“There are many organisations that can help us at an international level, but only the people who face human rights problems can really solve them. So we have to stand up to tell our own stories”. Pornsuk Koetsawang, one of the human rights defenders portrayed in the exhibition
For the two first weeks of November, our exhibition “Changing the Narrative” has been open for visitors at the Faculty of Law building at University of Oslo.
The exhibition consists of six portraits of human rights defenders that either work in organisations supported by the NHRF, or are in our network.

Exhibition on human rights defenders: "Changing the Narrative"

During the two first weeks of November, our exhibition “Changing the Narrative” has been exhibited on Domus Juridica, Faculty of Law at University of Oslo.

Photos by Mónica Orjuela.

From left: Peris Sean Jones (Professor at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights), Ragnhild Hennum (Dean of the Faculty), Ingeborg Moa (Executive Director of the NHRF), and Bernard Ntahiraja (University of South Eastern Norway) during the opening of the exhibition on November 1.

Over the last years, we have seen an increase in negative storytelling about human rights work and human rights defenders in many countries around the world. Human rights defenders are often portrayed as enemies of the state. Human rights defenders are accused of being negative to development if they protest against human rights abuses in relation to business projects. Human rights defenders are branded as foreign agents with a foreign agenda. Our aim is to change this narrative and show the positive force that human rights defenders are in the world today.

The exhibition, which has been exhibited at Domus Juridica at the University of Oslo, consists of six portraits of human rights defenders that are either working in organisations supported by the NHRF, or in our network. Many of the portraits also include a QR code, allowing visitors to scan the code and listen to the human rights defenders’ “I Defend Rights” story. The idea behind the exhibition - as well as the I Defend Rights project - is to capture the vast diversity of human rights defenders and contribute to “changing the narrative” around human rights defenders.

“Our goal is to bring the defenders and their stories closer to us. We also aim to show everyone that we can all be human rights defenders, in our regular lives, wherever we live in the world.” Ingeborg Moa, NHRF's Executive Director

In cooperation with the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights and the Faculty of Law at University of Oslo, the NHRF opened the exhibition on November 1st on the third floor of Domus Juridica – the Faculty of Law. The event was opened by welcoming words from the Dean of the Faculty, Ragnhild Hennum, followed by remarks from Peris Sean Jones, Professor at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, Ingeborg Moa, Executive Director of the NHRF and Bernard Ntahiraja from the University of South Eastern Norway. "In many countries, it is not trivial to defend human rights. What we can do in Norway without consequences and with freedom, is can cost ones life in another country. I think this exhibition can contribute to create solidarity with those who do a difficult and sometimes impossible work", said the Dean of the Faculty, Ragnhild Hennum, during her welcoming words. Peris Jones expressed the importance of linking students to human rights defenders and their work, and how the master’s program “Human Rights in Theory and Practice” actually allows students to approach human rights work in practice through for instance internships at the NHRF and other human rights organisations.

“Everyone has a voice. The problem is that a lot of people are not given a stage to use that voice. This exhibition gives us the opportunity to listen to the voices that matter.” Ingeborg Moa, Executive Director of the NHRF

“Through the I Defend Rights project, we have invited people that stand up for human rights to share their stories of what inspires them in their human rights work. Our goal is to bring the defenders and their stories closer to us. We also aim to show everyone that we can all be human rights defenders, in our regular lives, wherever we live in the world”, Ingeborg Moa said during her speech. The opening ended with words from Bernard Ntahiraja, who shared his experiences from his homeland Burundi, and issues related to academic freedom and advocating for human rights in the country.

After two weeks, the exhibition ended on November 12. The exhibition will now travel to the Trinity Church in Oslo (Trefoldighetskirken), where it will be exhibited during an event related to the Church's annual week of events with focus on international solidarity and modern forms of slavery. Following this event, the exhibition will be back at Domus Juridica, at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights.

About the exhibition:

This exhibition portrays six human rights defenders in the NHRF's network:

  • Asha Kowtal, Dalit and Woman Human Rights Defender from India
  • Geeta Menon, Workers' and Gender Rights Defender from India
  • Ruki Fernando, Human Rights Defender from Sri Lanka
  • Pornsuk Koetsawang, Human Rights Defender from Thailand
  • Nancy Sánchez, Human Rights Defender from Colombia
  • Norma Ledezma, Human Rights Defender from Mexico

Photos/Design: Mónica Orjuela/NHRF, Willhemina Wahlin

Memria

Bernard Ntahiraja shared his #IDefendRights story with us during the opening.

Listen to his story