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19 September 2023

Front Line Defenders Award winners launch US advocacy trip

Visiting activists from DRC, Philippines and Ukraine available for media interviews

Courageous human rights defenders from Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Philippines and Ukraine will visit New York and Washington, D.C. from 20-29 September as part of an advocacy tour after being awarded the prestigious Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk.

Apart from engaging in high-level advocacy meetings with U.S. lawmakers and the State Department, the human rights defenders will speak at the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, participate in Climate Week NYC and take part in the Global Citizen Festival in New York, among other events.

“From defending environmental rights to to supporting civil society during armed conflict, to fighting for the right to education, these courageous human rights defenders represent some of the most at-risk communities of activists around the world today,” said Ana Cutter Patel, U.S. Representative at Front Line Defenders.

“We hope this advocacy tour will bring them much-needed additional support and recognition, to energize them in their struggle to ensure human rights are respected in their respective countries.”

Those taking part in the advocacy tour are: Olivier Bahemuke Ndoole of the DRC; Jeany ‘Rose’ Hayahay of the Philippines; and Vita Volodovska of Ukraine (see bios below). They were among five recipients of Front Line Defenders’ 2023 Award for human rights defenders at risk, which was presented at a ceremony in Dublin, Ireland in May this year.

The Annual Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was established in 2005 to honour the work of HRDs who are courageously making outstanding contributions to the promotion and protection of the human rights of others, often at great personal risk to themselves. The organisation’s Global Analysis has highlighted wide-ranging threats to human rights defenders in all regions of the world – more than 400 defenders were killed for their peaceful work in 2022.

The Award focuses international attention on the work and struggles of HRDs, providing a greater national and international platform to speak about and advocate for the human rights issues they are defending. Laureates are selected from among scores of candidates put forward in a secure, public nomination process. In addition to a cash prize and protection grant, the winners receive support from Front Line Defenders on digital and physical security, advocacy, visibility, well-being and more.


Africa laureate: Olivier Bahemuke Ndoole (Democratic Republic of the Congo) is a leader among environmental and land defenders in DRC and one of the most trusted advocates on behalf of communities impacted by land grabs, trafficking, and illegal resource extraction activities. He is also one of the only advocates who organises judicial training and capacity-building sessions for DRC citizens on topics related to environment and community rights in Goma, eastern DRC.

Asia and the Pacific laureate, Jeany 'Rose' Hayahay (Philippines) is a woman human rights defender based in Mindanao, the Philippines. Since 2019, she has been the spokesperson of the Save Our Schools Network (SOS Network), a coalition of child-focused NGOs, church-based groups and other stakeholders advocating for children’s right to education in Mindanao.

Europe and Central Asia laureate, Digital Security Lab Ukraine (Ukraine) – represented by Executive Director Vita Volodovska – is a team of specialists in the field of digital security and internet freedom. They help Ukrainian journalists, human rights defenders and public activists solve problems with digital security, as well as promote the realisation of human rights on the internet by influencing government policy in the field of digital rights.