Helen Kidan

Eritrean Movement of Democracy and Human Rights (Eritrea)

My name is Helen Kidan and I started working in human rights in 1998 just after the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia erupted. I co-founded Horn Human Rights in 1998 and went on to co-found Eritrean Youth in the YK (EYUK) in 2003 and it continued till 2010. I then joined Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) in 2014 which is based in South Africa and I then went on to be an Executive member. I am a member of Network of Eritrean Women (NEW) and Eritrea Focus which are UK based organisations. I have over the years worked with various Eritrean civil society organisations in trying to help bridge their differences and to create a strong civil society here in the UK and develop networks with those in different parts of the world.

I have presented at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2016 and 2017 and continue to lobby on the human rights situation inside Eritrea. I have worked with various international human rights organisations including Civicus. As part of EMDHR I am organising training with Civicus to train around 32 Eritrean human rights defenders in Uganda October 2018. They will be coming from different parts of Africa and this will enable them to build their capacity meet each other and create networks.

This work with Civicus is crucial as there is no independent civil society inside Eritrea, and this makes the Eritrean situation unique. Therefore, training Eritrean human rights defenders in the diaspora is very important in supporting the humanitarian situation of Eritrean refugees but also being able to support Eritrean people after the fall of the regime.

As Eritrea was in a thirty-year war for independence from Ethiopia, during this period the civil society collapsed, and people became militarised. Therefore, we have had to start from scratch in trying to create a more open society. The work that I do with EMDHR and other civil society groups is focused on building their capacity to advocate and lobby on the human rights situation inside Eritrea.