2017 Award Winners

Mariana Leal Ferreira

Mariana Leal Ferreira
Mariana Leal Ferreira

Mariana Leal Ferreira is currently Professor of Medical Anthropology at the School of Humanities and Liberal Studies at San Francisco State University. A medical anthropologist originally from Brazil, Dr. Ferreira uses critical theory, including Theater and Pedagogy of the Oppressed, to protect the human rights of Indigenous Peoples and other minorities in North and South America.

Since 2004 she has organized an annual Human Rights Summits at SFSU, and under her direction her students in Anthropology and Liberal Studies have written and performed more than 350 plays that address human rights issues they face daily. The audience for Ferreira’s teaching manuals, theatre plays, zines, manifestos, graphic novels, and academic articles and books on human rights – in English, Portuguese, and Spanish – range from high-school students to local community members. Her most recent books include Mapping Time, Space and the Body: Indigenous Knowledge and Mathematical Thinking in Brazil (Sense Publishers, 2015) and Acting for Indigenous Rights: Theatre to Change the World (Minnesota Human Rights Center, 2013).

One nominator said of her: “I witnessed Ferreira’s work as a math and human rights educator in Brazil (working in dire conditions during the military dictatorship, 1964 -1985)…[S]ince her doctorate at Berkeley, her work as a human rights educator has supported curricula in public schools on Indigenous reservations in North and South America. … Now, more than ever, I believe in her mantra: “If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any!”

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The Voice of Witness Education Program

VOW-web-header-logo-bold-mediumVoice of Witness (VOW) advances human rights by amplifying the voices of people

impacted by injustice. Its work is driven by the transformative power of the story, and by a strong belief that an understanding of crucial issues is incomplete without deep listening and learning from people who have experienced injustice firsthand.

A vital component of VOW’s work to inform long-term efforts to protect and advance human rights, the Voice of Witness Education Program brings the human rights narratives and issues portrayed in the VOW book series into the curricula of schools and universities throughout the USA. Their work with students is rooted in the belief that long term, positive change can only be achieved if empathy, inquiry, and critical thinking is fostered in young people—our next generation of teachers, leaders, and history-makers.

Cliff Mayotte
Cliff Mayotte

Mimi Lok is Co-founder and Executive Director of VOW. Cliff Mayotte directs the Education Program team with Erin Vong as Education Associate and Claire Kiefer as Curriculum Specialist Additional Information:

The Voice of Witness Education Program serves more than 20,000 people annually, providing curricular support in human rights education and empathy based learning. Its oral history pedagogy has been used to train a broad range of advocates for human rights and dignity, including educators, writers, journalists, documentary filmmakers, attorneys, and medical doctors. The program also includes a specialized focus on English Language Learners (ELL) in an effort to support newcomers, refugees, migrant workers, unaccompanied minors, and children of immigrant families in public schools.

The Voice of Witness education team offers: