Njeri Kabeberi is a renowned human rights activist with countless international awards to her name, but has had little or no recognition back home.
Only recently, on January 30, 2018, was she awarded the 2017 Munir Mazrui ‘Lifetime Achievement Human Rights Defenders Award’ at a ceremony organised by the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya, and she was elated.
“Despite having received a number of international awards, this is the first time I have been recognised in my own country – and since it is said that a ‘prophet is never recognised in their own home’, this then becomes the biggest victory and the sweetest award to date,” she said.
In her acceptance speech, Njeri elucidated: “Human rights defenders’ work is lonely and hardly appreciated but I know that focus, persistence and resilience always cause the desired impact. We earn our freedom when we learn to face fear head-on; that is what others call courage”.
Njeri is currently the Greenpeace Africa’s Executive Director.
Her activism career spans more than three decades.
As a girl in 1982, she quietly began supporting mothers and wives of political prisoners. Her human rights work was only thrown into limelight a decade later when she was invited by the late Prof Wangari Maathai to join in the campaign to release Kenyan political prisoners. She became the first chair of pressure group Release Political Prisoners in 1991.
Her vast experience saw her work in different organisations, even serving as the Chief Executive Officer of the Civil Society Reference Group, and as the immediate former Executive Director of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy.
Broke chains of patriarchy
Announcing the award, Kamau Ngugi, Executive Director of the Human Rights Defenders (HRD) Coalition of Kenya described Kabeberi as “a selfless Woman Human Rights Defender who has broken chains of patriarchy to lead successful campaigns for justice, good governance and human rights in Kenya and beyond. Njeri has mentored many and her recent advances in the environmental protection crown her lifelong commitment to human rights promotion and protection that deserves recognition and celebration.”
With this long history in human rights activism, Njeri is now leading Greenpeace Africa into a new wave of environmental justice for Africans by Africans. Human Rights are inextricably linked to climate change.
If we won the human rights and governance battle, but lost our planet, we would have lost everything, says Njeri
“My current vision is to build an environmental movement in Africa so powerful that African citizens begin to take responsibility for their future. This can be achieved by restoring the continent through green pathways and seeking global environmental justice to mitigate climate change impacts.”