The Defenders

Our work is motivated and defined by the stories and courage of 50+ human rights defenders from around the world. Representing a diverse array of cultures and ideas, these defenders and their activism encourage students to further engage with international human rights law, standards and advocacy and to realize how one person can truly make a difference. Our list of defenders is always growing, as we work to discover new stories that can inspire a generation to take action. 

We feature our Defenders in a variety of ways, whether it be through interviews from Kerry Kennedy's book Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders who are Changing Our World or teacher-developed lesson plans. Beginning with the story of a specific human rights defender, each of these lesson plans outlines a series of activities inspired by the defender's advocacy and designed to encourage students themselves to "Become a Defender." They are available in 7 different languages for students at all levels, ranging from elementary school to law school. In addition, they align with Common Core Learning Standards.

50th Anniversary Lesson Plans
Featuring Congressman John Lewis, Ruby Bridges, Justice Thurgood Marshall, and more
Children's Rights
Abubacar Sultan
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
Political Participation
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Human Rights Strategies
Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani
International Law
Baltasar Garzon
Peace and Conflict Resolution
Betty Williams
Religious Freedom
Bishop Wissa
The International Ban on Land Mines
Bobby Muller
Carlos Phillipe Ximenes Belo
Dianna Ortiz
Human Rights
Digna Ochoa
Political Rights and Imprisonment
Doan Viet Hoat
Our Rights at Risk in a Public Health Crisis
Drs. Anthony Fauci and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Elie Wiesel
Sexual Violence
Erin Merryn
Female Genital Mutilation and Immigration Abuse
Fauziya Kassindja
Human Rights
Francisco Soberon
LGBTQ+ Rights
Frank Mugisha
Free Expression
Freedom Neruda
Disability Rights
Gábor Gombos
Political Rights
Guillaume Ngefa Atondoko
Political Rights
Hafez Abu Sayed Seada
Forced Labor
Harry Wu
The Death Penalty
Helen Prejean
Freedom from Discrimination
LGBTQ+ Rights and Bullying
Jamie Nabozny
Political Rights
Jamie Prieto Mendez
Political Participation / Women’s Rights / Environmental Rights / Sustainable Investing / Business & Human Rights
Jimmy Carter
Protection from Landmines and Non-Violence
Jody Williams
Civil Rights, Political Participation and Non-Violence
John Lewis
José Ramos-Horta
Political Rights, Truth, and Reconciliation
Jose Zalaquett
Human Rights and Reconciliation
Juan Mendez
Juliana Dogbadzi
Ka Hsaw Wa
Kailash Satyarthi
Political Participation and Political Rights
Kek Galabru
Political Rights
Koigi wa Wamwer
Labor Rights and Farmworker Rights
Librada Paz
Health Care
Loune Viaud
Farmworkers' Rights
Lucas Benitez
Mairead Maguire
Malala Yousafzai
The Disappeared
Maria Teresa Tula
Children and Poverty
Marian Wright Edelman
Domestic Violence
Marina Pisklakova
Human Rights in the Midst of Conflict
Martin O’Brien
Political Participation
Mikhail Gorbachev
Freedom of Expression and Religion
Mohamed ElBaradei
Muhammad Yunus
Human Rights in Time of War
Natasa Kandic
Apartheid and Racial Discrimination
Nelson Mandela
Freedom From Violence and Freedom of Expression
North Korea
Disarmament and Demilitarization
Oscar Arias Sánchez
LGBTQ+ Rights
Patria Jimenez
Human Rights and Self-Determination
Raji Sourani
Honor Killings
Rana Husseini
Indigenous Rights
Rigoberta Menchú Tum
Robert F. Kennedy
Political Rights
Samuel Kofi Woods
Political Rights
Senal Sarihan
Kurds and Self-Determination
Sezgin Tanrikulu
Peace and Political Participation
Shimon Peres
Women's Rights
Shirin Ebadi
Freedom of Expression and Choice
Sonita Alizadeh
Joining the Women of Peace
Tawakkol Karman
Freedom of Expression and Religion
The Dalai Lama
Refugee Rights
The Refugee
Freedom of Expression
Václav Havel
Police Brutality
Van Jones
Law and Democratic Change
Vera Stremkovskaya
Women and the Environment
Wangari Maathai
Political Participation and Imprisonment
Wei Jingsheng
Political Participation and Life Underground
Zbigniew Bujak