Posts Tagged ‘WHRD IC’

Woman human rights defender Mary Jane Real from the Philippines

May 14, 2015

As part of the series “THE WOMEN WHO DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS”, published by Protection International, here is Mary Jane Real from the Philippines:

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PI: Can you tell us a bit about how you have become a woman human rights defender?

MJR: I´ve been active in defense of human rights and women´s rights since I was a student… Around 2005, I started working with women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and became familiar with the term. At the time, Hina Jilani [former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders] helped to create the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) of which I became the coordinator. That’s how I formally transitioned into a WHRD. You can call yourself any name, but I personally find it strategic to call myself a human rights defender. Rather than talk about human rights in relation to people you advocate for or the communities you work with, the term ‘defender’ acknowledges that as an activist you also have rights that you can claim and assert for. I believe that’s critical, especially in the face of political repression and other challenges that are faced by defenders.

PI: What is the added value of having the word ‘woman’ in the term ‘woman human rights defender’?

MJR: I think, for myself, it’s important to claim that label. Gender inequality is structural and therefore, even within the human rights movement, you cannot take it for granted that women’s rights are already implicated in the term ‘human rights defender.’

One major challenge for WHRDs is dealing with lack of recognition. Even if women hold leadership positions, they still struggle to be acknowledged in the public space as critical actors. Linked to this lack of recognition is the issue of the protection that you need to do your work. To be acknowledged as a defender implies that you deserve protection and support. Unless a woman defender is recognised as a legitimate activist and defender of human rights, protection and support will always be one step remote from the risks that she faces. So, to add the word ‘woman’ to the term ‘woman human rights defender’ helps to ensure that protection of and support for women human rights defenders is in place.

PI: What are the main challenges that you and other women human rights defenders from the Philippines have to deal with? 

MJR: The Philippines is still a predominantly Catholic country with a government that is towing the line of the Catholic Church. One of the main issues that women human rights defenders are working on in the country is the issue of reproductive rights. If a country would value reproductive rights as part of women’s rights, there would not be a pressing need for WHRDs to work on the issue. However, today we still see stigmatisation and defamation (for example, publicly calling these women bad mothers and many other defamatory labels to try to ruin their reputation) as two common violations of the rights of WHRDs in the Philippines due to resistance from the Catholic Church.

I have noticed that the level of threats received by women defenders in the Philippines is not as high in, say, Latin America. The risks might not be as alarming as being arrested or getting killed. As a consequence, the public doesn’t realise that what happens in the Philippines are actually human rights violations and that the issue needs to be addressed.

LM: How should this issue be addressed? 

MJR: Well, one consideration in addressing the violations of the rights of women defenders should be the psychological implications. The psychological impact of these violations are not picked up in any of the urgent appeals or other documentation. Yet, if you talk to these women, they often talk about being burned out, about desperately trying to see family, about their struggle to balance their personal life and their wish to defend their rights. These psychological implications are not addressed at all.

PI: What would different forms of protection include?

MJR: Firstly, we cannot say that one can only be a human rights defender when they’re at risk. Secondly, when we respond to their risk, when can’t just focus on physical forms of risks and threats. The psychological aspects have just as much of an impact on the defenders and we need to respond to this aspect as well.

I think a better form of protection would look at all these different aspects of risks, physical and psychological, reactive and preventive, and protection for the short and the long term. For many of the women defenders, this also means protection for their families. In their case, often they’re expected to take care of the children.

PI: Do you think there is a role for the government in protection of women human rights defenders? Through a public policy, for example? 

MJR: Definitely, but I also think there is still a long way to go before we get there, particularly in Southeast Asia. The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is more focused on promotion of human rights than on protection of human rights. This translates into a policy of non-intervention among member states.

It is therefore not surprising that the AICHR has not issued any statement on human rights issues involving states and that they have been reluctant in developing protection and redress mechanisms for human rights violations. As an intergovernmental body, AICHR reflects the human rights culture of the governments in Southeast Asia. That culture is not yet as robust and vibrant as in countries in Europe. There is an important role for civil society to advocate for governments to make protection part of state accountability.

PI: Is there anything that you would like to see changed for the next generation defenders?

MJR: I wouldn’t want the next generation to experience the same level of inequality that I have experienced in my lifetime, and my mother has experienced in her lifetime. I don’t want them to inherit those forms of discrimination and be apologetic about the fact that they are women defending human rights. I want them to be proud of the fact that they defend human rights and claim that space as a woman human rights defender.

The Women Who Defend Human Rights – Mary Jane RealProtection International.

Society Without Violence, in Armenia, could do without the violence

May 5, 2014

Via the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) I received the information that women’s rights organization, Society Without Violence, in Armenia was attacked by extremist groups. The Society Without Violence works on women’s empowerment, peace building, raising public awareness on gender stereotypes and gender based violence, and the protection for women human rights defenders. On 15 April 2014, a roundtable (due to recent threats the event was a closed session) was interrupted by neo-nationalist extremist group members protesting the event. As the extremist groups tried to enter the conference room, some verbally attacked members of Society Without Violence, while others used physical force on human rights defenders and hotel security guards. Members of local and official media who arrived with the extremist protestors filmed the incident, but later falsely claimed that the Society Without Violence initiated the violent attack. This attack seems to be part of an increasing pattern and women human rights defenders in Armenia are targeted with threats and violence for carrying on their human rights works. 

Today Women Human Rights Defenders Day: there is a lot of work to be done

November 29, 2013

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) celebrates International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (29 November 2013) by focusing on 4 areas:women human rights defenders

1. Tools for Defence
The Online Directory of Urgent Responses for WHRDs is a mapping of “Urgent Responses for Women Human Rights Defenders at Risk”. The Online Directory outlines the diverse responses that exist and, where available, are specific to WHRDs. It is a tool for WHRDs to locate the best resources available for their protection, support, and wellness. Two new areas have been added: Digital Security and Training opportunities.

2. Training
Given the risk specialized training on various aspects of safety and protection are intended to strengthen the capacity of WHRDs to respond or prevent attacks. These training programs address the gender dimension that highlight subtle risks that WHRDs miss when they are exposed to gender based violence and gender specific risks. It is important that they multiply this knowledge with other WHRDs and members of the communities they work with.

3. Digital Security
Women defenders face many unique threats and obstacles both offline and online. Technology is transforming activism, and the promotion and defence of human rights but awareness there are also digital dangers to WHRD’s freedom of expression and association online and knowing how to communicate securely is important in ensuring a holistic approach to security for WHRD’s. WHRD IC hosted a train-the-trainer workshop for a global group WHRDs in digital security and is currently supporting their in-country activities. In 2014 it will assist WHRDs to access further training in digital security. Examples of attacks:
– On 21 September the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network’s (LACWHN) website was hacked and disabled. The attack occurred immediately following the launch of several campaign activities on September 19th and 20th including the #28SAbortoLegal social media campaign as well as the posting of a photo album and posters. This was a deliberate attempt to silence legitimate feminist voices, suppress dissent and stifle women’s political participation in the public sphere on these issues by stigmatisation and sabotage. <>
– In 2012 the offices of Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA) were raided, staff arrested and authorities confiscated documents, computers and other material from the centre. They demanded passwords and read emails and correspondence, which seriously compromise the privacy and security of staff and members of WONETHA.
4. Celebrate, honour, remember
This tribute takes the form of an online photo exhibition <>  launched on November 25th 2013, Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women with a special slide show featuring 16 WHRDs from around the world and will end on December 10, International Human Rights Day. The tribute features photographs and biographies of women’s rights leaders from around the world. Each day of the campaign AWID will share the story of a WHRD(s) on its website as well as through Facebook and Twitter using hashtags #16days and #AWIDMembers and link back to the full online exhibit which will commemorate and celebrate the work and lives of WHRDs who have passed away since January 2011.

The new THF Digest of Human Rights Awards features several awards for women human rights defenders:

Attempted assassination of Fidelina Sandoval of Honduras draws ire of Women Human Rights Defenders

April 18, 2013

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) strongly condemns the attempted assassination of the Honduran journalist Fidelina Sandoval, who was shot at outside the television and radio station Globo TV where she works on the morning of 8 April, 2013. Fidelina Sandoval was crossing Boulevar Morazán on her way to work when a grey van with two men sitting in the front caught her attention. She turned her face so as not to be looking directly at them, but seconds later heard a shot fired from a gun. The WHRD IC is disturbed by this attack and expresses its concern for the well-being of Fidelina Sandoval, her family and her colleagues, who have also been targeted.  Globo TV alone has experienced multiple attacks including raids and the destruction of equipment, as well as threats, persecution, intimidation and other forms of rights violations and violence against the numerous staff members.women human rights defenders

The WHRD IC is further disturbed by the escalating violence against WHRDs and widespread impunity in Honduras since the coup d’état in June 2009.  As highlighted in a case study on Honduras in the WHRD IC’s Global Report <> , repression and denial of rights are not isolated cases but rather demonstrate a general policy of terror and abuse enacted with impunity – particularly towards women.

Vacancy announcement for Coordinator of Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition

April 10, 2013

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights defenders worldwide, which is looking to recruit a full-time Coordinator to liaise with members, represent the Coalition, carry out fundraising activities and facilitate and steer the WHRD IC in meeting its strategic objectives.  The position will be primarily based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Salary and conditions will be commensurate with skills, experience and cost of living in the host country (with current funding until the end of 2013). Deadline for applications: 23rd April

To apply:
 send CV and a letter of interest to: (with the names and contact details of two referees who will not be contacted without permission).
For more information on the WHRD- IC and its work:

WOZA’s case shows that meetings can help generate support for HRDs

September 18, 2012

From 6 to 8 June 2012, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) national coordinator Jenni Williams attended an international human rights experts meeting is Oslo, hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
She presented the story of WOZA and its mandate of peaceful protest and the brutality of the state in responding with violence.
Amongst those attending were the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association, Maina Kai; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and
expression, Frank La Rue; and the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya as well as the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the Africa commission on human and people rights, Reine
The African Commission Special Rapporteur Reine Alapini-Gansou and two United Nations Special Rapporteurs have since released statements.

Visit WOZA website at or follow on Twitter at

This information was provided by the International Secretariat of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC)

Launch of the Women Human Rights Defenders Global Report on 29 February

February 21, 2012

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights defenders.

The Global Report gives a contextual analysis of the environment in which WHRDs work and the violations they face because of their gender. The Global Report wants to rectify the neglect of gender-specific  documentation by drawing on individual and collective analysis of WHRD IC members during the life of the Coalition, which began in 2005. The analysis is informed by five key phenomena – fundamentalisms; militarization and situations of conflict; globalization; crises of democracy or governance; and heteronormativity. The Global Report uses 43 cases studies that illuminate specific trends and experiences of WHRDs. The case studies also surface connections between context, identities of WHRDs and violations experienced. The use of the cases examples provide a vivid glimpse of the landscape in which WHRDs live and work.

The Global Report is primarily an advocacy and capacity building tool, both important measures for WHRDs’ protection and the prevention of further abuses. The Global Report is a contribution to the ongoing documentation of the situation of WHRDs that will enable informed advocacy from the local to regional and international level.

The report – and a short abstract of the report in English, French and Spanish – will soon be available to download from the website:, hard copies are available by email request to