ACCEPTANCE SPEECH By: Nursyahbani Katjasungkana

Honourable Madam President Graca Machel, Director of SOAS Baroness  Valerie Amos, Dean of Law Faculty, Prof. Carol Tan, members of faculty, friends, and all the students who graduate today, to whom I offer my congratulations.

First of all, I convey my gratitude to the President and Director of SOAS for conferring on me such a high award. My gratitude also goes to Prof Tan for her most generous oration.

I dedicate this award to my beloved father R.Katjasungkana who taught me about the courage to take risks in fighting for freedom, democracy  and combatting poverty. I pay my deepest tribute to my beloved mother Maimoenah, who taught me about honesty and solidarity as a way of life. Thanks also to my children who always support me.

I would like to convey special thanks to Prof.Saskia Wieringa,  all my friends in the Indonesian Association of Legal Aid for Women and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, my second campus where I learnt law in practice. I also thank my  friends who strengthen my faith in feminism, three of them have come here today.

My key political inspiration is RA Kartini, an Indonesian national heroine, who fought against feudalism and patriarchy. My other inspiration came from Patria, my class mate in primary school who was forced to marry when she was 14 years old. On the third day of her marriage she sent her husband home. The fear of losing her as my friend, strengthened my decision to become  a lawyer.

I have dealt with many controversial past human rights violations such as the crimes against humanity and the genocide of 1965/6 in Indonesia, the third horrible  holocaust as well as the ongoing genocide against Rohingya.

Looking back on my 40 years of human rights activities, my advice to you, fellow graduates, is this: be changemakers, show imagination, take risks. Fight against the greatest human rights violation of all: neo-liberalism, which has created a world divided into rich and poor and is responsible for global warming and corruption.

Don’t accept the world as it is. Dream about what the world could be – then help make it happen.

Thank you for your kind attention.


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