Wai Wai Nu

February 10, 2022

Women’s Rights Defender and Youth Advocate

Wai Wai Nu

Image credit: Wai Wai Nu Oslo Freedom Forum via Wikimedia Commons

Wai Wai Nu became a human rights defender out of necessity rather than desire. At 18 she was imprisoned with her family. Her only “crime” was that she was the daughter of a political activist who opposed the ruling government in Myanmar, and a member of a persecuted indigenous group — the Rohingya. Greatly influenced by the human rights violations she witnessed during her seven years as a political prisoner, Nu has dedicated her post imprisonment life to empowering women and youth from marginalized communities. She uses human rights to frame the injustices experienced by Rohingya women, as a language for claiming their equal rights, and as a tool of gender equality.

After earning her law degree, Nu co-founded Justice for Women in Yangon, a network of women lawyers providing legal and educational assistance to victims of gender-based violence. Nu is also the Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Peace Network and Founder of the Yangon Youth Leadership Center. She has been recognized as a “Champion of Prevention” by the United Nations’ Office on the Prevention of Genocide and Responsibility to Protect and has received numerous prestigious awards and distinctions for her human rights, peace building, and gender equality work. Still, Nu says she will not be free until her community and country are free.

The Rohingya have suffered by Myanmar’s government for far too long, enduring mass atrocities including killing, gang rape, arbitrary arrest, and forced expulsion/ethnic cleansing. While in 2020 the International Court of Justice ordered Myanmar’s authorities to protect Rohingya Muslims from genocide, this is only the first step towards justice. Wai Wai Nu will not stop until all the women of Rakhine are respected, safe, secure, and have equal rights and freedoms.

Adapted from Carrie Booth Walling, Human Rights and Justice for All: Demanding Dignity in the United States and Around the World (Routledge 2022).