Ignacio Martín-Baró Human Rights Essay Competition


The Pozen Center’s annual Ignacio Martín-Baró Human Rights Essay Competition recognizes excellence in writing about human rights, awarding three cash prizes (of $500 each) to current University of Chicago College students for the best essays in the field. Submissions may be analytic or critical essays, empirical research papers, term papers, or personal essays on any human rights issue. Essay topics are not restricted to the field of Latin American studies.

Essays should be 6,250 words or less. Submissions will be judged by the content and clarity of the writing. Only students in the College are eligible for this award.

Read winning essays from previous years.

2021 Essay Competition Winners

Eden Gebremeskel, AB ’22 (Global Studies)
Essay title: “Spies and Silence: The Eritrean Government’s Use of Informant Networks to Shutdown Diaspora Dissent”

Committee commendation: In this thoughtful analysis, the problem of compromised refugee organizations and their ties to the country the emigrants are trying to leave is raised. One can hardly imagine a more unfavorable situation for emigrants and the relatives they have left behind, but the receiving countries do not seem to have noticed the problem. Eden Gebremeskel’s analysis draws on generally accepted humanitarian standards and ethnographic description to call attention to the refugees’ plight.

Sarah Kwon, AB’22 (Law, Letters, and Society; Romance Languages and Literature)
Essay title: “United Stateless: Race, Gender, and the Fragility of Rights”

Committee commendation: Since independence, the criteria for citizenship have skewed in favor of propertied males and against those female or unfree. Migration, marriage, and the combination of the two have created gaps in the definition of citizenship, gaps through which, up to now, women and nonwhite subjects have regularly been let fall. Sarah Kwon documents notable cases and sets them against a background of zigzagging political change.

Atman Mehta, AB’21 (Political Science)
Essay title: “Beyond the State: Climate Change, Human Rights, and the Environment”

Committee commendation: Assessing and remediating the harms done to the environment by human activity is a job bigger than the powers of any state, but concerns all human communities. The originality of this situation, with which a political system built around independent sovereign states must now contend, shapes the argument of this paper, which seeks to work out the consequences for human rights of damages for which our present language of offense and redress is not adequate.


The 2021 application period is now closed.

The Ignacio Martín-Baró Human Rights Essay Competition winners are selected by a committee of Pozen Center Faculty Board members. Award announcements are made in mid-May.


The Martín-Baró Endowed Program was established to honor the memory of Ignacio Martín-Baró, who lived a life committed to democracy, social justice, and service to the poor, the silenced, and the dispossessed.

Ignacio Martín-Baró was an ordained Jesuit priest, born in Spain in 1942. Upon joining the Jesuit order Martín-Baró was sent to El Salvador, where he studied psychology. He came to the University of Chicago in 1976 to pursue graduate studies and three years later received his doctorate in Social Psychology.

Upon returning to El Salvador, he found himself in the midst of a violent civil war, which had been ravaging the country for more than a decade. Despite many death threats and brutal acts of repression suffered by colleagues, students, and friends, Father Martín-Baró continued to pursue a brilliant teaching and research career as pastor of a rural parish on the outskirts of San Salvador. 

Martín-Baró taught at the Universidad de Centro America in El Salvador and was a leading scholar on social justice and human rights. In 1989, he and seven others were assassinated by the Salvadoran army for their commitment to El Salvador’s dispossessed. 

Read more about the Ignacio Martín-Baró Program with the Center for Latin American Studies.