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Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights

The Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights, established in 1998, annually brings to campus a prominent human rights practitioner. While in residence the Oak Human Rights Fellow teaches, pursues research, and works with faculty and students to organize lectures and other events related to his or her area of expertise. The 2012 Oak Human Rights Fellow is Zandile Nhlengetwa, who will be in residence for the fall semester. She is the principal of Ulusda School in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, a place of learning for young people as well as a community center that organizes adults to combat problems such as gender inequity, sexual abuse, and violence. In a community beset by poverty, patriarchy, and violence, Nhlengetwa works to persuade families to allow their daughters to attend classes and to encourage their sons to study rather than join local gangs or militias. A dedicated human rights activist and a survivor of the political violence that affected KwaZulu-Natal, Nhlengetwa is known for her work in addressing the complex social, political, and psychological problems posed by the conflict and in encouraging community reconciliation. She has received numerous threats. As recently as March 2012, Ulusda School’s security guard was shot in what is suspected to have been an attempt on Nhlengetwa’s life. After participating in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1995-97), she agreed to share her experiences with Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to work with children asked to testify about their service as soldiers in that country’s long civil war. For more information see www.colby.edu/oak.