MHRD 2011-2012 Student Profiles (A-M)

Ampika Saibouyai, Thailand

I have been involved in international development organizations for more than ten years. I spent the first two years of working in humanitarian aid along Thai borders where I encountered several human rights issues, such as citizenship and ESCR. It had inspired me to become a human rights activist by joining Amnesty International as the campaign manager for five years. Working with AI is valuable; I had developed greater knowledge and skills on human rights. Since 2003, I realized that human rights and democracy in Thailand has become controversial issues and it needs to be addressed. I decided to pursue my practical skills and theoretical knowledge by applying to be a part of Master of Human Rights and Democratisation program where I could strengthen and fulfill my long-term intention of working as a human rights practitioner.

Arooma Gul, Pakistan

Two years of affiliation with development sector following my MBA, introduced me to a whole new world of activism and self actualization. I was privileged to have the opportunity of learning the basics of social movements directly from the contemporary gurus of social work in Pakistan. The floods of 2010 catalyzed the process of transformation in me and my responsibilities during relief and recovery instilled a holy curiosity of learning the ways of protecting my people’s basic human rights in unforeseeable circumstances. The areas of Disaster Risk Reduction and sustainable livelihood for the vulnerable segments of society have drawn my attention in the aftermath of the floods 2010.

Bruce Amoroto, Philippines

A proud Filipino, Bruce has been involved in a variety of socio-politico-economic issues and activism for the past 11 years, working on projects and campaigns that affirm the rights of the poor, women, and LGBT people. As a "libertarian left", a feminist, and a strong believer in change, justice, and holistic development, his goal is to contribute to bringing about an Asia Pacific region that is not only developed but has a strong valuation for justice, peace and democracy. He hopes to find himself working at either the United Nations or at a similar regional/global non-profit organisation in the near future.

Dewi Ratnawulan, Indonesia

Since 1992, when I joined an NGO in Yogyakarta, my work with human rights issues has been very varied including working with community development, women and children, political prisoners, as well as women worker issues in Asia. There is a genuine concern that human rights and fundamental freedoms, including rights to life, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, have been seriously and continuously violated and undermined the region, although many countries in the region recognize and acknowledge such rights in their constitutions. These violations have been similarly violated by non-state actors, driven by ethnic, religious, cultural, and political intolerance, as well as the general breakdown and weakness of the rule of law. Therefore, I will never stop to work wiithin my capacity to promote and protect human rights.

Dilhari Pathiranage, Sri Lanka

I’m P.D. S. Dilhari from Sri Lanka. I graduated from the University of Sri Lanka and started my career initially as an Instructor and a Lecturer at the University of Colombo at the Department of English. While I was working on visiting basis at the University, I joined for an educational organization working for children’s right to education. I worked for the children’s right to education for nearly six years with the same organization directly with the Ministry of Education and the Ministers of education trying to bring about equity in education for children. Although educational standards are very high is Sri Lanka compared many south Asian countries, there are yet pockets of areas where educational standards are very low. Government had not reached many of these areas that I had worked due to financial constraints. I would like to continue working to bring about democracy to the children’s right to education in Sri Lanka after completing this course.

Fong Chi Au, Singapore

I graduated with a BA in Sociology from the National University of Singapore in 2010 and stayed on to do my MA in Southeast Asian Studies. The concept of human rights was first introduced to me during my undergraduate days and since then, issues pertaining to refugee rights, poverty and torture have been of great interest to me.

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to live and travel extensively in Southeast Asia. This has opened my eyes to witness the necessity and urgency for addressing human rights abuses. During the course of my MA, I was also privileged to work with several Kachin individuals from Burma who generously shared their life stories with me. Learning about their resilient spirit in the face of prosecution and constant conflict has been a great source of inspiration for me.

Haibin Zhou, China

Zhou Haibin graduated from Wuhan University and Hopkins-Nanjing Centre, getting a postgraduate degree in International Law and International Relations. He worked as a journalist for 3 years, writing local political news.

With great opportunity, he has interviewed Primer Wen Jiabao and National Chief Procurator Cao Jianming in the annual NPC &CPPCC. He was invited to Germany by the Germany Government in 2010, reported on German policy on sustainable development, which only contains four journalists from China.

In China, there are many restrictions on what you can publish and do as a journalist. What I want to do is to work in international organizations after my studies in Sydney, to work for anti-poverty or help more people who need support urgently.

Hassan Nasir, Pakistan

I believe that I was a born social activist as when I found my consciousness as child, I was already listening stories about struggle for civil and political rights and democratization in Pakistan where my family was involved as well. I fully realized this when I practically started working in social development sector in my country and felt obligation to continue with the struggle. With around seven years of experience, I have worked on over range of issues related to interdisciplinary fields of democratization, development, human rights and peace including pressure building for free and fair elections, election observation, voters’ education, minorities’ rights, women’s rights, capacity building of political parties’ workers and promotion of interfaith harmony and peace coexistence. Before joining this course, I was leading a Pakistani civil society organization as its Executive Director for last around 2 and half years. After graduating from this course, I plan to continue my work at Center for Law and Development, a high-end policy advocacy center in Pakistan, where I am member of core team. My interests are more into identity rights, nationalistic movements and studies of civilizations in context of social justice & peace.

Jennifer Elms, Canada

Jennifer Elms graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland with a Bachelor of Arts degree with joint majors in Psychology and English Literature. Over the last few years, she has traveled in numerous parts of the world including Australia, Europe, Asia and North America. In fact, her most recent project was in Mombasa, Kenya where she was stationed for three months volunteering for a small organization in which she assisted in developing programs that promoted AIDS/HIV Awareness to combat the stigmatization associated with the disease. She also headed a fundraising initiative for a local orphanage to provide beds, mattresses and food for the permanent residents. Jennifer is deeply passionate about Human Rights and would like to one day assist in the development of psychosocial rehabilitation programs for victims of war, torture and domestic violence. Her ultimate aspiration is to one day work with Amnesty International or within the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Juliette Mitchell, Australia

Juliette born and raised in Sydney, Australia, having previously graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Sydney University, with majors in Modern European History and Spanish. After completing her undergraduate degree she spent much of the following three years travelling, particularly around Latin America, which served to promote her interest in the human rights field.

Prior to undertaking the Master of Human Rights and Democratisation she was working as a public servant at the Australian Electoral Commission and volunteers with Amnesty International and Not For Sale, an anti-trafficking organisation.
Juliette’s particular areas of focus are on human trafficking and the rights of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons.

Julius Matibag, Philippines

Julius Garcia Matibag, 34, is a litigator for the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the largest bar association of human rights lawyers in the Philippines, and a practitioner in constitutional law, human rights law, criminal law, civil law, election law, labor law and special proceedings. He has successfully practiced before the Philippine Supreme Court in the following notable cases: as counsel for Kabataan (Youth) Party-List et al. in the extension of the voters’ registration period for the May 2010 elections; the issuance of the status quo ante order which stopped the implementation of the government’s project to install radio frequency identification tags on all motor vehicles; and the validity of the Second Impeachment Complaint against then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez that led to her impeachment in the House of Representatives. He was one of the drafters of the Articles of Impeachment against the said Ombudsman.

As deputy lead counsel, he and his NUPL colleagues successfully represented the ‘Morong 43’-the 43 community doctors, nurse, midwives and health workers who were illegally arrested by military and police personnel on February 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal province and denied of their fundamental rights and subjected to acts of torture. He was the lead counsel in the successful accreditation of Katribu (Tribemate) as a sectoral party-list for indigenous peoples in the Philippines. He is the lead counsel for Bayan Muna (People First) Party-List and NUPL et al. in the pending Philippine Supreme Court cases assailing the constitutionality of the following executive acts: the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking, a tripartite agreement among the Philippines, China and Vietnam for the seismic oil exploration in the South China Sea including the undisputed area covered by the Philippine territory; and the Presidential Proclamation 1959 issued by then President Gloria Arroyo in December 2009 declaring martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the province of Maguindanao, southern Philippines.

Kate Kondolf, United States of America

My name is Kate Kondolf and I am from the USA. I grew up in a small town in the FingerLakes region of New York State. My undergraduate degree was completed at Ithaca College in the field of Cultural Anthropology. In 2005, I spent time in India and Nepal researching the plight of Tibetan Refugees in exile. I have also worked in the field of social work, focusing primarily on elderly and people living with physical and mental disabilities. I am particularly interested in Social Justice, the Right to Education, International Law and Sustainability. I will be studying at the University of Colombo, and completing an internship in Sri Lanka in 2012.

Kedar Maharjan, Nepal & Australia

I’m Kedar Maharjan. My ethno-cultural descent is Newar, one of Nepal’s minority communities. The Newars’ historical and cultural richness is preserved in World Heritage sites around Kathmandu.

My ancestors were subsistence farmers in areas near my village birthplace. As my illiterate mother was widowed in my infancy, survival was a challenge for her and her children. My schooling was completed locally. My break came in studying medical sciences and, later, international public health, in Australia.
My career background spans public health and humanitarian work in Asia and Australia. My future interests will be also focused on human rights and empowerment of disadvantaged communities around world.

Khuyen Thi Mai Nguyen, Vietnam

My name is Khuyen Nguyen, a 23-year-old person who possesses the passion on making positive changes in the disability movement in Vietnam.

I held my BA in English Studies and there seems to be no linkage between me and the content of the course: Human Rights and Democratization (Asia-Pacific) however, things always happen for a reason. I started questioning “Is God democratic?” once I was diagnosed a polio survivor and he never replied. That was the cause for my lifetime searching for a decent answer. For approximately 5 years, I have been working with disability issue and now I am a volunteer project consultant of Hanoi Disabled People Association. Before MHRD course, I had spent half a year in Denmark studying on disability rights and organizational development work.

It’s my conviction that the best advocates for disability rights are self-advocates, people with disabilities themselves. For that reason, I strongly believe that my further study on Human Rights and Democratization at University of Sydney will equip me with powerful advocacy tools and self-confidence to transform me into a small giant who adequately advocates for the fundamental human rights of persons with disability in Vietnam.

Marisa de Silva, Sri Lanka

I'm Marisa de Silva, a freelance journalist cum activist from Sri Lanka. I worked at The Sunday Times, a leading weekly newspaper back home, for about 6 years and continue to freelance for them. Since the conclusion of the 3 decade long war in our country, I've been working with Home for Human Rights, an organisation which specializes on providing free legal aid and advocacy on issues pertaining to marginalized communities. My focus was essentially on working to address the grievances of the internally displaced community in the North of our country, such as detention, resettlement, voter rights, land rights etc

Maryam Kamyarnejad, Iran

Fatima ( Maryam) Kamyarnejad from Isfahan in Iran has worked for the UN as a UNV (United Nation Volunteer) and for I.O.M (International Organization for Migration in Iran, Jordan, Nepal and Afghanistan since 2004.

In 2004 I was working for the first presidential election of Afghanistan which was also held in Iran in order that Afghan refugees could have the opportunity to vote. In 2005 I worked in Jordan for the Iraqi National Assembly election which was again another 'out of country' registration and voting mission to enable Iraqis refugees residing in Jordan to vote. For these two missions, I was a Training Officer for electoral procedures and principles as well as supervising counting processes.
In 2007 and 2008 I was working for the Assembly elections of Nepal (with UNMINl) as an Electoral Advisor for training, public outreach and logistics. I enjoyed having to walk in the mountains to work with Nepali Civic Educators. We used drama to explain the importance of participating in elections.

In 2008 and 2009, I was involved in a number of election related roles in the war-torn country of Afghanistan, where security is a serious challenge, for the presidential elections. I was evacuated from this mission due to a terrible and tragic suicide bomb attack on a UN guest house where some of my colleagues were residing. A number of my friends were killed.

In 2010, I was briefly an Electoral Advisor for the Iraqi Parliamentary election in Iran. In my missions I have always been particularly interested working with women of local communities to inform them of their rights. it is particularly important to encourage them to get actively involved in electoral processes, but it is important increase public awareness among all social groups.

In general I hope that eventually I might in some small way assist in combating threats to human rights which bedevil so many countries.

Megha Chand, Nepal

A confident, hard-working and dynamic personality along with both sound academic and professional background, I strongly believe that everything is possible unless we don’t lose our hope. I came from Nepal, a small country facing numerous allegations of human rights violations, with a strong determination and perseverance to make a difference in the field of human rights.

I had worked as a Project Coordinator in the project entitled ‘Education Program for Domestic Child Workers’ from 2006-2009 which was a Roots & Shoots, Nepal program funded by the British Council, Nepal. Roots & Shoots, Nepal is the nonprofit making local NGO which dynamically works for the welfare of the environment, animals and human beings. Before coming to Australia, I had been working as a Program Associate in the organization, Freedom Forum Nepal which is also a nonprofit making NGO consciously working for the protection and promotion of human rights.

I believe that the Master of Human Rights and Democratization Degree will enlighten my knowledge and analytical skills and will develop the confidence in me to work more passionately and enthusiastically as a Human Rights Activist.

Milan Dharel, Nepal

I am Milan from Nepal and 31 years old. I had been working with a national NGO named CWISH focused on the human rights of women, children and youth for last 11 years. I started working as program officer and left for this course from the position of Executive Director. I had also chaired network of 58 organizations in Nepal working for children's right to participation during for two years from 2009 to 2010. Being in Post conflict situation and struggling to get out from poverty, my country Nepal, has not been adequately able to defend and uphold rights of women and children. They have suffered abuse, violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, child labor and exclusion. After completing my course of MHRD, I am planning to contribute few Nepalese NGOs on enhancing the quality of their work for upholding human rights of their target group and to enhance their capacity through transforming my learning, experience and skill being a mentor.