Posts Tagged ‘Holly Davis’

Security and self-care must become part of the culture of human rights defenders

May 10, 2017

HOLLY DAVIS and MAGDA ADAMOWICZ published in Open Democracy of 10 May 2017 an important piece entitled “Security and well-being: two sides of the same coin“.  It states inter alia that by not paying enough attention to self-care, activists are compromising their own security—and that of their organizations. [It is a contribution to the debate on mental health and well-being.]

The authors rightly make the point that.. “in addition to threats against their personal safety and security, defenders face exhaustion and trauma and struggle with burnout.”


Flickr/ CDIH (Some rights reserved) Following the hearing on the human rights situation in Bajo Aguán held on April 5, 2016, a vigil was held by Berta Cáceres, an environmental activist who was murdered on March 3, 2016 in Honduras.

By including and addressing well-being, trainers have a critical role to play in expanding defenders’ understanding of security and increasing their capacity to adopt new habits. These changes can happen only by integrating security and self-care into the everyday work and culture of human rights defenders and organizations.

Each organization and individual will have different needs. They may include:

  • •Allowing time and dedicated funding for staff retreats, peer support groups, psychological or supervision support, or other individual practices.

  • •Creating space to discuss people’s well-being at the team or organizational level.

  • •Connecting activists with peers from other organizations so they can find solidarity and support.

  • •Designing an organizational self-care plan with clear goals, expectations, and boundaries that are transparent and to which teams are accountable. Such a plan might include expectations for work hours and off-hours availability, the option to work from home, time for a true break during the workday, offering activities like stretching and meditation, or simply scheduling a block of quiet time without meetings.

  • •Consistently implementing an organizational self-care plan, with staff supporting each other, and regularly checking-in with each other through meetings that include a well-being status update.

  • •Challenging what is truly a crisis requiring immediate action, breaking a cycle of stress where people feel like they cannot afford to stop working.

Above all, human rights organizations and funders need to remember that prioritizing the safety and health of defenders, preventing burnout, and treating trauma are not self-indulgences. Rather, they are best practices. Individual and organizational attitudes and behavior must evolve. This means mainstreaming security and moving towards organizational cultures in which self-care is inherently understood to be critical to success. The old refrain of “toughen up or leave” is obsolete.

Source: Security and well-being: two sides of the same coin | openDemocracy