chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
September 23, 2021

The First Edition of The Walking Towards Justice Awards: Recognizing Efforts for Migrants’ Human Rights and Access to Justice

Bogotá, September 9, 2021 — To commemorate the national Human Rights Day, ABA ROLI’s Colombia Project, Conectando Caminos por los Derechos (CCD), hosted a deeply emotional award ceremony for defenders and advocates of migrants’ human rights. The awards were the result of collective efforts of organizations from the consortium of the USAID-funded program, namely Pact, ABA ROLI, Freedom House, and Internews, as well as key local partners: The Institute for Race, Equality and Human Rights, representing civil society organizations; the University of the Andes’ Center for Migration Studies, representing academia; and the League Against Silence, representing the press and journalists.

The Walking Towards Justice Awards praise and highlight the relentless work of community leaders, human rights defenders, civil society organizations, journalists, and public officials in protecting human rights and guaranteeing access to justice for the migrant population in Colombia. These awards are of particular importance as they are the first in Colombia to celebrate the defense of human rights and access to justice for migrants while, simultaneously, gathering the civil society, judicial, and academic sectors.

The call for nominations began on July 14th, 2021, and were promoted on social networks, the radio, and television at national and local levels. Dozens of nominations from all over the country were received for the awards’ five categories. To receive and review the nominations, a technical jury committee was formed, composed of CCD staff members, local partners, and experts in the field. Each committee established a set of criteria in which to evaluate and vote for nominees and to select a winner.

The following are the eight winners of the first-ever Walking Towards Justice Awards:

1.  Best Community Leadership

This category celebrated the work of those leaders who advise, accompany or represent the interests of migrant and refugee survivors of human rights violations in their struggle to access justice and the full enjoyment of their rights. Three local leaders were awarded:

Alba Cecilia Pereira, Entre dos tierras Foundation

Alba Cecilia Pereira from Entre dos tierras Foundation who, since 2011, has supported the Venezuelan population displaced in Santander and neighboring departments, from securing basic needs such as food, health, and housing, to assisting with immigration issues and cases of unaccompanied minors.

Ana Teresa Castillo, Director of the DEREDEZ organization in Cucuta

Ana Teresa Castillo, director of the DEREDEZ organization in Cucuta, who has led the defense of Venezuelan migrants’ rights, returnees from Colombia, as well as victims of gender-based violence and the armed conflict in the Norte de Santander department, including on the Colombian-Venezuelan border.

Jairo Ibarra, Brisas del Norte Foundation, La Guajir

Jairo Ibarra from the Brisas del Norte Foundation in La Guajira is committed to the socioeconomic and cultural integration of the most vulnerable communities, both migrant and host, who live on the outskirts of the department of La Guajira’s cities. His leadership helped to make visible the various problems that the refugee population and Colombian returnees from Venezuela face.

2.  Best Institutional Initiative

This category sought to make known the actions of civil servants who, from their respective institutions and agencies, promote access to justice, protection, and the enjoyment of rights for the migrant and refugee population. Two awards were given in this category.

‘Quédate en la Escuela’ by Comparte por una Vida Colombia Foundation and the public school La Frontera

‘Quédate en la Escuela’ by Comparte por una Vida Colombia Foundation and the public school La Frontera. This initiative works on the prevention of malnutrition of minors affected by the Venezuelan exodus in La Frontera, a Colombian public school where more than 80% of the students come from or live in Venezuela. Lala Lovera and Edith Silva Palmar, director and deputy director of the organization, received the award.

‘Las Personerías te acercan a tus derechos’ by the Federación Nacional de Personerías de Colombia, FENALPER

‘Las Personerías te acercan a tus derechos’ by the Federación Nacional de Personerías de Colombia, FENALPER. This initiative brings legal services to the migrant and refugee population in their neighborhoods, communes, townships, settlements, islands, and industrial zones, providing training, orientation, referral, and legal advice to ensure access to justice.

In gratitude for receiving the award, Jesualdo Arzuaga Ramírez, Executive Director of FENALPER, and Christian Caicedo, Migration and Refugee Consultant of FENALPER, expressed: 

We have a very strong commitment to an issue, which is the struggle against statelessness, and against the limited Article 96 (of the Political Constitution of Colombia) which states that jus solis provides only one criterion for establishing the right to Colombian nationality: A person is from where they are born. It’s as simple as that.

Jesualdo Arzuaga Ramírez and Christian Caicedo


3.  Best Judicial Decision

This category sought to promote a judicial decision that, under the highest national and international norms and standards, responds to human rights violations of the migrant and refugee population.

Sentencia de tutela en segunda instancia del 3 de junio de 2021, Tribunal Superior del Distrito Judicial de Cartagena, Sala de decisión penal

Sentencia de tutela en segunda instancia del 3 de junio de 2021, Tribunal Superior del Distrito Judicial de Cartagena, Sala de decisión penal. The award was given to the plaintiff Geri Luquez Áñez, transgender craftswoman, street artist and walker of Venezuelan nationality; her legal representative, José Hernández Legarda, an LGBTIQ human rights lawyer; and magistrate Francisco Pascuales Hernández.

Upon receiving her award, Geri stated: 

What I want (to do) is to encourage other (trans) girls who have this same type of problem, that somehow have not taken the initiative (to fight for their rights), because we think that we are not going to be heard . . . and I just want girls like me not to be invisible . . . so that they have their place in society, and we can fight alongside others.

Geri Luquez Áñez

Plaintiff in the case

4.  Best Journalism Piece

This category sought to make known the reports and articles that document patterns of human rights violations and the barriers faced by migrants and refugees in attempting to access justice in Colombia.

Keila Vilchez, Magaly Rubio and Paola Rodríguez for their podcast ‘Huir hacia los límites: las niñas migrantes en la explotación sexual’

Keila Vilchez, Magaly Rubio and Paola Rodríguez for their podcast ‘Huir hacia los límites: las niñas migrantes en la explotación sexual’, published in Diario La Opinión and the website Estoy en la Frontera. The podcast shares the experiences of three Venezuelan girls who faced hunger, became responsible for their families, and were uprooted. The girls were also victims of sexual exploitation on the Colombian-Venezuelan border.

5.  Best Academic Publication

This category sought to make known the articles, publications, and reports that, through academic and scientific research, analyze the achievements, challenges, and barriers in accessing justice for the migrant and refugee population.

Caribe Afirmativo for their report ‘Sentir que se nos va la vida’

The Human Mobility Team from the civil society organization Caribe Afirmativo for their report ‘Sentir que se nos va la vida’, which describes the situation of LGBTQI migrants in Colombia and other host countries, reflecting on the various challenges they face, including barriers to accessing justice.

Renowned guests attended the awards ceremony in recognition of awardees’ valiant efforts, and included: Nancy Patricia Gutierrez, Presidential Advisor for Human Rights and International Affairs; Liliana Flórez, Coordinator of Public Policy for the Ministry of Justice and Law; Eugene Cooper, Leader in Governance, Community Security and Economic Integration at USAID Colombia; and Elisa Zogbi, Director of Integration of Venezuelans of USAID Colombia. The event was streamed online and is currently available on the ABA ROLI & CHR YouTube channel. This initiative of USAID, CCD, and its partners to commemorate the individual paths towards the goal that justice and the respect for human rights be guaranteed for all, irrespective of gender, age, race, sexuality, nationality, and capacity. These illustrative examples seek to help inspire others to fight for human rights and to support the exemplary of work of these leaders in their pursuit of justice.

Ceremony of the First Edition of the ‘Walking Towards Justice Awards’

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Latin America and the Caribbean.