Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has named Alessandra Korap Munduruku the winner of its 2020 Human Rights Award for her work defending the culture, livelihoods, and rights of Indigenous peoples in Brazil.

Indigenous peoples, including Alessandra’s Munduruku community, have faced tremendous challenges in Brazil in recent years—from gold miners and loggers illegally invading and exploiting Indigenous territories; to widespread fires in the Amazon; and an increased risk to the coronavirus; not to mention a combative president who’s proactively removed protections for Indigenous tribes and insulted them on numerous occasions.

As one of the key leaders and organizers of the Munduruku people, Alessandra has fought to stop construction projects and illegal mining that are infringing upon Munduruku territory, garnering international attention and support. She’s advocated for the demarcation of Indigenous lands and for Indigenous communities to be consulted on decisions that affect their territories. Alessandra has also played an important role in advancing the leadership of women in the Munduruku community and among other Indigenous tribes in Brazil through her involvement in the Wakoborûn Indigenous Women’s Association and the Pariri Indigenous Association. 

“I’m humbled to be this year’s Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award winner,” said Alessandra Korap Munduruku. “To have the additional backing and support of Kerry Kennedy and her entire organization, especially during the pandemic, will make all the difference as we continue to fight for our rights, including the demarcation of our lands to ensure that Indigenous peoples have their autonomy, and for the fight of women who are also the strength of the resistance.”

“Throughout history, Indigenous peoples, including the Munduruku, have repeatedly been oppressed, silenced, and subjected to horrific human rights abuses,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Alessandra has heroically faced intimidation and violence for defending Indigenous rights across Brazil—including the ability to oppose projects and developments that affect her peoples and their livelihoods. She is a champion of women’s rights, Indigenous rights, and the foundational right of all human rights—civic space. Civic space protects the right to dissent, to advocate and to defend human rights, free of government reprisal. It is the keystone of a functioning democracy.”

Alessandra will be honored at a virtual ceremony on Thursday, October 22, at 6:00pm EDT. The event is free and open to the public. You can register here

Kerry Kennedy will present the award, followed by a keynote address from former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the countless threats and challenges Indigenous peoples face around the world. Andrew Revkin, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, will then moderate a discussion on the pathways forward for Indigenous peoples in Brazil with an esteemed panel of experts:

  • Juarez Saw Munduruku, Chief of the Sawré Muybu village in Brazil 
  • Maria Leusa Cosme Kaba, a Munduruku women’s leader
  • Francisco Calí Tzay, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Sebastião Salgado, Award-winning French-Brazilian documentary photographer 
  • Antonia Urrejola Noguera, Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
  • Christian Poirier, Program Director at Amazon Watch 

Since 1984, the annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award has honored activists for their relentless pursuit of justice around the world, providing funding and strategic support to advance their work. The award comes with a $30,000 prize and provides ongoing support from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights—through strategic litigation, training and capacity-building, and advocacy before governments, international organizations, and other institutions—to ensure lasting change. 

Previous winners of the Human Rights Award include the Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley (2019) for its pursuit of dignity and justice for those seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border; Alfredo Romero (2017) for his work with Foro Penal providing pro bono legal assistance to victims of arbitrary detention, torture, and other human rights violations in Venezuela; Frank Mugisha (2011) for championing the human rights of sexual minorities in Uganda, eventually overturning the country’s law which criminalized homosexuality; Magodonga Mahlangu and Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) (2009) for empowering women to strive for political and social change in Zimbabwe; and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (2003) for its efforts to end the exploitation of migrant workers in the U.S. agricultural industry, a form of modern-day slavery that persists to this day.

The 37th annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award is made possible in part by generous support from Donato Tramuto.  


Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues—championing changemakers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.

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Minhee Cho
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
347-498-4236
mcho@rfkhumanrights.org