The 2010 Oak Fellow was Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe.
Ms. Mukoko is the National Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), an NGO that monitors human rights abuses throughout the country. ZPP’s reports provide the international community with accurate assessments of human rights abuses, including violence against women and politically-biased distribution of food; it was particularly crucial during the violent 2008 election period. A long-time leader in the human rights and activist communities in Zimbabwe, Ms. Mukoko was abducted from her home on December 3, 2008 by state security agents for her work monitoring the brutality of the Mugabe government. During her 21-day abduction, she was tortured, beaten, and forced to confess to a crime she did not commit. She remained detained until a court granted her bail on March 2, 2009.
Ms. Mukoko began her professional career as a broadcaster for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, but transitioned into the field of human rights first with the Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust and later with the ZPP. She was one of the founding members of Radio Voice of the People, an independent station airing on a shortwave in Zimbabwe. Ms. Mukoko has been recognized internationally as a human rights defender. In March of this year she received the 2010 International Women of Courage Award from the US Department of State. Among her other honors are the 2009 Laureate of the City of Weimar Human Rights prize and the 2009 NANGO peace award.
We thoroughly enjoyed having Jestina at Colby as the 2010 Oak Fellow. During her fellowship, she taught a one-credit, non-graded course, Incarceration and Human Rights: The Challenges Facing Human Rights Defenders (IN111). The course examined the political climate in Zimbabwe that has led to enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests of those who openly express their opinions on the Zimbabwean political situation. The course also analyzed the rights of those incarcerated in Zimbabwe.
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