Kayan Leung

Human rights lawyer

Kayan Leung believes in the principles of service and social justice. It’s no surprise then that she pursued a legal career completing her LLB from Unisa, with certificates in advanced administrative law, human rights advocacy and litigation from the Mandela Institute at Wits. She is currently doing an LLM in International Human Rights.

Leung joined Lawyers for Human Rights in the Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme and has been involved in a number of strategic litigation cases in advancing refugee protection, especially for women and children concerning issues of access to health and education. She has recently embarked on a project with the Praekelt Foundation that will extend the advice and assistance of her organisation to thousands of asylum seekers and migrant workers who can’t afford to travel or access law clinics.

The project will allow refugees and migrants to access general advice and guidance on their rights using their mobile phones, as well as report on xenophobic attacks, corruption and unlawful detentions. She has strong ambitions to expand the project outside of South Africa’s borders, is currently exploring partnerships with other countries in the region, and recently presented a paper at an international conference on ICT for development.

While she says she finds her job immensely fulfilling, it’s also littered with obstacles and challenges. In particular, she says it is heartbreaking to hear about the injustices people inflict against each other.

“In the same breath these most vulnerable people find hope and the strength to survive and move forward,” she adds, “And I’m extremely encouraged by the rise of activism among young people and their commitment to become change agents. In my opinion, a good human rights activist will utilise and develop the law as a positive tool but simultaneously empower communities, especially the youth, to participate in developing a better Africa. ”

In recognition of her passion to promote gender equality and development of the youth, she was selected to participate in the Unesco Intergenerational Leadership Forum in 2015 and has been elected as a 2016 Yali fellow under the African Leadership Initiative.

Outside of her work with Lawyers for Human Rights and her exciting project, Leung still finds time to serve as a youth leader at a local church, focusing on developing and mentoring young people, and keeps involved in social upliftment projects with the Miss Earth South Africa Leadership Programme. — Kerry Haggard

Twitter: @kayan_leung