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Supporting, resourcing and strengthening women's rights movements globally

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Women Human Rights Defenders

WHRDs are self-identified women and lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LBTQI) people and others who defend rights and are subject to gender-specific risks and threats due to their human rights work and/or as a direct consequence of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

WHRDs are subject to systematic violence and discrimination due to their identities and unyielding struggles for rights, equality and justice.

The WHRD Program collaborates with international and regional partners as well as the AWID membership to raise awareness about these risks and threats, advocate for feminist and holistic measures of protection and safety, and actively promote a culture of self-care and collective well being in our movements.


Risks and threats targeting WHRDs  

WHRDs are exposed to the same types of risks that all other defenders who defend human rights, communities, and the environment face. However, they are also exposed to gender-based violence and gender-specific risks because they challenge existing gender norms within their communities and societies.

By defending rights, WHRDs are at risk of:

  • Physical assault and death
  • Intimidation and harassment, including in online spaces
  • Judicial harassment and criminalization
  • Burnout

A collaborative, holistic approach to safety

We work collaboratively with international and regional networks and our membership

  • to raise awareness about human rights abuses and violations against WHRDs and the systemic violence and discrimination they experience
  • to strengthen protection mechanisms and ensure more effective and timely responses to WHRDs at risk

We work to promote a holistic approach to protection which includes:

  • emphasizing the importance of self-care and collective well being, and recognizing that what care and wellbeing mean may differ across cultures
  • documenting the violations targeting WHRDs using a feminist intersectional perspective;
  • promoting the social recognition and celebration of the work and resilience of WHRDs ; and
  • building civic spaces that are conducive to dismantling structural inequalities without restrictions or obstacles

Our Actions

We aim to contribute to a safer world for WHRDs, their families and communities. We believe that action for rights and justice should not put WHRDs at risk; it should be appreciated and celebrated.

  • Promoting collaboration and coordination among human rights and women’s rights organizations at the international level to  strengthen  responses concerning safety and wellbeing of WHRDs.

  • Supporting regional networks of WHRDs and their organizations, such as the Mesoamerican Initiative for WHRDs and the WHRD Middle East and North Africa  Coalition, in promoting and strengthening collective action for protection - emphasizing the establishment of solidarity and protection networks, the promotion of self-care, and advocacy and mobilization for the safety of WHRDs;

  • Increasing the visibility and recognition of  WHRDs and their struggles, as well as the risks that they encounter by documenting the attacks that they face, and researching, producing, and disseminating information on their struggles, strategies, and challenges:

  • Mobilizing urgent responses of international solidarity for WHRDs at risk through our international and regional networks, and our active membership.

"There is no better protection for women human rights defenders than the strength and support of their own movement”

Hina Jilani, former UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of Human Rights Defenders

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