Brave Women Human Rights Defenders

They are women young and old. Farmers, factory workers, teachers, tailors. They have regular jobs, high-powered jobs, cash-in-hand jobs, no jobs. Their identities are manifold and for many, the barriers even greater because of that. Still, they speak up and stand out.
Where they see wrong, they can’t help but want to make things right.

Where they see unfairness, they want to make things equal. They’ve said #MeToo and called #TimesUp on violence and abuse against women. They act for social good, so that people can work without being assaulted, communities are free from racism, corruption is weeded out, lands are protected from pollution.

Yet some government leaders vilify them. Degrade women publicly– called whores and witches, terrorists and anti-nationalists. In this landscape poisoned by macho politics, women who resist are threatened, assaulted, raped, even killed.

But like a tide, these women still rise. They dare to have a voice and they use it. People call them brave. They say they’re doing what anyone would in their place. That they’re no different from the rest of us.

They’re right. These brave women are among us and are a part of us.

Now, we must join them to stamp out the fire that’s torching our hard-won rights. Now we, too, must be brave, and take a stand to defend the women who defend our rights.

Challenging power, fighting discrimination: A call to action to recognise and protect women human rights defenders

States bear the main responsibility in ensuring a safe and enabling environment for Women Human Rights Defenders, but powerful non-state actors such as business and community leaders, donors, financial institutions and intergovernmental bodies also need to take proactive steps to address the situation of violence, inequality, discrimination and exclusion faced by WHRDs.

Those with power must recognise Women Human Rights Defenders as crucial to obtaining justice, equality, peace and protect them so they can take action for the defence of human rights in safe and enabling environments without discrimination or violence.

But governments are failing to protect these brave women. Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) routinely face a wide range of gender specific attacks, including rape, because of their work promoting rights relating to women, gender equality and sexuality. Read Amnesty’s report, “Challenging power, fighting discrimination: A call to action to recognise and protect women human rights defenders ”.

The figures illustrating the violence encountered by Women Human Rights Defenders are stark and shows the need for us all to join together to stop the violence faced by WHRDs.

Women activists operate in a grim context, both offline and online:
• 1 in 3 women globally experiences gender-based violence (source: UN)
• A woman receives a toxic tweet every 30 seconds*
• Black women are 84% more likely than white to receive abuse online*

*Source: Amnesty’s Troll Patrol findings.

Dangers women activists are much more likely to face than their male counterparts:

1.Sexualised smear campaigns

2. Sexual assault and rape, including at police stations

3. Targeting of their children

(Source: Front Line Defenders 2018)

From 2004-14, women accounted for 33.7% of human rights defender cases flagged by the UN. 12% of the 321 Human Rights Defenders killed in 2018 were women.

Between 2012 and 2014, a total of 1,688 attacks on WHRDs occurred in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, double the amount that occurred in 2012.

Women defending sexual and reproductive rights, land, territory and natural resources were most likely to be attacked in the Americas region.

Of all attacks on women activists recorded by Just Associates, gender was a factor in 37% of cases (Just Associates 2017).

Environmental Women Human Rights Defenders risk their lives to defend their communities as they confront powerful forces. 40% of Human Rights Defenders killed in 2019 worked on land, indigenous’ people and environmental rights. (Front Line Defender Global Analysis 2019).

Join the brave network today

Create more visibility for Women Human Rights Defenders by sharing inspiring stories of WHRDs

Take action to support Women Human Rights Defenders

Release women’s rights activists from jail

Demand justice for Berta Cáceres

Womens rights defender sentenced to 38 years in jail

Demand justice for Marielle Franco