In Her Words…

Jestina Mukoko works for the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) in the capital city of Harare. Jestina is a Human Rights Defender and former Fellow of the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) Protective Fellowship Scheme.

Since the scheme launched 10 years ago, Defenders like Jestina have benefited from the Fellowships. Support from donors has meant we have been able to open our doors to
over 70 Defenders from around the world over the past decade.

“The Fellowship opened my mind to the opportunities that were there to work with Zimbabwean communities,” she says. Since completing the Fellowship, Jestina explains that her contribution to the overall growth of the ZPP has led to them engaging in community peace-building initiatives – which is new for the organisation.

Whilst on the programme Jestina accomplished a great deal. In addition to achieving a Postgraduate Certificate in Defending Human Rights, she also signed a publishing contract. Jestina explains that this manuscript is “a product of the Centre – I don’t think I would be where I am now with the book if it wasn’t for the Centre.” Her book, which will be launched at the Centre for Applied Human Rights 10th Anniversary event in January 2018, chronicles her experiences as a human rights advocate working in Zimbabwe, and also highlights the stories of other advocates who have faced abduction and other abuses as a result of their work.

Jestina explains that the creative aspect of the Fellowship Scheme allowed her to emotionally and artistically explore her experience as a human rights advocate. “The best aspect of the Fellowship was allowing us to be innovative. I had a block in my mind and it allowed me to work on that experience.”

“The Fellowship allowed me to realise that, even if I thought that I was emotionally drained when I arrived in York, and to recognise that the problems are not only in Zimbabwe but all over the world. I got comfort in knowing that I was not alone in what I was experiencing. The exchange of information was really powerful. The exposure we had, going to Dublin for Front Line Defenders’ Dublin Platform, and all the events that were organised in the UK, was really good. It meant that the Fellowship had multiple focuses.” For Jestina, the Protective Fellowship Scheme created a positive change in her life, and reinvigorated her commitment to human rights advocacy.