We celebrated our 30th anniversary 2015! In honor of this milestone, we profiled 30 remarkable leaders who have partnered with AJWS to build a better world. These are but a few of the thousands who have raised their voices worldwide with our support, changing the lives of millions for the better.

Nicholas Opiyo and Adrian Jjuuko

Halting hate legislation and pursuing equality for LGBT people

Uganda

Hate speech in the press (pictured) and violence in the streets both escalated when Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law passed in 2013. AJWS grantees Nicholas Opiyo and Adrian Jjuuko challenged the law in court—and won. Photograph by Evan Abramson

LGBT Ugandans have long faced fear, violence and criminal charges for expressing who they are and whom they love; but when the country’s parliament introduced a draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009, they faced a new threat: the death penalty.

When the law passed in 2013 despite years of advocacy, many people feared the worst. But Ugandan human rights attorneys Adrian Jjuuko and Nicholas Opiyo didn’t lose hope. With AJWS’s support, they led a team of activists and lawyers who challenged the law’s constitutionality in court. Thanks to their efforts, it was annulled—to the great relief of LGBT people and their allies throughout the nation. Human rights activists have since remained vigilant and are continuing to fight against the bill’s return.

Adrian is director of AJWS grantee Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), which fights hate crimes against LGBT Ugandans—an ongoing outrage that has intensified since the law was annulled. Under Adrian’s leadership, the organization runs the first and only legal aid clinic for LGBT people in Uganda. HRAPF has handled more than 500 cases, ranging from arrests by police to beatings by the public and banishment of LGBT people from their communities.

Adrian has received international recognition for his courageous work, including the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Defenders Award in 2011 for his leadership of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a coalition of groups that fought the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He calls AJWS a “trusted partner. They do not only fund, but they listen and engage.”

Nicholas, founder of the human rights organization Chapter Four Uganda, received Human Rights Watch’s prestigious Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism this year. While he was in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, AJWS helped Nicholas get the message about the dangers of the Anti-Homosexuality Law to a global audience by securing features published by CNN, Buzzfeed and TIME magazine, and arranging meetings with international NGOs.

“We are eternally indebted to AJWS for their unwavering support to our work,” Nicholas said. “Our continued partnership has enabled us to provide the most needed legal support and services to the most vulnerable and underserved in our society, including persons of different sexual orientations and gender identity or expressions.”