Oak Institute Accepting Applications for 2016 Human Rights Fellowship


The Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights at Colby College in Maine is now accepting applications for the 2016 Oak Human Rights Fellowship.

The Oak Human Rights Fellowship is designed to provide a respite for human rights defenders or professionals doing on-the-ground work at some level of personal risk. The fellowship hopes to help provide a break from front-line duties to enable them reflect, write, and communicate their work to the campus community.

The fellowship does not have any age or citizenship requirements. Since it is designed for activists rather than scholars, there are no formal prerequisites. The fellowship appointment is a one-semester appointment as an activist-in-residence during the 2016 fall semester which lasts from mid-August through mid-December 2016. The College provides a stipend of $33,000, housing, healthcare coverage, access to local transportation and other fringe benefits for the stay.

Family members are encouraged to accompany the fellow and limited financial support will be provided for their travel as well.

The fellowship targets human rights activists by region or function and the focus of the search this year is the arts and human rights. This seeks to explore the connection between the arts and human rights giving particular attention to the use of creative expression as a tool to initiate and further discussion of various rights violations.

Eligible candidates for this fellowship may find themselves struggling mightily to exercise the right of creative expression in the face of repression; or they may pursue one or more creative means to advance the causes of peace, freedom and social justice.

The call for nominations welcomes any help in identifying candidates currently or recently involved in on-the-ground activism and who are in need of respite. Applicants from all artistic disciplines who have been subjected to, or are at risk of experiencing, human rights violations as a result of their artistic expression; or those who have used their art to foster greater awareness of particular human rights violations are welcome.

Nominations from NGOs, journalists, human rights lawyers, and academics that are most likely to know of the work of on-the-ground professionals are highly welcome.

All nominations are to be submitted no later than November 6, 2015. Nominees will be contacted and encouraged to apply but eligible candidate are also encouraged to apply directly. Nomination letters will become part of the applicant’s file, underscoring recognition of such a person’s important contributions to human rights activism.

The deadline for completed applications is December 4, 2015.

This fellowship is sponsored by the Oak Foundation based in Geneva and modeled after a Turkish woman trained at the International Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims in Copenhagen (which they also support) who lobbies against torture and other inhuman prison conditions despite death threats and harassment.

The first Oak Fellow was a Pakistani journalist who was jailed for his reporting on child bonded labor. Another was a Congolese activist who founded an NGO to protect civilians from political violence in one of the most war-torn parts of the eastern Congo near the Rwandan border. The rationale is that these are the people who most need a respite from difficult front-line duties for the purposes of reflection, writing, and communicating their work to the campus community.

The fellow must have a functional level of verbal ability in English. The fellow is required to lead a seminar class that meets once a week and the discussion will take place in English.

Emphasis is placed on the fellow being an individual who needs a break from the intensity of front line work. It is not a training program for someone at the earlier stages of human rights work nor is it a traditional academic sabbatical.

For more information, visit www.colby.edu/oakinstitute. The Frequently Asked Questions section can clarify all terms and eligibility.

Final selection will be announced no later than April 15, 2016.