Priority Areas

Supporting, resourcing and strengthening women's rights movements globally

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Women Human Rights Defenders

The Issue

Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) are at the forefront of the struggle to defend human rights, and they do it with passion, courage, and dedication. WHRDs are attacked for who they are – their gender identity, and for what they do – fight for human rights for all. It is both their identity and their work that makes them vulnerable to specific attacks, as their activities in human rights defense questions fundamental assumptions about gender roles in society.

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

These attacks are perpetrated by state and non-state actors. The criminalization of their struggles, the rise of non-state actors de facto powers, the virtual attacks derived from the use of new technologies, and the violence and discrimination that they face within their own movements and families puts them at risk. This affects their security and their right to defend rights, and consequently impacts the sustainability of their struggles and own movements.

Much of this violence takes place on a daily basis, and many times it is invisible and treated with absolute impunity.

Our Approach

We work collaboratively with international and regional networks to raise awareness about the violation of the rights of women human rights defenders, to strengthen the protection mechanisms, and to respond more effectively to women defenders at risk. We work to promote a holistic approach to protection which includes emphasizing the importance of self-care; documenting the violence suffered by women human rights defenders using a gendered perspective; promoting the social recognition of the work of women human rights defenders; and building an environment that is conducive to reversing structural inequalities so that WHRDs can exercise their right to defend rights without being at risk.

Our Actions

  • Promoting collaboration and coordination among human rights and women’s rights organizations at the international level in order to contribute to the amelioration of the protection responses that institutions, organizations, and human rights mechanisms offer WHRDs at risk;

  • Supporting regional networks of WHRDs and their organizations, such as the Mesoamerican Initiative for WHRDs, 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 disseminting 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.

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