“I am not safe, and those I am defending are not safe”
- woman human rights defender from one of the informal settlements of Nairobi
In 2013, PBI deployed a team of international volunteers in Kenya following extensive field and desk-based research into the human rights situation in the country and the related needs of human rights defenders. The intent was to provide support and protection to human rights defenders during the presidential elections, a period of expected heightened risk. The need for protection persisted and so PBI has continued to maintain a presence in the country.
Our team of volunteers and staff is based in Nairobi, but has also visited defenders along the Coast, and in the West and central parts of Kenya.
Kenyan human rights defenders (HRDs) face numerous challenges and threats, particularly if they work in informal settlements and rural areas, or if they work on sensitive topics such as land rights, corruption and violations by the police. HRDs working on these issues can find themselves being followed, threatened and/or attacked. Women human rights defenders face additional risks of stigmatization, sexual assault and rape because of their human rights work. In some cases, threats against them are not seen as related to their human rights work or they are not taken as seriously as their male counterparts.
"Human rights defenders in Kenya.... they face criminalisation, police abuse,
arbitrary arrests, attacks, and extra-judicial killings.
And they are those same inspirational people
challenging impunity and standing up for justice."
- Ann Wright, PBI Kenya volunteer
In Kenya there are some protection mechanisms already in place, but various protection organisations and embassies, as well as the HRDs themselves, have assured PBI that our integrated approach of protective accompaniment adds value and is complementary to existing protection tools. PBI's approach of having international volunteers on the ground offers international solidarity and access to international networks that are of utmost importance for the protection of human rights defenders. PBI's preventative approach also offers an alternative to the emergency response solutions already provided to human rights defenders after they have received a threat by allowing them to continue their important work on the ground while managing any threats they receive.