APF people profile: Nayela Akter, Project Officer
Graphic: Nayela Akter
In this month's people profile, we meet the APF's new Project Officer, Nayela Akter.
Nayela Akter is a human rights advocate with a background in advancing the rights of women, migrants, and refugees in Bangladesh.
Starting her career at Nari Progati Shangha, a Bangladeshi women's rights organisation, she later joined the Swiss international development agency Helvetas, where she worked across program management, capacity development, advocacy, and research, on a range of human rights issues.
During her time at Helvetas, Nayela engaged with the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh, other national and international agencies, and civil society organisations (CSOs). She also served as the Gender and Social Inclusion Focal Point, and reported on treaties such as the Committee on the Elimination on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and Girls (CEDAW).
Now based in Australia, Nayela is a Project Officer at the APF, where she oversees the Inter-governmental Mechanism (IGM) Project, a European Union-funded initiative that fosters collaborative partnerships between National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from South-east Asia and the Pacific and regional human rights bodies.
Recently, she organised a Pacific regional high-level dialogue between NHRIs and the Pacific Community, the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat and the Pacific Regional Environment Programme in Fiji, and co-organised an AICHR Regional Consultation on Business, Human Rights, Environment and Climate Change along with NHRIs, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, CSOs and the EU in Malaysia.
Her role also involves facilitating online learning sessions and communities of practice through the APF Community, and managing the IGM Project small grants program, which has awarded grants to the NHRIs of Fiji, Philippines, Samoa and Thailand to undertake activities on climate change and environmental rights.
Working for human rights and advocating as a human rights defender has not only defined my identity but has also become both my passion and profession.
Nayela’s interest in human rights was driven by her personal experience growing up in Bangladesh. “During my early years, I observed how minority groups and girls faced discrimination and experienced bullying from teachers at school,” she says.
“Through studying sociology and conducting research on the identity crisis of the refugee (Bihari) community, I developed a foundational understanding of human rights violations,” she says.
Nayela holds bachelor's and master's degrees in social science and undertook a one-year training course ‘Advocacy for the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families’ with the Diplomacy Training Program at the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales.
She has also completed various courses on leadership, migrant workers’ rights, conflict-sensitive project management, gender equality and social inclusion.
Nayela firmly believes in the importance of building stronger NHRIs and protecting human rights defenders across the region: "NHRIs play a crucial role in monitoring and reporting on human rights violations, as well as providing education and awareness of human rights at the national level and in local communities.”
“Strong, well-equipped NHRIs are critical in countries where democracy and human rights are at stake, and where there are limited spaces for civil society and freedom of speech,” she says.
"I look forward to continuing to work with NHRIs and other human rights actors across the Asia Pacific, to build relationships and work together to protect and promote human rights."
Date: 30 May 2023
- Nayela Akter - Nayela Akter