagement and collaboration with regional units to amplify the impact of the project. He stressed the need to reach out to local journalists and media organizations operating in various regions to ensure that human rights issues are adequately covered.

Participants commended the project’s focus on human rights and suggested incorporating additional training programs specifically targeting human rights defenders. They stressed the need to equip human rights defenders with legal knowledge, advocacy skills, and personal security measures to effectively carry out their work. The key activities highlighted include the essay competition, training on access to information & Self representation, and joint meetings.

Peer to peer session among human rights networks

From 26th to 27th of April 2023, Katiba Institute hosted a peer-to-peer session among the human rights networks established in Turkana, Nairobi and Lamu counties under the project “strengthening the work of human rights defenders and enhancing their protection.”

The session provided an opportunity for human rights defenders to discuss their experiences, challenges, successes and share best practices in their respective localities and areas of work. It also created chance for the network members to review an evaluation report of the project.

The human rights defenders expressed their appreciation to Katiba Institute and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi noting that the project impacted their work in many ways.

“Throughout the project cycle we have benefited a lot. I have particularly gained from human rights and access to information trainings that targeted members of our network. We have so far made some requests for information in government offices which have been responded to.”- a participant commenting on the impact of the project.

Another participant lauded the move to have joint trainings that brought together community representatives and public officials. This, he said, has helped strengthen relationships with duty bearers.

By Kevin Mabonga


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