Courage Zinyoni (28) is currently working as a district coordinator at the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV. Previously he also worked at Plan International, which is a development organisation that strives to advance the rights of children. This year in June, his graduation will take place after completing the master programme in human rights, peace and development at Africa University, for which he was awarded a scholarship by RWI.
Courage believes that pursuing the master programme has been an enriching experience for him as a human rights defender. He has no doubt that the communities he works with are benefiting greatly from his knowledge, and he is thrilled to be applying the newly gained skills in his current position.
“I’d like to express my gratitude to RWI for giving me this opportunity. It’s already making a difference at a personal capacity in my career.”
Before applying for the master programme, he was mainly engaged in disability rights, education rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as rights covered by humanitarian work. But joining the master programme has helped him expand his interests significantly.
“Perhaps the most interesting part of the master programme for me was getting to meet people from different parts of Zimbabwe and Africa with interest in other fields of human rights. I got to meet several colleagues with interest in rights of refugees, civil and political rights, environmental rights and LGBTQI rights. So now after the programme, I feel like I can also expand my interests.”
In this regard, the master programme not only helped him increase his knowledge, but also his professional and social networks. Courage recalls that his university was home to more that twenty nationalities from all over Africa, with ten different nationalities in his class alone. This has proven a great opportunity for networking.
“You learn to appreciate diversity due to the different cultures and nationalities, and it’s good for career development when you network with various people from different countries.”
Besides this, Courage gained essential knowledge on the history and foundations of human rights, which is important for him as a human rights defender and enables him to advocate more effectively for the rights of people who are disadvantaged.
“I learned how human rights were developed since the time of the American Revolution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and how they kept on being developed through other conventions and treaties that recognise every person as a human being, including women and children. I got to appreciate that human rights will always be under threat. Hence the reason for human rights defenders like myself who will always be needed to provide the much needed activism, promotion and protection for all groups of people.”
He also found it particularly interesting to engage in the international humanitarian law course, where he was able to learn about the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons. Most importantly however, he believes that the programme helped him polish his presentation and communication skills, including multi-cultural communication.
“I developed communication skills as well because the programme forces you to be engaged in many discussions, which helps polish how you deliver your ideas when communicating with others. It also improves your presentation skills since you get to present on many human rights topics.”
Thanks to the programme he discovered new human rights concepts, and writing the dissertation gave him the skills necessary for conducting research in the field. “Conducting human rights research is not an easy task in Africa”, according to Courage. Therefore, he believes that writing the dissertation was also a great way for him to learn how to navigate some potential challenges with research.
Aside from the master programme, Courage also participated in the summer school organized by RWI, which was more hands-on compared with the master programme. During this intensive two-week event, Courage got the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge gained through the master programme to real life cases. Additionally, he got to meet even more law students from all over Africa. He believes that this was a great addition to the master programme and that it helped him further sharpen his skills.
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