Breaking Barriers: Stories from Human Rights Defenders with Disabilities

Human rights defenders who have disabilities face multiple and distinct forms of risk. They can be targeted or excluded because of their disability, for being human rights defenders (HRDs), or both.

“Breaking Barriers: Stories from human rights defenders with disabilities” is a new video campaign by UN experts Mary Lawlor and Gerard Quinn. It features human rights defenders working on a broad range of human rights issues, and the additional targeting and exclusion they face as persons with disabilities.

Joint Statement Key recommendations from HRDs with disabilities

The Defenders

Video interviews with human rights defenders who have disabilities will be posted here and on social media twice weekly until the end of 2022. Watch the videos on YouTube to view the full transcript.

Seryozha Ohanjanyan, Armenia

Seryozha Ohanjanyan is a human rights defender and President of Ekho Disability Rights NGO, a non-governmental organisation working to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in Armenia. As part of his work he advocates for better inclusiveness and accessibility of persons with disabilities into society.

Nankinga Rebecca Olivia, Uganda

Nankinga Rebecca Olivia is a woman human rights defender from Uganda. She works with the Uganda National Association for the Deaf where she advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities, in particular working towards for their inclusion in spaces in which they were traditionally excluded. She has faced pushback against her human rights work from those who claim to not understand its purpose, and often feels excluded from spaces due to lac of reasonable accommodation.

Faustino Pinto, Brazil

Faustino Pinto is a human rights defender from State of Ceará, Brazil. He is the deputy national coordinator for MORHAN – Movement for the Reintegration of Persons Affected by Hansen’s disease and a member of the Global Partnership for Zero Hansen’s disease’s leadership team. As part of his work, Faustino advocates for increasing protection and understanding of persons with Hanson’s disease (also known as leprosy), many of whom identify as persons with disabilities. He reports having faced severe retaliation for his peaceful human rights work.

Jakub Gawon, Poland

Jakub Gawron is a human rights defender co-organiser of equality marches in Rzeszow and a leading member of Atlas of Hate (Atlas nienawiści), a civil society organisation founded in Poland in 2019. With Atlas of Hate, he monitors information on resolutions adopted by local governments in Poland that allegedly discriminate against LGBT persons. He also engages with media and promotes public debate around new developments in the area. To date, seven local governments have taken legal action against Atlas of Hate for its work documenting discrimination against LGBT persons. Read more here:

Rose Resiato, Kenya

Rose Resiato is a woman human rights defender from Kenya. She works as an operations manager at AIC Kajiado Centre working on the protection of the rights of children and youth. She is also a member of the Kenyan Network of Women with Disabilities a loose network works to advance and amplify the voices of women and girls with disabilities in Kenya. She is also the founder of Rural Women Voices, on the rights of marginalised Maasai women and girls, providing various wellbeing and educational supports.

Silvia Quan, Guatemala

Silvia Quan is a woman human rights defender from Guatemala and member of Colectivo Vida Independiente. Silvia works mainly with women with disabilities who are subjected to discrimination and violence. As part of her work, she has provided guidance and free legal assistance, engages in political advocacy, conducts trainings on the rights of persons with disabilities, women with disabilities and underrepresented groups and in partnership with Disability Rights International, monitors the human rights situation of institutionalized persons with disabilities.

Ukei Muratalieva, Kyrgyzstan

Ukei Muratalieva is a woman human rights defender from Kyrgyzstan who works on the rights of women and girls, with particular focus on women and girls with disabilities. She works with Nazik Kyz, a non-governmental organisation that runs a leadership school for the empowerment of women and girls in the country. Through this organisations she also works to promote the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan, particularly on the right of girls to education without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity. She is also a dancer and has founded businesses inclusive of persons with disabilities.

Perpetua Senkoro, Tanzania

Perpetua Senkoro is a woman human rights defender working as a Programme Officer with the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC). She began her human rights work as a volunteer for Under The Same Sun, an NGO advocating for rights of people with albinism, and has since worked with a number of non-governmental organisations As part of her work, she defends a broad range of human rights, through public advocacy, academic research, public sensitization, developing knowledge sharing tools, media engagement, and stakeholders consultations to push for legal and policy reform.

Gerard Quinn, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on behalf of Abduljalil Al-Singace, Bahrain

Abduljalil Al-Singace is a human rights defender from Bahrain and former Director and Spokesperson of the Human Rights Bureau of the Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy. He was arrested in August 2010 after returning from the UK, where he had been participating in a seminar on the human rights situation in Bahrain at the House of Lords. After being released without charge, Abduljalil was re-arrested in March 2011 and disappeared for approximately two months, during which time he was allegedly subjected to various forms of ill-treatment amounting to torture. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on multiple terrorism and State security charges in June 2011.