The Defenders Coalition is a national membership organization established to champion the safety, security and well-being of human rights defenders (HRDs). The Defenders Coalition works primarily for the protection of HRDs in Kenya. Among other things, the Coalition strengthens capacities of HRDs to work more effectively and advocates for favorable legal, policy and institutional environments in order to reduce their vulnerability to the risk of persecution and/or harm. The organization is now responding to new pandemic-related threats by supporting community-based sensitization efforts through creative use of multi-media along with direct humanitarian aid, sustained by crowdfunding and income-generating activities.
Defenders Coalition maintained income-generation by supporting the making and selling of soap at the community level through use of locally available materials. Soap is an important commodity for combating COVID-19 as it enables community members to practice the highest of hygiene standards. The soap-making activity organically evolved into an income generating innovation as demand for the commodity skyrocketed. The Defenders Coalition helps facilitate HRD networks to actively engage in soap making, distributing the commodity for free to vulnerable community members while selling it at low prices, thus generating some income to reduce the socio-economic shock of the pandemic for HRDs. The Defenders Coalition also supports HRD networks that are distributing soap in communities along with PPE and disseminating creative media messaging packages to spur change in public health behavior and counter misinformation. Besides that, the Defenders Coalition provided direct aid to support medical, humanitarian, and livelihood needs of HRDs and targeted support for women HRDs in poor communities. They conducted policy analysis, advocacy, and strategic litigation to ensure that diverse and marginalized HRDs and local communities have their voices influence national policy efforts to contain COVID-19.
Theory of Change
The documentation, monitoring, and advocacy efforts of Human Rights Defenders can best be supported by community-based activities, including sensitization efforts through the creative use of multimedia along with direct humanitarian aid, sustained by income-generating activities and crowdfunding.
The Defenders Coalition deploys Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) across Kenya to monitor and document human rights violations and addresses harassment, detention, arrests, and state violence against them. Prior to the pandemic, it began working on plans to build a resource center ‘hub’ for HRDs, designed to support wellness and safety, networking and knowledge sharing, and building talent and capacity. They are seeking new financial resources to support this endeavor through crowd funding, beginning with the August 2019 launch of the Climb for Justice Campaign, in which HRDs and their friends and families climb Mount Kenya (physically or virtually) with the goal of raising KES 50,000,000 and highlighting the work of defending HRDs in Kenya. The second phase of the campaign will target local philanthropy, with HRDs and friends hiking up the tallest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Defenders Coalition supported the installation of 24 informative murals and has partnered with the Social Justice Centers Working Group to share information and provide livelihood support and personal protection equipment for HRDs to over 40 Justice Centers and HRD networks across the country. They also trained six women’s HRD networks and equipped them with the skills and supplies needed to make soap. Defenders Coalition has directly supported 23 HRDs and their families who have been affected severely by the pandemic, including relocating several HRDs and their families, helping some with rent, and offering food and shelter to those impacted by severe floods. They have offered urgent intervention to six HRDs that required medical and psycho-social assistance and have been involved with legal support for those arbitrarily arrested. The Climb for Justice campaign has continued despite the pandemic. Between August 2019 and March 2020, 444 hikers participated in the initiative directly through regular hiking, raising 5.6 million Kenyan shillings (approx. USD $56,000) out of its 50 million KSh target.