On 8 December 2019, following an Alumni Symposium held at the University of Pretoria's Future Africa Campus, the Centre for Human Rights launched its 20-year edition of the Alumni Diaries.
Justice Albie Sachs, retired Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa unveiled the gold edition of the Alumni Diaries 2000-2019 at a dinner held at Freedom Park to celebrate 20 years of the Master's programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA). Nana-Oye Lithur, Ghana's Former Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection also spoke at the launch. Ms Lithur is an alumna from Ghana and graduated in 2001. She is the first recipient of the Vera Chirwa Prize, an award which recognises the outstanding professional achievements of HRDA graduates who have contributed through noteworthy initiatives to the promotion of human rights, and or the strengthening of democracy in Africa or in the diaspora.
The HRDA is an academic and practical programme on human rights hosted by the Centre for Human Rights. The programme, established in 2000, focuses on human rights in Africa but with a global footprint. Taught by eminent scholars and practitioners in the field of human rights and international development around the world, the programme is the first of its kind designed to address the gap in human rights scholarship and advocacy in Africa. Now, with an alumni strength of 537 and counting, HRDA has become a beacon of hope for human rights development in Africa and in the world. The original mandate of HRDA to strengthen human rights debate on the continent has been largely achieved in the last twenty years with its alumni spread in almost all sectors including legal practice, inter-governmental organisations, national judiciaries, academic institutions, governments, philanthropy and many more in and out of Africa.
The Alumni Diaries commemorates 20 years of the HRDA and gives a snapshot of the programme, its alumni achievements and the partner universities in collaboration with which it is presented. The reader will find comprehensive information on the donors, to whom the HRDA owes its very existence and the administrative and academic staff whose competence and expertise have set high standards and given it worldwide recognition.
Above all, this publication recognises the work of the alumni for the past 20 years, and whose achievements in the field are contributing to advancing human rights and democracy, primarily in Africa, but also in other parts of the world. They are the manifestation of a momentum to move Africa forward; the vindication of the idea that expertise and a common understanding are important tools in addressing today’s development challenges.
"The Alumni Diaries speaks to the influence and impact of the 563 graduates of the HRDA programme; and provides some concrete examples where alumni have impacted on the people around them. They have become cabinet ministers and chief justices; they have become chairpersons of the major African Union human rights bodies; they have founded NGOs in challenging circumstances; they have stood up for human rights at great cost to themselves; and they have spoken up when others remained silent … While it is important to take stock of the most visible achievements by graduates, there are many untold stories that receive less prominence. It is important to also acknowledge these contributions." - Prof Frans Viljoen, Director, Centre for Human Rights