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Women Human Rights Defenders

About this Initiative

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Image from the publication Claiming Rights, Claiming Justice: A Guidebook on Women Human Rights Defenders created by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

Violence against Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) is increasing around the world. As human rights defenders, WHRDs face the same types of risks faced by all defenders who work to uphold the rights of people, communities and the environment; as women, they are also exposed to gender-specific risks and are targets of gender-based violence. AWID is responding to the context of increasing violence against activists through the WHRD Strategic Initiative, based on our mission and key constituency of women’s rights advocates working across issues, in all regions and sectors.

AWID’s WHRD Strategic Initiative aims to raise awareness of violations of the rights of WHRDs; strengthen mechanisms for their protection; and contribute to more gender-responsive and effective responses to WHRDs at risk. AWID works with allied organizations within the WHRD International Coalition to increase visibility around violence against WHRDs globally, and improve responses to WHRDs at risk through increased coordination among human rights and women’s rights organizations. The WHRD Strategic Initiative mobilizes AWID’s members and broader constituency to take urgent action to protect WHRDs at risk and develops resource materials for WHRDs around the world.

 AWID also supports regional initiatives led by women’s and human rights organizations to document incidents of violence against WHRDs; develop support and protection networks; and promote joint strategies. Currently this work is taking place in Mexico and Central America (Meso America) through the Meso American Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders, which seeks to contribute to the protection of WHRDs in the region and to document their experiences so that these can be shared with other regions of the world. AWID is a member of this Initiative’s Steering Group along with Just Associates (JASS), the Oaxaca Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Equity from Mexico (Consorcio Oaxaca), the Guatemala Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA), the Central American Women’s Fund (FCAM), and the Feminist Collective for Local Development from El Salvador (Colectiva Feminista). These efforts contribute towards building the collective power of women activists and their allies to address violence against WHRDs, since movement building across diverse, organized women is a key dimension of the response strategy.

To learn more about AWID’s work to Support and Protect Women Human Rights Defenders please click here

What's new from this initiative

Large-Scale Development Projects Increase Risks to Women Human Rights Defenders in Colombia

Large-Scale Development Projects Increase Risks to Women Human Rights Defenders in Colombia

FRIDAY FILE - Threats against the local leaders and women human rights defenders (WHRDs) continue to form part of a strategy of intimidation used by the actors of the armed conflict in Colombia

Women Teachers Defending Their Labor Rights Under Extremely Precarious Conditions In Mexico

Women Teachers Defending Their Labor Rights Under Extremely Precarious Conditions In Mexico

FRIDAY FILE - Excluded from the debate on educational reform, women teachers, who represent more than 96% of teachers in preschool, 66% in basic education and 51% in secondary school, are protesting against a new law that will affect them negatively, especially those working in rural and indigenous communities.[1]

Lack of proper legislature and a constitutional limbo increase risks to Women Human Rights Defenders in Nepal

Lack of proper legislature and a constitutional limbo increase risks to Women Human Rights Defenders in Nepal

FRIDAY FILE – A decade-long conflict, sluggish peace and reconciliation process and delays in developing a new constitution, leave women human rights defenders in Nepal at great risk.

Illegal Detention of Women Human Rights Defenders in the Midst of the Border Conflict of Sudan

Illegal Detention of Women Human Rights Defenders in the Midst of the Border Conflict of Sudan

FRIDAY FILE - Sudanese people inspired by the Arab spring, and led by women and youth, took the streets of Sudan demanding regime change in 2011. Authorities violently cracked down on these demonstrations, detaining more than 150 women, who were sexually abused or tortured, injured and beaten in the protests.

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Are Central to the Work of Women Human Rights Defenders

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Are Central to the Work of Women Human Rights Defenders

FRIDAY FILE - Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) work under precarious conditions, often putting their lives in danger as they defend and protect women’s economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) across the globe.

Defending Ancestral Lands: Indigenous Women Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines

Defending Ancestral Lands: Indigenous Women Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines

FRIDAY FILE - Murders of indigenous women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in the Philippines have caused worldwide condemnation. Defending indigenous communities’ rights to sustainable livelihoods, and protecting ancestral lands from mining interests has become an increasingly dangerous struggle.

Human Rights Abuses In Honduras Pose An Ongoing Threat To Women’s Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs)

Human Rights Abuses In Honduras Pose An Ongoing Threat To Women’s Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs)

FRIDAY FILE - Since the coup d’état in Honduras in June 2009, there has been an on-going and worsening situation of systemic violence and assassinations of human rights defenders.  This is particularly serious for women human rights defenders (WHRDs).

When States Use Legislation Against Women Human Rights Defenders

When States Use Legislation Against Women Human Rights Defenders

FRIDAY FILE - With the upsurge in the criminalization of civil society, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders2012 report discusses how States use legislation to regulate the activities of human rights defenders (HRDs).

Grave human rights abuses in Honduras  prompt an International Call to Action

Grave human rights abuses in Honduras prompt an International Call to Action

Honduras, considered to be one of the world's most dangerous countries, is plagued by assassinations of journalists, lawyers and activists.

Who is a WHRD?

As a member of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, AWID understands WHRDs as “women active in human rights defense who are targeted for who they are as well as all those active in the defense of women’s rights who are targeted for what they do. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists participate in many human rights struggles, including the advocacy for sexual rights. They become vulnerable to violence because of who they are and the work they do, especially when that work is directly related to sexuality. We refer to them as women human rights defenders, too.”

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