Being a woman and a woman´s human rights activist mean actively regaining
my space and rights in places from which they are trying to exclude me”
Lara Aharonian, Director of Women´s Resource Center HRH Yerevan, Armenia
Dear friends and colleagues,
In her third report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, in chapter III, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, addresses the situation of women human rights defenders (WHRD). This includes both female human rights defenders, and any other human rights defenders who work in the defence of women’s rights or on gender issues. As we commemorate the International Women´s Day, we want to highlight the special circumstances that WHRD are living under and are exposed to, and at the same time honour them for their brave and important engagement to eradicate human rights violations of women and girls.
It is essential to ensure that all human rights defenders, women and men, are protected and supported in their work, and that those who are engaged in defending the rights of women are fully recognized as human rights defenders.
In many communities women, may be perceived as an extension of the community itself. When acting as a human right defenders, they can be exposed to different forms of reprisals, including being targeted with gender-based violence (GBV) or experience gender-specific risks. Furthermore, they can be subject to violence because they challenge existing norms and stereotypes within their communities. If a WHRD, because of her human rights work is exposed to GBV, such as rape, the community may also see that as a shame inflicted on the whole community. Therefore, she has to bear with the burden not only of the trauma as a consequence of the rape, but also with the shame she has “brought” on her community.
State authorities are the most common perpetrators of violations against human rights defenders, despite the fact that they have the obligation to undertake the primary responsibility for assuring their protection. In addition, a variety of “non-State/official” actors also commit, or are implicated in violent acts against human rights defenders. Therefore, it is important that this form of violence ends and that perpetrators are held accountable for such acts.
Thus, it is necessary not only to raise awareness of the danger and reprisals that WHRD are exposed to, but also to be conscious of the impact that such aggressions have on their lives and their activism. According to the AWID publication; ” it is necessary to adopt protection mechanisms that address the different needs and realities of WHRDs. Similarly, it is necessary to move away from the concept of protection solely focused on physical aspects, towards a more embracing understanding of protection that also addresses the need to create an enabling environment for WHRDs, in order to carry out their work safely”
Further reading that highlight different aspects of Women Human Rights Defenders
- Politicizing Self-Care and Wellbeing in Our Activism as Women Human Rights Defenders
Stress, burn out, uncontrollable emotional outbursts, depression, anxiety, migraines and cancer, are some of the effects that human rights defense work has on WHRDs around the world, and the ones that often make them quit their important work. AWID spoke with Jessica Horn, Senior Advisor for the African Institute for Integrated Responses to Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS (AIR) about the politics of self-care and well being for women human rights defenders (WHRDs).
- Women human rights defenders and the struggle for justice in Colombia
ABColombia, Oidhac, U.S. Office on Colombia 2011
Colombia continues to suffer one of the worst humanitarian and human rights crises in the world. In this context, those who defend human rights and the rule of law in Colombia have continuously been victims of systematic stigmatization, threats, sexual violence, unfounded criminal proceedings, violent attacks and killings carried out by all armed actors in the conflict. Amongst this group of defenders, women play a crucial role.
- Protection manual for human rights defenders
Enrique Eguren, Peace Brigades International, European Office 2005
The gravity of the risks faced on a daily basis by human rights defenders are such that it is also important to pursue other means to strengthen their protection. In this regard I hope that this Protection Manual will support human rights defenders in developing their own security plans and protection mechanisms. Many human rights defenders are so engaged by their work to protect others that they give insufficient attention to their own security. Although this manual is written for all HRD, men and women alike, chapter 10 is specifically on women.
- Self-care and self-defense manual for feminist activists
Marina Bernal, Artemisa, Elige and CREA 2008
This important manual is a valuable asset for all women engaged in the task of constructing and inhabiting a world in which all of us can fulfill our best potential. An indispensable tool, it invites us to stand our ground while attempting to undo the injustices meted out to us, and nurture the inherent resources that are so easily depleted: our bodies, affection, intelligence, creativity, spirituality…and ourselves.
- UN mandate created to reduce reprisals against human rights defenders
International Justice Resource Center
On October 3, 2016, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in consultation with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced a new mandate for the Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, to lead UN work on ending intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders.
News related to HHRI GBV- manual
We have recently conducted a HHRI GBV training in Dohuk in cooperation with the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), The Norwegian People’s Aid and the local Government of the region in Northern Iraq (DOH). For this training NCA has generously covered the cost of translating the manual to Arabic. The final Arabic version will be available at the end of May.
The second edition of the manual has arrived and can be downloaded from our GBV manual web page. If you would like a hard copy, please send us an e-mail explaining what kind of work you are doing and why would you need the manual. Our sponsors have graciously covered the costs of printing as well as shipping of the manual. In return, we would highly appreciate if you could provide us with feedback on how you used the manual; in training; as part of supervision; or in any other way that facilitated your work/helped the beneficiaries. A few weeks after you have received the manual, we will send you a link to a google questionnaire covering these issues. We hope that you will be able to spend some minutes to give us some feedback on your experience of using the manual and how it was applied in practice.