Human Dignity is the sequel to the successful Nine Lives: Making the Impossible Possible (New Internationalist, Oxford, 2009) by the same author, which portrays nine other human rights defenders.
Aminatou Haidar, Western Sahara
Fighting superpowers for independence and recognition
‘I am not Moroccan. I am Sahrawi,’ says Aminatou Haidar, Western Sahara’s foremost human rights defender, well known for speaking truth to power. Her parents had instilled in her the value of coexistence, but when colonial power Spain withdrew, Morocco took over, without any foundation in international law.
Other countries use the impasse to catch fish, mine phosphates, and explore the territory for oil, thus violating the rights of the Sahrawi. Despite UN presence, its mandate does not include human rights monitoring. Aminatou remains determined: ‘When I decide to do something, I will do it no matter what.
I am very stubborn, very solid and very tough.’ Having worked underground and experienced Moroccan jails, she feels certain: ‘We will never surrender.’
Samuel Kofi Woods, Liberia
Building up a scarred country as an activist and reformer
‘Good will eventually triumph over evil, but it cannot triumph by retreating. Good must confront evil.’ In ‘A War Without Purpose in a Country Without Identity’, human rights advocate and later minister Samuel Kofi Woods at times escaped death by a hair’s breadth.
Plagued by two civil wars around the turn of the century, Liberia became such a dangerous place to live, that Woods’ own daughter once denied she knew him, and his son told him not to come home. Raised in one of Liberia’s slums, Woods would later become a community and student leader working under the motto ‘light in darkness’. After leading several human rights organizations, he became minister in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government.
As a reformer, Woods aims to ‘demystify government’ and to promote ‘dignity without borders’.
Vuyiseka Dubula, South Africa
Serving health to the disadvantaged in the fight against Aids
‘There is no other thing that can shake me now’ said Vuyiseka Dubula after contracting Aids. With one out of every nine South Africans being infected, it is one of the world’s highest infection rates. In a culture of ‘sugar daddies’, family sense has eroded, and due to poverty, lack of education, and unemployment, the problems are multiple.
Having worked herself up from counselor and branch leader to Secretary General of Treatment Action Campaign, Vuyiseka endured all the hardships she now helps others overcome. Surviving an abusive home, she feels she was ‘born to the class struggle’.
She learned to challenge everything, including the healthcare system and the power of pharmaceutical companies. ‘The Government sees us as enemies, because we are watchdogs.’