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Contacts: Paula Ettelbrick, 212/216-1256
Susana Fried, 212/216-1281
"Yet, despite all of the difficulties we face, I have faith that acknowledging the inherent dignity and respect due us can lead to greater respect for our human rights….Silence creates vulnerability. I urge you, members of the Commission on Human Rights, to break the silence. You can help us achieve our full rights and freedoms, in every society, including my beloved Sierra Leone."
-Delivered to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by Fannyann Eddy, Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association, April 2004 on behalf of MADRE.
Fannyann Eddy broke the silence for us all. She courageously brought the struggle for freedom and dignity in her own country to the world stage. Last week, that voice was silenced forever. As Fannyann worked late in her office in Freetown, several men broke in, raped and brutally murdered her. To all of us who knew her and shared the great privilege of her wit, sense of the absurd, steely determination, intelligence, and unwillingness to let bureaucracy and lies stand in the way of justice, our loss is incomprehensibly great.
Fannyann was the fearless leader of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association. She understood that freedom for women, in particular lesbians, was related to their ability to provide for themselves economically. As a result, her approach to human rights advocacy included putting her own money into buying materials for young lesbians to make clothing and other items that they could sell for income. She understood that human rights is not only a legal principle to be enforced but a measure of human dignity to be demanded. As a result, she dedicated much of her time to getting into schools to teach children about their own self worth. And she understood that standing up for our rights is a process of both large and small acts. When she encountered difficulty getting a visa to travel to Geneva to tell her story to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Fannyann sat vigil until it was approved.
The staff and board of IGLHRC deeply mourn her loss. She was a member of the historic delegation that IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch brought to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva last spring to advocate for the Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Human Rights. Fannyann worked doggedly to track down her government's representatives and pushed them to support the resolution. With her testimony to the entire Commission, she boldly presented the personal embodiment of the existence of lesbians in Africa that many African leaders sought to deny. She shared with us both hilarious stories about her experiences as an organizer in Sierra Leone along with serious strategies for change.
Fannyann brought a level of courage, boldness and tenacity to her work that is rare even among human rights activists known for all three.
Fannyann Viola Eddy was 30 years old. Her 9-year old son has lost a doting and loving mother. Sierra Leone has lost a brave and visible leader. The global LGBT movement has lost a daring and fierce human rights defender.
Our best tribute to Fannyann is now to speak out. IGLHRC and our colleagues are actively investigating the details of her death and the level of responsiveness from the government and police. Once that is done, an Action Alert will be posted to our website, www.iglhrc.org, and sent to our Emergency Response Network asking people to respond to this senseless murder.
In the meantime, Behind the Mask is collecting donations to support Fannyann's son and the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association. Details may be obtained by writing to Daniel@mask.org.za.