Press Release: Remembering activist ancestors who stood for rights and justice
Women-identified activists around the world make vital contributions to the advancement of human rights, and in doing so face gender-specific risks.
Asma Jahangir was a leading Pakistani rights activist, fearless critic of the military’s interference in politics and a staunch defender of the rule of law. Her colleagues and friends say: “With her life, Asma re-wrote the history that many of us were told as women. Asma changed the world. She changed it in Pakistan, and she changed it in our imaginations.”
Efua Dorkenoo, affectionately known as “Mama Efua”, worked for over three decades to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Originally from Ghana and a nurse by training, she joined the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1995 and successfully pushed for FGM to be incorporated in the agenda of member states. Her groundbreaking work culminated in an Africa-led campaign, “The Girl Generation,” which is committed to ending FGM within a generation.
Marielle Franco was a Brazilian politician, feminist, and human rights activist; her openly feminist, Black and favela-centered politics were a source of hope for marginalized groups in Rio de Janeiro. Following news of her murder crowds took to the streets shouting "Marielle presente!" (Marielle is here!) and demanding justice.
Like them, many women-identified activists, all over the world, defend human rights and make vital contributions to the advancement of justice. Even though they face great risks, and are sometimes even killed to bring their fight to an end, their work changes the lives of thousands and inspires others to continue.
On November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) Day, AWID launched its seventh annual tribute to honor and commemorate the legacy of those defenders from around the planet who are no longer with us.
From Fiji to Egypt to Venezuela, AWID’s online gallery pays tribute to over 400 WHRDs from 11 regions and 80 countries. The Tribute and online gallery is an illuminating snapshot of global WHRDs who have devoted, and in some cases been killed, for their fight for justice. It is a recognition of how much we value their contributions, how inspired we feel by their strength, their persistence, and also, how much we will miss them.
“From teachers and community organizers to legal advocates, politicians and journalists - among many other roles and occupations - the lives of many of the WHRDs featured in the Tribute were lost or stolen as a result of their activism. Launching this year’s edition on International WHRD day recognizes the ways in which they face specific violations as a result of their activism and gender identity, as well as celebrating their powerful individual and collective contributions to bringing about a more just world, free of violence and oppression.”
- Cindy Clark, AWID Co-Executive Director
The lives - and for many, deaths - of the WHRDs featured in this year’s tribute are testament to the ongoing movements for rights and justice that continue to flourish around the planet. Though they are no longer with us, the work of these defenders continues to inspire younger generations and movements, keeping their legacies alive: remember and honour!
"Women human rights defenders are fighting to end oppressions and to create just realities. On this WHRD day, to paraphrase Mary Harris Jones, while we mourn and celebrate the dead, we must fight like hell for the living.”
- Hakima Abbas, Co-Executive Director.
Notes to editors:
Photographs and mini-biographies of the WHRDs profiled in the tribute: https://www.awid.org/whrd-tribute
Additional AWID research on Women Human Rights Defenders
Margarita Salas, firstname.lastname@example.org