Celebrating Human Rights Defenders on the Frontline – Panel Discussions on gender, challenging corporate power and the right to protest

Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain.

Bob Dylan, Singer Songwriter

Event Title: Celebrating Human Rights Defenders on the Frontline – Three Panel Discussions on gender, challenging corporate power and the right to protest

Date and Time

Saturday 28 September, 12 – 6pm


Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin

Details of Event

Leading human rights organisations once again come together to celebrate the voices and actions of human rights defenders from Ireland and around the world. Saturday 28 September from 12 to 6pm is a day packed with panel discussion sessions, interactive workshops, and film screenings. Highlights include panel discussions on gender rights, environmental rights, the struggle against big businesses and the right to protest both at home and abroad. For details and bookings for the three panel discussions, which take place over the course of the day from 12 to 6pm – please see below. The day also features three interactive creative-based workshops running parallel to the panel discussions – see next event for further details. The workshops are an interactive songwriting workshop, an up-cycling fashion workshop and a theatre for equality workshop.

All events are free but booking is essential.  These are three separate events. Please feel free to attend one, two or all three events. Please see below for details of the three events.

Panel One: Working for Gender Rights

Time and Date: 12.30-1.45pm, 28 September 2019

Speakers: Eric Sambisa, NYASA Rainbow Alliance, NRA, Malawi; Nana Mwafrika Mbarikiwa, Uganda; Órla Mc Breen, Director, Civil Society and Development Education, Irish Aid

Moderator: Órla Mc Breen, Director, Civil Society and Development Education, Irish Aid

Category: Panel Discussion

Tickets: Ticketed Event – Free Admission.

Book Here

Sustainable changes in the lives of people in developing countries can only happen when men and women are treated equally. That means equal access to and control of resources and benefits, equal participation in political decision-making and equality under the law. In all our work, we take account of gender equality and try to empower women and girls to achieve their full potential. This panel will address the issued effecting gender inequality in an international context, namely; limited access to resources, barriers to education, access to basic healthcare, and gender based violence.


Eric Sambisa, NYASA Rainbow Alliance, NRA, Malawi

Eric Sambisa is the winner of the 2019 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk in Africa. Eric is the first Malawian to come out openly as gay on national television in Malawi and he speaks about his experiences fighting for the realisation of LGBTI+ rights.

Nana Mwafrika Mbarikiwa, Uganda

Nana Mwafrika Mbarikiwa is an independent woman human rights defender of civil and political rights in Uganda. In April this year, while heavily pregnant, Nana was hospitalized as a result of a violent assault by a group of police officers at the main entrance to the Uganda Police Force headquarters in Naguru, Kampala District.

Órla Mc Breen, Director, Civil Society and Development Education, Irish Aid

Órla Mc Breen is the Director for Civil Society and Development Education within the Development Cooperation and Africa Division for Civil Society policy and Development Education policy with Irish Aid with responsibility for Irish Aid grant programmes: the multi-annual Programme Grant II for long-term large-scale development programmes; the Civil Society Fund for shorter-term development projects; Misean Cara – funding to Irish missionary organisations for development projects overseas; 

Development Education grants including the operation of the Irish Aid Centre; the Department’s In-Country Micro-Projects Scheme (ICMPS) for development projects in countries where Ireland does not have a development programme; support and implementation of the Irish Aid Volunteering Strategy including funding to national umbrella bodies; oversight of and support to the delivery of Irish Aid’s development assistance programmes in Palestine and in Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia; in addition to the operation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s election observation roster.

Panel Two: Human Rights Defenders Challenging Corporate Power

Time and Date: 2.30-4pm, 28 September 2019

Speakers: Abelino Chub Caal, Guatemala and Wilhemina ‘Mina’ Boahemaa Owusu Beyan, Liberia

Moderator: Caoimhe de Barra, CEO, Trocaire.

Category: Panel Discussion

Tickets: Ticketed Event – Free Admission.

Book Here

 This panel session opens with the screening of a short film called Defend the Defenders. The panel session brings together three inspirational human rights defenders who are resisting the activities of corporations in different parts of the world. The discussion will focus on the human rights and environmental issues arising due to the activities of large corporations, including the impacts on their communities and the threats faced by human rights defenders. Panellists will discuss the tactics and strategies they have used to challenge corporate power along with wider proposals for change.


Abelino Chub Caal, Guatemala

Abelino Chub Caal is a member of the Guillermo Toriello Foundation, which advocates for dignified housing for all, local development, and environmentally sustainable agriculture. On 26 April 2019, Abelino was released from prison having spent two years in arbitrary detention. The procedures for his trial had been manifestly unfair – both the defence and prosecution agreed there was no evidence of his involvement on the crimes he was charged with.

Wilhemina ‘Mina’ Boahemaa Owusu Beyan, Liberia

Mina Beyan is a Programs Director at the Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development (SESDev) in Liberia. In her role with SESDev, Mina works closely with local communities to monitor and report on oil palm companies’ activities, to ensure their adherence to their commitments and the law. In all of her peaceful work Mina has faced reprisals from agribusiness companies who attack NGOs in the press through smear campaigns.

Moderator: Caoimhe de Barra, CEO, Trocaire

Caoimhe de Barra was appointed CEO of Trócaire in August 2018. From May 2015 to July 2018, Caoimhe was Country Director for Concern Worldwide in Malawi. From 2011 to 2015, Caoimhe was Director of Trócaire’s International Division. Caoimhe worked in a regional management role with Trócaire from 2007 to 2010, based in Mozambique and managing Zimbabwe and Angola country programmes as well as Governance and Human Rights across the region. Caoimhe has also worked as Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Advocacy Officer and Campaigns officer in Trócaire. Caoimhe’s strengths lie in strategic leadership and she has technical expertise in areas including Governance & Human Rights, Gender Equality, Resilient Livelihoods and Humanitarian Preparedness and Response. Recently authored papers include a review of Cash Transfers and Gender Equality in Malawi. Caoimhe has a Masters in Development Studies from UCD. She is a passionate advocate for human rights and social justice.

Panel Three: The Right to Protest

 Time and Date: 4.30-6pm, 28 September 2019

Speakers: Cormac Mc Aleer, Chairman (outgoing) of Save Our Sperrins (SOS), County Tyrone and Svetlana Glushkova, Reporter, Kazakhstan

Moderator: Liam Herrick, Executive Director, Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL)

Category: Panel Discussion

Tickets: Ticketed Event – Free Admission

Book Here

The right to protest is one of the most important human rights issues globally. Threats to the right to protest manifest themselves in different ways throughout different regions, some protesters face military backlash, others face greater electronic surveillance, and some face a shrinking civil space for opposition and dissent more generally. This panel gathers three human rights defenders from Ireland and abroad to discuss the current trends in protest, the threats to the right to protest which they face, and how civil society can work to protect this vital human right.


Cormac Mc Aleer, Chairman (outgoing) of Save Our Sperrins (SOS), County Tyrone

Save Our Sperrins is an environmental interest group based in the heart of the Sperrins in County Tyrone. They advocate for environmentally responsible planning in the public interest. In recent months Cormac and others have been subject to threats and intimidation in connection with protesting the activities of a Canadian gold mining project in the Sperrins Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Svetlana Glushkova, Reporter, Kazakhstan

Svetlana Glushkova is a correspondent with RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service and Current Time. She covers a wide range of human rights related issues and has been arrested numerous times and beaten by police officers during the course of her work.

Moderator: Liam Herrick, Executive Director, Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL)

Liam was Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) between 2007 and 2014. He has also worked as the first head of legislation and policy at the former Irish Human Rights Commission and with the Law Reform Commission and the Department of Foreign Affairs. He is a member of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), a former Board member of the Children’s Rights Alliance and the Minister for Justice and Equality’s Strategic Review Group on Penal Policy (2012-2014).