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Lydia Mukami

Lydia Mukami

HRD, Chair
Mwea Foundation
Finalist - Front Line Defenders Award
2014

The hope that we installed in Mwea is hope that we can't lose. It's my sincere hope that the farmers will live in better conditions and the pain that we have had to go through is the price that has to be paid.

Lydia Mukami is the chair of the Mwea Foundation, a grass-roots organisation of rice farmers in the Mwea constituency of Kirinyaga county, in the Central Province of Kenya. The Mwea Foundation has been at the forefront of an ongoing campaign to challenge the constitutionality of the 1966 Irrigation Act (Cap 347). The Mwea Foundation argues that the Act is retrogressive as it prohibits women from owning land, violates a host of socio-economic rights of the Mwea farmers and gives excessive powers to the National Irrigation Board (NIB) with regard to the administration of the area. Lydia and her colleagues at the Mwea Foundation have faced threats and direct violence as a result of their human rights work. Lydia herself was abducted, beaten and stripped of her clothes in public. She has also received threatening messages and her home has been torched.

While Kenya maintains the appearance of a country where the public space is open, specific categories of human rights defenders encounter a wide range of risks as a result of their work. These include human rights defenders and journalists working on highly sensitive corruption issues, those who document or contribute testimony on past violence (including the 2007/2008 post election violence and frequent extra-judicial killings by the police) as well as those using peaceful demonstrations as an advocacy tool.