BETTY MURUNGI, 50, is a lawyer and human rights advocate. She has considerable experience in transitional justice and women’s human rights is the founding director of Urgent Action Fund-Africa. She spoke to NJOKI CHEGE
I joined the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission ( TJRC) in 2009 where I served briefly as its vice chairperson. My tenure was regrettably short lived at the commission.
|BETTY MURUNGI, a lawyer and human rights advocate. [Photo: WILBERFORCE OKWIRI/STANDARD]|
I could not reconcile my principles and understanding of what an effective, optimal truth commission should be, with the reality of what it was in April 2010 when I resigned. I honour and respect my colleagues who stayed on.
After it completes its work, there will be time and space to speak about my experiences and what might have been. For the time being, I look forward to reading the report and engaging with its recommendations.
Urgent Action Fund is a grant-making organisation that pioneered the rapid response grant model that provides funds to women’s rights groups in armed conflict or crisis situations. My work with UAF-Africa and its partners remains an important learning point in my life. I directed the fund until mid-2009.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
I studied law at the University of Nairobi between 1981 and 1984. Political repression of the one party state was at its height and student activism made for major upheavals in our lives. In 1982, a nasty crackdown on academic freedom saw many of our lecturers detained, including Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga.
After admission to the bar in late 1985, I worked in two commercial law firms and a banking institution in Nairobi before beginning practice in my own name, which allowed me freedom to grow my interest in human rights law and practice.
At this time, I became involved in the governance of Fida-Kenya as a board member. I had joined Fida at its inception in 1985 when I was still a student at the Kenya School of Law.
Fida created many opportunities for its members to learn and expand their knowledge and activism. It was during the tenure of the late Grace Githu and Nancy Baraza that Fida broke into the international scene as serious women rights advocates.
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