Profiles of the Fellows
Zahra is a human rights lawyer and activist with dual UK and Syrian nationality, working in the field of statelessness, which affects over 15 million people worldwide. Her fellowship has allowed her to deepen her understanding of the issue of statelessness and facilitate a more robust civil society response to the problems it causes. Her particular interests are statelessness in the Middle East and North Africa and the impacts of statelessness and discriminatory nationality laws on women. Through a combination of research, awareness raising and capacity building Zahra is deepening her knowledge and understanding of the causes and consequences of statelessness, raising awareness, among activists, the media and the general public, and creating a civil society network of activists and stateless people/groups. She also hopes to produce a web based resource for people working on statelessness.
Brad is an activist from South Africa who previously led Equal Education, a movement of students, parents, teachers, and community members campaigning for quality and equality in the education system. He has worked on campaigns for textbooks, libraries, sanitation, transport and school infrastructure standards, as well as against corporal punishment, illegal exclusions and school closures. Brad’s fellowship allowed him to research and write about youth activist movements in different parts of the world. He has produced a set of case studies on youth activist movements in the USA, Brazil, Chile, India and Egypt. He is now working at the Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education where the case studies from part of the curriculum.
Charlene Carruthers is a leader and activist from Chicago who organizes through a Black queer feminist praxis. She is the national director of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), with a 14-year history as a social justice activist, community organiser, teacher and writer on issues such as developing young leaders, building capacity within marginalized communities, migrant rights, and economic justice. Charlene has used her Fellowship to strengthen and develop relationships between the food justice and land struggle movements in the US and Brazil. Through travelling to Brazil, she has established strong working relationships and broadened her current network of leaders, scholars and activists. Charlene is leading training on these issues in the US, and has trained at least 100 food justice activists in core organizing skills. Part of the fellowships includes attending university courses in food studies and undertaking an intensive Portuguese language course. A key output from the fellowship is a new book called Unapologetic: a Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements
Rory has dedicated his professional life to empowering the voices of marginalised young people in Northern Ireland. His most recent publication ‘My Story’ documented a series of emotive narrations of real life from the perspective of young people, women and refugee and asylum seekers living in a post-conflict society. Through his work, Rory has played an important role in elevating the voices of those, who he feels, have drawn the ‘short straw’ within the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict. However, these are the people who have the potential to influence massive change within Northern Irish society. The fellowship is enabling Rory to study models of international good practice for effective youth-based campaigning and mobilisation on equality, citizenship and addressing their issues for change. Rory will apply what he learns working alongside a group of young people empowering them to become young activists. The young people will become a compelling catalyst for their change. They hope to co-design an online youth-friendly resources/tool kit which can be shared and used more widely by others.
Craig is an experienced communications professional in the Irish NGO sector, previously working with the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) to harness social media as a driver of communication and engagement with LGBT people and communities, and with the wider public. He was the Social Media Director for the Yes Equality campaign for civil marriage equality in Ireland. Craig’s Fellowship has enabled him to examine and document this innovative and highly effective social media campaign. During the fellowship he was also able to provide support to the Marriage Equality referendum campaign in Australia. Craig is also critically reflecting on social media strategies for other social movements. He has created ForaChange, a free online resource and guide for activists and campaign groups on designing and implementing effective social media strategies for social change.
Lisa is an activist and academic from a disadvantaged community in Belfast. She has worked with young people, women, minority ethnic groups, ex-political prisoners and combatants across a range of social and political issues including hate crime, reconciliation, physical transformation and social welfare issues. Lisa’s Fellowship allows her to undertake a series of study visits, convenings and learning opportunities, and through these, document and reflect on the experiences and approaches of women dealing with conflict in three settings – Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine and the USA. She is building an international learning and support network for women working in conflict situations and is promoting new approaches to lobbying, campaigning and advocacy strategies.
Sean has worked for over 30 years as a grass roots peace builder in the most politically marginalised communities in Northern Ireland. He has particular experience of facilitating dialogue and mediation between and amongst groups and communities. Sean has also worked as a funder, with a focus on governance, leadership, strategy development and planning. He has worked internationally in a number of regions emerging from conflict.
Sean’s Fellowship is primarily focused on learning, documenting, and applying lessons from the experiences, successes and challenges faced by local communities in grass-roots peacebuilding in Northern Ireland and in other contested societies. The fellowship involves local, national and international research, studying models of community-led initiatives and developing new strategies, approaches and resources for peacebuilding activists. He will convene a group of activists from formerly armed republican and loyalist groups to create an interactive network to reflect on good practice and implement community leadership resources and tools that build positive grassroots engagement. The fellowship will help strengthen Sean’s own development, expertise and resilience as a community-based, post-conflict change maker.
Jonathan has worked in the community and voluntary sector for over 15 years starting his career working as a regeneration coordinator in the former mining towns and villages in the South Wales Valleys. Since then he has worked in a number of roles dealing with issues as diverse as economic development, regeneration, mental health and the arts. He currently divides his time between working for a community-based addiction charity in Northern Ireland and working closely with Loyalist and working-class Protestant communities in the Greater Shankill and East Antrim areas. He recently co-organised Woodvale Festival, the first major culture and arts festival in Belfast’s Greater Shankill area. He is currently undertaking postgraduate research at Ulster University into identity, class and representation with a particular focus on conflict and film in Northern Ireland. Jonathan’s fellowship is helping him to identify approaches that enable Loyalist communities to better use political, civic and legal structures to affect change around decisions which impact on them. During the fellowship he will look at how other groups and communities have successfully influenced decisions or affected change from a position of marginalisation. He aims to produce an e-based leadership resource and toolkit and a short film.
Irũngũ has 20 years’ experience of public interest activism and campaigning in Kenya. The fellowship has allowed him to document and nurture new forms of activism in Kenya and to support the development of a cadre of emerging activists working to hold state officials to account and ensure that the wider public benefits from public facilities and spaces. Irũngũ believes it is possible to create and support forms of activism that are focused on clear objectives; that maintain strong challenge to the state and elites and stay independent of the highly polarised political parties in Kenya. As part of his fellowship he hopes to write a book about constitutionalism in Kenya (2010-2015).
Deepa is a South Asian American community activist, attorney and writer who has been active in the racial and immigrant justice movements in the United States for 20 years. A former civil rights lawyer in the Department of Justice, she became the first executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national, non-profit organisation. At SAALT, Iyer spearheaded the formation of a national coalition of South Asian organizations and advocated for civil rights protections related to post 9/11 backlash. In 2015, Iyer published a book entitled We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future to document the stories and experiences of MASA communities in the post 9/11 environment. Through her Fellowship she is deepening relations between and reflecting on how to strengthen and support more effective social change practices among MASA organisations and advocates in the United States and Europe. She produces a regular podcast on solidarity called Solidarity Is This
Phumeza and Dustin have been centrally involved for many years in the work of South Africa’s Social Justice Coalition (SJC). They worked together to build the organisation into a social movement of poor and working-class people. Under their leadership SJC has used a variety of strategies and tactics including advocacy, litigation, political education, and organising and has become a leading advocate for poor communities and tackling issues of policing, safety, and the criminal justice system. Phumeza and Dustin, are using their fellowship to reflect on transformative change processes and on the challenges that leaders and activists face in building mass movements. They are aiming to produce a number of written pieces to stimulate further discussion and reflection among South African activists and more broadly in the activist world.
Yashar Kassar is a young Syrian, now resident in the UK. In 2011 in response to anti-government protests in Syria he began work there on educational projects and attempted to create spaces for debate. As the armed conflict erupted he moved his focus to raising money for humanitarian relief and then to working directly in the camps alongside the organisations Syria Relief and Syrian Women Across Borders. Yashar is using his Fellowship to identify, train and support a network of 10-14 young refugee activists and support their personal development. To advance this work he has established a new organisation called Syriability.
Becky is an Israeli lawyer who has been working for many years in the towns of Sderot and Ofakim. Her work focuses on community building, empowering disenfranchised populations through access to knowledge regarding their rights and the development of advocacy tools to promote policy change. She is also the lawyer for the NGO “Rabbis for Human Rights” She founded the southern branch of “Itach Maaki,” an organization providing help to women suffering from discrimination and lack of rights. Becky has been using her fellowship to undertake training and study visits to Northern Ireland, Canada and the US to learn about approaches to involving disadvantaged communities in social activism, with a particular emphasis on working in areas of conflict.
Palika is an activist and media maker, utilising participatory film and photography as tools for change at the community level. She is the Co-Founder of The Babel Project, a youth media non-profit organisation that teaches young people from marginalised communities around the world how to use media as a tool for change. Through The Babel Project, Palika has worked with youth activists and organisers from New York, Ferguson, Cape Town and The West Bank, engaging over 400 young people. Issues addressed include: immigration policy and undocumented youth, institutionalised racism within the education system, police violence and community response, and life within a refugee camp. Through the fellowship, Palika has shared her skills and experiences in youth media work with four organisations in the US, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and has also developed her own skills as an organisational leader. The media outputs from her fellowship can be found at The Babel Project.
Gary is a Methodist minister who has spent almost 30 years working in Belfast in areas at the heart of the conflict. He played a key role in the Northern Irish peace process through his engagement work with loyalist paramilitaries as a voice for them to choose non-violent means to achieve their designated political objectives. He has facilitated negotiations between them, the government and republican paramilitaries. He remains a close and trusted advisor to Protestant ex-combatants and is involved in efforts to support them civilianize. Gary has lectured in political, religious and academic forums globally seeking to engage, mentor and share lessons from the Irish peace process. A particular interest of his is the role of faith in activism. Gary’s fellowship has enabled him to respond to requests – locally and internationally – to share his insights and experiences in enabling conflict transformation amongst armed groups and to counter rising religious fundamentalism. He has now established a new organisation, Rethinking Conflict, to take forward the work initiated under the fellowship.
Celia is an experienced activist in the peace building and reconciliation field from England. She worked in the states of the former Yugoslavia, has led Conciliation Resources’ work on comparative peace processes, and has managed Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust’s Peace and Security and Northern Ireland programmes. Her fellowship has created the space to challenge the current paradigm of militarised security policies that undermine government accountability and restrict rights. She hopes to develop an alternative national security policy discourse based on the values of peace, human rights, equality. During her fellowship Celia has produced a comparative analysis of North American and European National Security Strategies which can be accessed here. She also delivered a Ted Talk and has established a new organisation, Rethinking Security to take forward the work initiated under the fellowship.
Alice is an experienced activist from Botswana who has led that country’s Centre for Human Rights (Ditshwanelo) for over 20 years. Alice’s activism has seen her campaign on issues such as violations of the indigenous peoples, sexual orientation and gender identity, the organising of domestic workers and challenging the use of the death penalty. She is using the fellowship to reflect on and document her and other activists’ experience and learning of social change work in Botswana and southern Africa. In particular, she is developing an understanding of models of African leadership in the human rights field. One of the outputs from her fellowship is this TED talk on leadership. Alice will produce a report “Leadership Lessons for Social Change” with an analysis of leadership styles and their effectiveness in bringing about social change. This will form the basis for a series of leadership training events for civil society organisations.
Phumi is an experienced activist working on issues of economic, gender and LGBTI justice. An internationalist, she has been based in South Africa and Ecuador since the beginning of her political career in 1985. Her work has included organising rent boycotts to combat Apartheid and mobilising against the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement. She was part of the group of activists that worked to enshrine the rights to equality, dignity and freedom for all in the South African Constitution. The fellowship is allowing her to write a book about the process that led to the strong protections for LGBTI communities in the South African constitution. She hopes to use this to extrapolate lessons for struggles today in South Africa and other parts of the global South where the example of the South African constitution is so powerful.
Katrina is an experienced youth and community worker in Northern Ireland. She has particular experience in youth participation, cross-community engagement and outreach and in designing and implementing developmental programmes and opportunities that challenge discrimination and encourage inclusion. Katrina has a strong interest in helping to support sustainable, positive change in the lives of some of north Belfast’s most marginalised young people impacted by the legacy of the conflict and facing paramilitary threat, exclusion, or mental health problems. Katrina’s fellowship is focused on finding new ways of engaging those involved in young peoples’ lives to help address the issues they face including paramilitary threat, low self-esteem, lack of opportunity and addiction. She will look at international best practice around engaging young people, particularly in segregated and marginalised areas and her work will produce resources and a youth engagement model for other practitioners.
Saiful is a photographer, filmmaker, educator and human rights activist from Bangladesh. He has been involved in the student movements in Bangladesh and involved in the movement for the war crimes tribunal of the 1971 war. Since 2008 he has been working on the issue of the Rohingya people of Myanmar. The Fellowship is allowing Saiful to develop his capacity and skills to better engage on the Rohingya issue and to build the skills and capacity of Rohingya themselves to disseminate information and advocate. During the fellowship he has produced two photographic books capturing the dreadful situation of the Rohingya. The most recent book can be purchased here. He is now working on the completion of a documentary film. He will share his knowledge and previous work, raise awareness of and advocate on the issue and facilitate a network of Rohingya to document and disseminate information on the human rights challenges they face.
Monina is a peace building activist from Northern Ireland, with over 30 years’ expertise in developing and delivering grass-roots peace building, community development and social justice programmes and campaigns. Her work has included anti-poverty campaigns, work with lone parents, and extensive engagement with excluded loyalist and republican communities. She has combined work at the grass roots with roles as a policy advocate and as a funder. She is using her fellowship to review previous philanthropic initiatives to promote peace and reconciliation. She is documenting and reflecting on the success and failures of these initiatives with a view to distilling key lessons for the development of future programmes including those in other conflict situations. She is also mentoring and convening a group of practitioners to implement the lessons learned.
Saket is a leading community and labour organiser who has spent over ten years working at the intersection of racial justice, migrant rights, and workers’ rights. He has testified in the U.S. Congress, authored reports, built coalitions and led campaigns on issues of structural racism, migration, and economic inequality. Saket is the founding Executive Director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, which was formed in the midst of humanitarian crisis after Hurricane Katrina. In the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, the Center played a critical role in bridging, and building common ground, between African American communities locked out of work, and arriving migrant communities locked into exploitative conditions. He is also the co-founder and Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance, a social movement vehicle for international migrant workers seeking to win dignity amidst conditions of forced labour and severe exploitation. Under his fellowship Saket has been leading conversations about the future of work and the need for a new social contract suited to the needs of a 21st century workforce shaped by demographic shifts and migration patterns. The fellowship is enabling him to lead new organizing and policy efforts that respond to the rise of contingent work and the prospect of long-term unemployment.
Opal is a Nigerian-American community organiser, activist, Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. She has nearly 17 years’ experience in advocacy, innovative communications campaigns and grassroots mobilisation. The fellowship has allowed Opal to research and write about the needs and potential strategies to connect and coordinate activists and social movements internationally on a range of human rights issues, particularly as it affects those of African descent. She is combining this with opportunities to reflect on her work and participate in seminars and courses in order to be a more effective transnational movement leader. She is also working on a book.
Marissa and Sean have both been involved in campaigning and lobbying on the issue of housing inequality in Northern Ireland. Although they have worked on campaigns that have had success in improving living conditions of local residents and for homeless people, they remain frustrated by the lack of systemic change in housing policy and provision. Despite strong equality and human rights provisions in Northern Ireland issues around housing inequality remain. Their fellowships involves studying and learning from the work of housing rights campaigners in South Africa and the US. They have a particular interest in the role of legislation and policy in seeking to address historical inequalities, the impact of this legislation among the groups experiencing inequality, especially women, and how housing rights movements have used policy and law. They have produced a web based resource www.lessonsforchange.org which profiles the work and tactics of the people and groups they have been meeting in the course of the fellowship.
Rachel is an experienced activist with over twenty years’ involvement in social change campaigning. She has held key positions in Women’s Aid, the Equality Authority, the Equality & Rights Alliance and the Daughters of Charity Community Services. Her work has included training, developing equality focused systems for a range of sectors, co-ordinating a high-level advocacy coalition of civil society organisations, lobbying at national and EU-level, and leading a service delivery organisation. She is also a co-founder of the Values Lab. Rachel’s Fellowship is allowing her to deepen her knowledge and skills and develop new tools for a values-based approach to advancing equality and human rights concerns. Outputs from the fellowship include two reports on the role of values in strategic communications and the power of values led organisations, available here.