Priority Areas

Supporting feminist, women’s rights and gender justice movements to thrive, to be a driving force in challenging systems of oppression, and to co-create feminist realities.

Advancing Universal Rights and Justice

Uprooting Fascisms and Fundamentalisms

Across the globe, feminist, women’s rights and gender justice defenders are challenging the agendas of fascist and fundamentalist actors. These oppressive forces target women, persons who are non-conforming in their gender identity, expression and/or sexual orientation, and other oppressed communities.

Discriminatory ideologies are undermining and co-opting our human rights systems and standards,  with the aim of making rights the preserve of only certain groups. In the face of this, the Advancing Universal Rights and Justice (AURJ) initiative promotes the universality of rights - the foundational principle that human rights belong to everyone, no matter who they are, without exception.

We create space for feminist, women’s rights and gender justice movements and allies to recognize, strategize and take collective action to counter the influence and impact of anti-rights actors. We also seek to advance women’s rights and feminist frameworks, norms and proposals, and to protect and promote the universality of rights.

Our actions

Through this initiative, we:

  • Build knowledge: We support feminist, women’s rights and gender justice movements by disseminating and popularizing knowledge and key messages about anti-rights actors, their strategies, and impact in the international human rights systems through AWID’s leadership role in the collaborative platform, the Observatory on the Universality of Rights (OURs)*.
  • Advance feminist agendas: We ally ourselves with partners in international human rights spaces including, the Human Rights Council, the Commission on Population and Development, the Commission on the Status of Women and the UN General Assembly.
  • Create and amplify alternatives: We engage with our members to ensure that international commitments, resolutions and norms reflect and are fed back into organizing in other spaces locally, nationally and regionally.
  • Mobilize solidarity action: We take action alongside women human rights defenders (WHRDs) including trans and intersex defenders and young feminists, working to challenge fundamentalisms and fascisms and call attention to situations of risk.  


Related Content

Snippet FEA Exclusion and Stigma (EN)

An illustration of a megaphone in navy blue. Lines representing sound waves are coming out the speaker end, in burgundy.

that trans and travesti people continue to face on a daily basis

Mechthild "Mel Hired" Möhring

Read also:

We all can dance
by Mechthild Möhring (aka serialmel)

How I punt myself at the narrow hard knitting I once retrieved. I'm dancing in the kitchen when I'm alone. Gracile and powerful. When I'm in company I'm clumsy. My body scandalizes, scandalizes the laws of look I feel, scandalizes the words which banished me. "Of course she can dance, it's in her blood as a Black person." "If she is able to dance nicely she is good in bed" they whisper, they murmur, no - they say it openly into my face. They smirk and rub themselves against me and let me move back. I stumble and fall. My feet reject their duty. Bearish I get out of breath. Smiling I place myself out of events and notice how my face freezes into a mask.

Translated into English by Tsepo Bollwinkel

Original in German

Tanzen können wir alle
Von Mechthild Möhring (aka serialmel)

Wie ich mich stosse an den engen, harten Maschen, in die ich mich einst zurückgezogen habe. Ich tanze in der Küche, wenn ich allein bin. Grazil und kraftvoll. Wenn ich in Gesellschaft bin, bin ich unbeholfen. Mein Körper eckt an, an die Gesetze des Blicks, den ich spüre, an die Worte, die mich bannten. „Natürlich kann sie tanzen, als Schwarze hat sie das im Blut.“ „Wenn sie gut tanzen kann, dann ist sie auch gut im Bett“ flüstern sie, raunen sie, nein, sie sagen es mir laut ins Gesicht. Sie grinsen und reiben sich an mir und lassen mich zurückweichen. Ich stolpere und falle. Meine Füsse verweigern ihren Dienst. Tollpatschig gerate ich ausser Atem. Lächelnd setze ich mich an den Rand des Geschehens und bemerke, wie mein Gesicht zur Maske erstarrt.

Snippet FEA collaborator and allies Photo 4 (EN)

This photo represents Sopo speaking at a public event indoors. She is holding the microphone while reading her notes and sitting on a chair between three other people who are either speakers or moderators.

Laura Lee

Laura was a leading activist and lawyer who campaigned fearlessly for the decriminalisation of sex work in Ireland.

She is remembered as “a freedom fighter for sex workers, a feminist, a mother to a daughter and a needed friend to many.” 

Laura advocated for individuals in the sex industry to be recognised as workers deserving of rights. She advanced demands for decriminalisation, including initiating a judicial review at Belfast’s high court in respect of the provisions criminalising the purchase of sex.  Laura stated that her intention was to bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights.



Laura Lee, Ireland

Snippet FEA Map of Spain Union Otras (EN)

Mustard background with a pink map of Spain and a yellow pin of the location of Sindicato Otras;

Ottilie Abrahams

Ottilie was a Namibian feminist activist, educator and politician.

Ottilie was one of the founders of the South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO), the Yu Chi Chan Club (an armed revolutionary group); and the South West African National Liberation Front (SWANLIF). She was also a founder of the Namibian Women’s Association and Girl Child Project.

Throughout her life, Ottilie argued for the right to argue, think, contest, and demand. She mobilized women, organized students and teachers and criticized other comrades for their elitism and their corruption.

Ottilie worked ferociously to dismantle patriarchy, and to create a concrete transformative, liberatory, feminist participatory democracy.

Ottilie often said: “I will rest the day I die.”


Ottilie Abrahams, Namibia

Snippet FEA Principles of Work Antiracism (EN)

A raised black fist.


Carmen de la Cruz

Carmen had a long career advocating for women’s rights both in NGOs and within the United Nations (UN) system.  

She taught courses in several Spanish and Latin American universities, and published numerous articles and reports on women, gender and peace in developing countries.

Her writing and critical reflections have impacted a whole generation of young women. In her last years, she was responsible for the Gender Practice Area in the Regional Center of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for Latin America, from where she supported very valuable initiatives in favour of gender equality and women's human rights.


Carmen de la Cruz, Argentina/ Spain

Reason to join 6

Engage with the AWID International Forum - a major global feminist gathering - and have access to special AWID member discounts and enty points for virtual dialogue. Co-created by feminist movements, the Forum is a unique space for deep discussion and imagination where we challenge and strengthen our organizing, where we connect our struggles and feminist realities together.

Bessy Ferrera

Bessy Ferrera was a lifelong defender of the human rights of trans people, sex workers and HIV positive people in Honduras.

Bessy was also a member of Arcoíris, an organisation which supports the LGBTI+ community. She was also a focal point person for the Right Here, Right Now (Derechos aquí y Ahora) Platform of Honduras, and advocated strongly for full citizenship of trans people, and the passing of a gender identity law that would allow trans people to change their gender identity legally.

"Since the beginning of the year [2019] the trans community has been suffering a series of attacks, for defending, for demanding rights." - Rihanna Ferrera (Bessy’s sister)

Bessy was a sex worker, and in early July 2019, was shot to death by two men while working in the streets of Comayagüela. Her assailants were subsequently arrested. 

Bessy is one of many LGBTI+ rights defenders in Honduras, who were murdered because of their identities and work. Other companeras include: Cynthia Nicole, Angy Ferreira, Estefania "Nia" Zuniga, Gloria Carolina Hernandez Vasquez, Paola Barraza, Violeta Rivas, and Sherly Montoya.

Bessy’s case is emblematic of injustice and a much larger problem of the systematic violence the LGBTI+ community faces in Honduras as the state fails to guarantee rights offer and fails to offer protection. This has created a culture of impunity.

Despite the risks LGBTI+ defenders in Honduras face, they continue their work to challenge and resist violence, and fight stigma and discrimination on a daily basis. 

“If I die, let it be for something good not for something futile. I don’t want to die running away, being a coward. If I die, I want people to say that I died fighting for what is mine.” - member of Arcoíris 

When and Where will the Forum be?

2-5 December, 2024, Bangkok, Thailand! We will gather at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center (QSNCC) as well as virtually online.

Contributors of toolkit (WITM landing page)

We would like to thank the contributors and advisors of this toolkit:

  • Angelika Arutyunova
  • Cindy Clark
  • Kamardip Singh
  • Martin Redfern
  • Pei Yao Chen
  • Srilatha Batliwala
  • Veronica Vidal

    Download the Toolkit in PDF

Doris Valenzuela Angulo

Doris Valenzuela Angulo was an Afro-descendant social activist, leader and human rights defender from Buenaventura, Colombia. She was part of Communities Building Peace in the Territories (CONPAZ), a national network of organizations in communities affected by armed conflict that advocate for non-violence and socio-environmental justice. 

Doris defied constant paramilitary violence and pressures from mega projects to displace her community and state collusion. Faced with one of the most difficult contexts in her country, she played a leadership role in an unprecedented initiative of non-violent resistance called Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space, an urban place for community cohesion, safety, creativity and collective action. 

This unique non-violent struggle of the families that belonged to Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space, attracted attention and support from both local and international agencies. By September 2014, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had granted precautionary protection measures to the community ordering the Colombian State to adopt necessary measures to preserve their lives and personal integrity. However, the threats and violence from the paramilitaries continued. Doris focused her energies on preventing forced recruitment of children and young people by the neo-paramilitaires, continuing on despite the murder of her son Cristian Dainer Aragón Valenzuela in July 2015. Doris also became a target, continuously receiving threats for her activism and the work she did.  

The continued aggression and threats against her life forced Doris to leave Colombia. She was residing in Spain from February 2017 to February 2018, as part of the Amnesty International temporary protection program for human rights defenders at risk. In April 2018, Doris was murdered in Murcia, Spain by her ex-partner. She was only 39 years old. 


"Doris, spending a whole year with you has taught us how a person can have the ability to transform and generate hope in the face of deeply negative and devastating events during your life...We continue with our commitment in the defense of all human rights. Your courage and your light will always guide us.” - Montserrat Román, Amnesty International Grupo La Palma

Excerpt from “Words for Doris Valenzuela Angulo” by Elsa López

"..You knew it. You always knew. And in spite of everything you stood firm against so many injustices, so many miseries, so much persecution. You stood up, haughty and fierce, against those who wanted to make you again abandon your hopes, humble yourself and surrender. Standing up you cried out for your freedom and ours that was yours. Nothing and no one paralyzed your efforts to change the world and make it more generous and livable. You, live among us, more alive today than ever among us despite death. Always live by your gestures, your courage, your greatness when crying for a promised land that you came to invoke with each of your cries for all the deserts you inhabited. You. Always alive. Doris Valenzuela Angulo.

They are only words. I know. I know it too. But the words unite us, protect us, give us strength and encouragement to continue walking towards the light that you defended so much…” 

My group or I were supposed to participate in the Forum that was canceled in the pandemic, how can I be engaged in this Forum?

We will reconnect with past partners, to ensure past efforts are honored. If your contact information has changed since the last Forum process, please update us so that we may reach you.

FRMag - Let the invisible be visible

Let the invisible be visible: A Genderfluid Bodybuilder’s Manifesto in Hong Kong

by Siufung Law

“97..! 98.. where is 98? 98! Please come back to the lineup!... 99! 100!...” The backstage lady relentlessly asked each athlete to queue up at the humid, sweaty, overcrowded backstage. (...)


< artwork: “When They See Us” by Lame Dilotsotlhe

Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre

Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre was a much loved young feminist artist and activist from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, known for her beautiful and evocative hand-painted clothing with eyes being an emblematic feature in her work. Her murals transformed the run down and vacant buildings in Ciudad Juarez’s downtown, bringing life and political commentary to their walls.

Through her art and political activism Isabel sought to draw attention to the gender based violence pervasive in her hometown. She volunteered with the women’s network Mesa de Mujeres on the Citizen Observatory on Gender to monitor the performance of judges, prosecutors and public defenders on cases of femicides and other gender based violations. She was also a member of Hijas de su Maquilera Madre, a feminist collective whose name makes reference to the daughters of mothers who are maquila workers. Some of these mothers were among the first victims of femicide in the city.

Isabel’s latest project, still in progress, was an art installation to protest a Canadian company that was looking to mine copper in the Samalayuca Desert. 

On 18 January, 2020 Isabel was shot while riding her bike back home in Downtown Juárez, in what appeared to be a targeted killing, her body found beside her bike.

Isabel’s murder, sparked a new wave of outrage against femicides in the region, hundreds marched to the US-Mexico border bridge, blocking it for hours and chanting “Ni una mas” (Not one more) as feminist collectives continue to protest the murders of women throughout Mexico. In 2019 alone, 3142 women and girls were killed in Mexico, many of whom were targeted specifically because of their gender.

She loved riding her bike.

"The bike for her was a symbol of freedom. A symbol of being free in the streets." - Marisol (a friend of Isabel’s)  

CFA 2023 - Forum Theme - EN

Rising Together: Connect, Heal, Thrive

The Forum theme––Rising Together––is an invitation to engage with our whole selves, to connect with each other in focused, caring and brave ways, so that we can feel the heartbeat of global movements and rise together to meet the challenges of these times.

Feminist, women’s rights, gender justice, LBTQI+ and allied movements around the world are at a critical juncture, facing a powerful backlash on previously-won rights and freedoms. Recent years have brought the rapid rise of authoritarianisms, the violent repression of civil society and criminalization of women and gender-diverse human rights defenders, escalating war and conflict in many parts of our world, the continued perpetuation of economic injustices, and the intersecting health, ecological and climate crises.

Our movements are reeling and, at the same time, seeking to build and maintain the strength and fortitude required for the work ahead. We can't do this work alone, in our silos. Connection and healing are essential to transforming persistent power imbalances and fault lines within our own movements. We must work and strategize in interconnected ways, so that we can thrive together. The AWID Forum fosters that vital ingredient of interconnectedness in the staying power, growth and transformative influence of feminist organizing globally.

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Call to action