December 09, 2016

"The struggle is far from over. To tire in our quest to leave the world a better place is something we cannot opt for"

"Young human rights activists like myself are able to seek out role models from bold, unbounded individuals who took a stand"

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Mitchell Ofuyo

Global Youth Ambassador from Kenya

Ahead of Human Rights Day on December 10, Global Youth Ambassador Mitchell Ofuyo writes about the struggle for change in Kenya and beyond.

Tomorrow, the world shall once again join together in commemoration of Human Rights Day.  A day set apart to celebrate arguably the most significant milestone in human rights advocacy - the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

But even as the world joins together in commemoration of this crucial stepping stone, there is still much work to be done.  As Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere." 

Granted, there have been moments when the fight for equality, peace and dignity has had huge victories.  

And, undoubtedly, young human rights activists like myself are able to seek out role models from bold, unbounded individuals who took a stand, believed beyond limits and, most importantly, took action.  

A woman protests against political corruption during a march in Nairobi last month

In my contemplation of the progress made, I thought about this year in my country, Kenya, in particular.

We have witnessed people die of starvation, while governments embezzle funds. Journalists continue to be deprived of full autonomy in their trade while they seek to uncover truths. 

Lawyers are killed for seeking justice for clients who rightly deserved it. Corruption whistleblowers are killed and their families tortured and intimidated by the powerful "unshakables" of society. 

Children are tear-gassed and their education interrupted by "private developers" whose land interests take precedent over the humane treatment of children. 

The senseless maiming and killings in police and tribal massacres are falsely blamed upon cultural practices and territorial clashes. Human rights are blatantly ignored.

And yet, despite all of this, a few of us stood up. We protested for days for the things we believed in. For the things we demanded because we knew they belonged to us. 

We protested and submitted cases in court, even when we know they might not progress very far. We were beaten and even shot at. We had police dogs released on us. 

We fell and bore the pain of others stepping on us during a stampede from our meeting points. We broke limbs, got black eyes and swollen body parts. Still we stood up, undeterred, unfazed.

We had our Twitter accounts blocked, we had our blogs pulled down and our accounts hacked. Our friends in the media were abducted and killed. Media houses were vandalised and entire publications went missing.

The struggle is far from over. And maybe it will never be over. To tire in our quest to leave the world a better place, however, is something we cannot opt for. 

We must remember to cherish the victories and allow them to fuel our fires and rekindle our strength.

The right to demand that universal human rights are observed, considered and safeguarded belongs to everyone - although it’s one that is too frequently overlooked. 

Much of the time, our efforts are annihilated and it’s easy to throw our hands up in desperation and hopelessness.

Despite this, the fight for the protection of the rights and freedoms of the human race is a noble one and it is fought by noble men and women. Everyone has a role to play - and Human Rights Day 2016 is a good time to remind ourselves of that.  

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