Posts Tagged ‘women human rights defenders’

Women Human Rights Defenders Day 2017: an anthology

December 7, 2017

When the UN adopted a landmark Resolution on the Protection of the Women Human Rights Defenders in 2013, the international community committed itself to supporting them and recognising the indispensable role they play in society. But instead of being applauded and recognised for their achievements, human rights defenders are increasingly being threatened and attacked, and portrayed as ‘criminals’, ‘terrorists’ or a ‘threat to traditional values’. In the worst cases, they’re imprisoned and killed. Women human rights defenders are attacked because they challenge injustice and break traditional gender norms and stereotypes in their societies.

To mark international Women Human Rights Defenders’ Day on Wednesday 29 November, I already posted AWID’s list of women who have been killed this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/04/remembering-women-killed-fighting-for-human-rights-in-2017/].

However there is a plethora of other sources on the issue of women human rights defenders issued around this international day and here follows ‘unfortunately’ just a (big) selection:

——-

Kate AllenDirector of Amnesty International UK, wrote in the Huffington Post (5 December 2017) under the title “Women Human Rights Defenders: Time To Speak Up For The Those On The Frontline Of Human Rights“.

Amnesty International has released a new report that lays bare the shocking threats that activists face around the world. It shines a light on the plight of women who’ve been killed or forcibly disappeared as a result of their campaigning work over the past 20 years….Berta Cáceres, for example, an indigenous and environmental rights defender in Honduras, was murdered in March last year after being threatened for opposing a hydroelectric project. Her daughter, Bertha Zuñiga, survived an armed attack in July this year, just weeks after being named the leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras, the organisation her mother previously led. Justice is yet to be served……And what is so utterly frustrating is that most of these attacks could have been prevented if countries had taken their human rights obligations seriously. When crimes are not investigated and punished, a chilling message is sent out, leaving many women human rights defenders fearing for their lives or too scared to stand up for what is right. This is why we need governments to take heed of our report. They must publicly acknowledge the enormous contribution of women activists in the advancement of human rights, and take steps to prevent any further attacks on them by ensuring they’re adequately supported….In the face of rising populism, fundamentalism, inequality, and a backlash against women’s human rights, voices of women human rights defenders and the communities and movements they represent are now more important than ever.

Rohit David, in the Time son India (5 December 2017) wrote “Women who have been tortured for the environment

The year 2017 has been a tough year for women environment activists and environmental defenders, protecting their indigenous land and resources as they face increased crackdowns, violence, threats, intimidation and murder by state and non-state actors. At the UN environment assembly in Nairobi the women’s rights organisations held a tribute ceremony on Monday. They highlighted the important role of women human rights defenders for a pollution-fr ..  Read more at: //economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/61926819.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

Pratch Rujivanarom wrote in The Nation of 4 December 2017 about women in Thailand: “Hardships for female rights activists highlighted”

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FEMALE ACTIVISTS from every corner of Thailand have been victims of discrimination, lawsuits and threats to their families, Protection International has revealed.

Being a human rights activist was harder for women, as many of them had to look after their families and make a living while maintaining an active role campaigning for justice and basic human rights, the organisation’s coordinator, Pranom Somwong, said to mark International Day for Women Human Rights Defenders last Wednesday. “From the stories of women human rights activists across the country, we found that they are living in great distress,” Pranom said. “Not only do they have to face danger from their activism, they have to take care of their family. In the meantime they have a duty to go to court, gather evidence for their cases and earn money for litigation. ..“Moreover, we have found that since the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) came to power in 2014, 179 women have been sued for their activities to defend their rights. They were discriminated against and branded as criminals, and it is common for many of them to be a defendant in more than five cases at the same time.”

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At an event titled “Side by Side WHRD (Women Human Rights Defenders) 2018” last Wednesday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Protection International disclosed the latest statistics on lawsuits against female human rights activists. They showed that most female activists were sued over the forest-encroachment issue and that the Northeastern Region had the highest number of cases against women activists. A land-rights activist from Chaiyaphum in the northeastern region, Oranuch Phonpinyo, said that poor people of every gender and age were most likely to be victims of unfair government policies, so many women also took on the considerable role of campaigning for their basic rights and justice. Oranuch said the statistics showed that the land-rights issue was the most prominent problem. Since the NCPO proclaimed its forest reclamation policy and enforced orders to take back forestland from encroachers, poor people across the country had been affected severely – especially in the Northeast.

Vishal Gulati (in Nairobi at the invitation of United Nations Environment to cover its third annual session) wrote about: “200 environmental women defenders killed in 2017: Activists”.

This year has been the deadliest for environmental women defenders, with 200 assignations reported across the globe, and most of them were killed over land and forest conflicts, rights activists said on Monday. Paying a tribute on the inaugural day of the three-day third UN Environment Assembly here, they highlighted the important role of women human rights defenders for a pollution-free future. “Two hundred environmental and women human rights defenders have been assassinated this year, mostly killed over land and forest conflicts. Only last week, we lost Elisa Badayos from the Philippines. But these conflicts are greatly aggravated by pollution,” Priscilla Achakpa of the Women’s Major Group (WMG) said.

US NEWS on 30 November 2017 carried the Reuters story “Killing of Mexican Prosecutor of Crimes Against Women Sparks Outcry”

Wee on 29 November wrote in The MarySue: “5 Women To Remember on International Women Human Rights Defenders Day”

International Women Human Rights Defenders Day was created by the UN as a way of giving thanks and paying tribute to the women who have worked to increase women’s access to education, safety, and general independence around the world. So today at TMS we are going to talk about 5 women (2 historical and 3 modern women) who worked to ensure equality for women.

(1) Tawakkol Karman: the Yemeni journalist who became the face of the 2011 Yemeni uprising. In 2005 she, along with seven other female journalists, formed the human rights group Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC).

(2) Sophia Duleep Singh: Goddaughter to Queen Victoria and exiled Indian royalty, Sophia Duleep Singh could have lived a life filled with royalty and opulence, but instead found herself called to the Suffragette movement in the United Kingdom.

(3) Peris Tobiko: Peris Tobiko was the first female Maasai member of Parliament to be elected in Kenya and was re-elected in 2017.

(4) Aida Kasymalieva: The youngest ever female member of the Kyrgyzstan parliament has made child marriage, domestic violence, and bride kidnapping an issue in her country, even when it causes other male members of parliament to walk out.

(5) Matilda Joslyn Gage: Considered too radical by many other suffragettes at the time, Gage was an unapologetic free thinker who supported not only just women’s right to vote but also provided her home as a stop on the Underground Railroad, supporting Civil Rights for African-Americans and Native peoples.

Indigenous Voices of Asia (IVA) published on 29 November “Philippines: CPA Statement on the Occasion of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day”

Today, in commemoration of the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) pays its highest tribute to all women activists who valiantly fight for women’s human rights against all forms of discrimination, inequality, and economic and political oppression. We especially honor women human rights defenders who work tirelessly and selflessly to promote indigenous peoples’ collective rights to our lands, territories and resources against land grabbing and plunder by the state and private corporations……There is a growing peoples’ resistance on state fascism and tyranny, which was seen in the series of protest caravans during the past three months, including the protest caravan led by indigenous peoples and Moro people in September. In response, President Duterte plans on a crackdown against left-leaning organizations on the basis of their alleged conspiracy with communists, and arresting not only communist rebels but also “all legal fronts aiding the left”. Duterte also issued Proclamation 360 on November 23, which terminated the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Peace has become obscured and human rights have lost meaning and force under the current regime…..

Also in the Philippines the Women’s rights group Tanggol Bayi on Wednesday said women human rights defenders are facing “graver challenge” under the Duterte administration. In a press statement, Tanggol Bayi, in which name translates to Defend Women in English, convenor Gerifel Cerillo said Duterte’s words and actions are inciting state forces to commit further violence against human rights defenders, most of whom are women. “Duterte’s words and actions do not only smack of machismo and sexism. These are words and actions of an avowed fascist, one who flaunts state violence and terror on the poor majority to maintain a status quo that is inimical to the interests of the Filipino women and people,” Cerillo said as their group celebrated the International Women Human Rights Day on Wednesday.

On 29 November, 2017, to mark International Women Human Rights Defenders Day 2017, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre made public a short video about women human rights defenders working on business and human rights – includes statistics from their database

On International Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) Day, marked every year on 29 November, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls upon governments and armed groups in the MENA region to free all detained WHRDs.

In Saudi Arabia,  GCHR welcomed this news [re women being allowed to drive] with great enthusiasm, however unfortunately the precedent of arrest is stronger than the precedent of freedom when it comes to issues related to women in Saudi Arabia….It’s not possible for human rights defenders to work freely in Saudi Arabia right now, with almost all of them in jail or ceasing work. Most recently, on 10 November 2017, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh sentenced woman human rights defender and Internet activist Naima Al-Matrood to six years in jail followed by six years of a travel ban. Al-Matrood was arrested on 13 April 2016 at the Directorate of Public Investigation in Al-Dammam. She was charged with allegedly participating in a number of anti-state demonstrations and rallies, being linked to a media cell, and violating public order by creating two social networking accounts on Twitter and Facebook to demand the release of some detainees. Al-Matrood has actively contributed to the peaceful human rights movement in the Eastern Province. Her health is deteriorating because of anemia, which has caused her vision to weaken.

In Iran, many people who campaign for women’s rights have been jailed and the country treats WHRDs more harshly than others, jailing them for lengthy sentences despite illness and separating them from their families.
Atena Daemi, who has campaigned for women’s rights and against the death penalty, has been imprisoned since November 2016 after being convicted of charges that were based solely on her peaceful human rights activities……..Narges Mohammadi, former Vice-President of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC) and President of the Executive Committee of the National Council of Peace in Iran, remains in prison….
Even after their release, WHRDs remain imprisoned in their country, unable to leave due to travel bans. Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh ..continues to be banned from travelling. She was released in September 2013 after having spent over three years in prison. She was given a 20-year travel ban.

In Syria, Razan Zaitouneh and Samira Al-Khalil were kidnapped from the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) offices with two male colleagues by armed, masked gunmen in Douma on 9 December 2013 and have been held ever since. There has been no word of their health or circumstances since they were abducted almost four years ago. …

(see also GCHR’s 2016 report Before It’s Too Late: Tangible Protection Mechanisms for Women Human Rights Defenders in the MENA Region and Beyond).

On 29 November the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called on States to Recognize and Protect the Work of Women Human Rights Defenders

The IACHR observes with great concern that in recent years defending human rights in the Americas has become an extremely dangerous activity. Human rights defenders are regularly victims of criminalization, arbitrary detentions, killings, attacks, and threats, among other acts of violence. The information received by the IACHR demonstrates the seriousness of the situation in the region: in 2016 three quarters of all killings of human rights defenders in the world occurred in the Americas. Women human rights defenders face specific challenges in carrying out their defense of human rights, including the discrimination they are subject to because of gender stereotypes ascribed to their sex.

The IACHR notes that a context of structural violence and discrimination against women continues to exist in the region. In this context and while defying macho stereotypes that disapprove their participation in public life, women human rights defenders face a situation of particular vulnerability. They are exposed to misogynistic attitudes, threats of sexual aggression, gender-based defamation and questioning their “femininity” or sexuality. In this respect, the stigmatization and delegitimization have a different impact on women human rights defenders, given that many of these acts cause harm and violence to their gender condition. Additionally, in several occasions there is an intersection with racial discrimination when women defenders are indigenous or Afrodescendent.

Open Democracy of 29 November carries AWID’s “This is why we fight: Interview with Isabel Flota Ayala

AWID spoke with Isabel Flota Ayala, an indigenous activist from the International Indigenous Women’s Fund (IIWF) about people who fought bravely for her communities.

Isabel Flota Ayala, indigenous activist from the International Indigenous Women’s Fund (IIWF). Photo: AWID.

AWID spoke with Isabel Flota Ayala, an indigenous activist from the International Indigenous Women’s Fund (IIWF). She spoke lovingly about people who fought bravely for her communities, including Griselda Tirado Evangelio, a human rights lawyer and part of Oganización Independiente Totonaca (OIT) a group that was defending the land rights of indigenous people in Mexico, and Alberta “Bety” Cariño Trujillo, who was a human rights defender and director of CACTUS (Centro de Apoyo Comunitario Trabajando Unidos), a community organization in Oaxaca, Mexico, through which she fought for the right to resources and autonomy of indigenous people in her community. Griselda was assassinated just outside her family home in 2003. Bety was killed by gunfire during a peaceful solidarity caravan, in a case that still remains “unsolved.”

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) focused on Bahrain: “Interrogation, travel bans, arrest, and torture are but some of the challenges routinely faced by women humanrights defenders in Bahrain. On the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day we reiterate the call fortheir protection.

Just days ago, Nedal al-Salman was advised that a travel ban prevented her leaving Bahrain. Al-Salman is the Head of International Relations and Women & Children’s Rights Advocacy at Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, and is active in the promotion of women’s rights in Bahrain…This is the second travel ban al-Salman has received in two years; a restriction imposed simply due to her legitimate work in defence of human rights….Zainab Al-Khamees – a woman human rights defender and member of the Bahrain Human Rights Society – was prevented from traveling and summoned to Court in October this year …Jalila al-Salman – a teacher and the former vice president of the (now dissolved) Bahraini teachers’ association– also faces a travel ban. She was previously arrested and detained and tortured for her alleged role in coordinating a teachers’ strike following protests calling for government reform. Jalila al-Salman and her colleagues faced charges of ‘calling for and inciting the overthrow and hatred of the ruling system, possessing anti-political system pamphlets, spreading malicious and fabricated news and taking part in illegal gatherings.’ Nazeeha Saeed – correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya and France24 – has been charged with ‘unlawfully working for international media.’ Saeed has previously been detained, and subjected to torture, ill-treatment, and humiliation by police. She as well is banned from travel. These women human rights defenders are subject to reprehensible treatment in response to their activism and commitment to human rights issues.

IPS has a special series of articles that cover the 16 days activism that start on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.   “Women Activists are Targets of Gender-Biased Violence”

Fanny Kaekat, indigenous leader of the Shuar Arutam people, has spent her life defending the territories of indigenous communities in southeastern Ecuador from the threat of mining. She poses at the 14th Latin American Feminist Meeting, in Montevideo, in front of a poster that reads: "my body, my territory", a slogan of women human rights defenders. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Fanny Kaekat, indigenous leader of the Shuar Arutam people, poses at the 14th Latin American Feminist Meeting, in Montevideo, in front of a poster that reads: “my body, my territory”, a slogan of women human rights defenders. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Veiled and direct threats, defamation, criminalisation of activism, attacks on their private lives, destruction of property and assets needed to support their families, and even murder are some forms of gender violence that extend throughout Latin America against women defenders of rights. They want to throw us off our land, they do not leave us alone. The helicopters fly at midnight, there are rumours that they are going to attack us,” Fanny Kaekat, an indigenous leader of the Shuar Arutam people in Ecuador, who for decades have been resisting the harassment of mining companies interested in the gold in their territories in the southeast of the country.

The violence against women rights activists was one of the main topics discussed at Eflac, which brought together some 2,000 feminists between Nov. 23 and 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which marks the start of 16 days of activism to eradicate a problem that is growing rather than declining in the region. This is shown by the report “Commitment to Action: Public Policies to Eradicate Violence against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean”, launched on Nov. 22 by UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which stresses that the region has the highest rates of gender violence not perpetrated by a partner and the second highest committed by an intimate partner……

The local newspaper of Krugersdorp in South Africa (24 November 2017) must be representative of a host of articles on this topic: “#Count me in: together moving a non-violent SA forward”

The white ribbon is the symbol of support for the 16 Days of Activism campaign. It symbolises peace, and the commitment to never commit or condone violence against women and children. Photo: bigissue.org.

…In 1998, South Africa nominated the 16 Days of Activism campaign as the blue-print for curbing violence in the country, and uses it as a time to educate communities about abuse, which includes rape, murder, assault, financial abuse, starvation, emotional abuse, physical abuse, abduction, sexual harassment, human trafficking, incest, child labour and any act of doing something against the other person’s will. The 16 Days of Activism campaign also tells people how to get help when you or someone you know has been abused. The campaign has seen various governmental departments involved in acting against abuse, as well as initiatives, themes, talks, organisations and activities helping to eradicate abuse by providing information. As one of the strategic ways of fighting abuse and inequality, the government went so far as to establish a ministerial portfolio, the Department for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities in May 2009, to put emphasis on not only equality but also the access to development opportunities for vulnerable groups in South African society. The Department aimed to steer the equity, equality and empowerment agenda of the government with regard to groups of people who are treated as insignificant, and previously disadvantaged communities in each of the three sectors.

Finally, although technically not issued in the context of the Women Human Rights Defenders Day, I refer to the piece by Aynslee Darmon in ET Canada of 6 December 2017 entitled  Angelina Jolie Is Fighting For Female Empowerment Through Art: ‘Help Them Tell Their Stories’

At The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual Women in Entertainment breakfast on Wednesday, Angelina Jolie delivered a powerful speech calling for female empowerment. Calling it an international battle, Jolie is encouraging female empowerment through art…“We don’t have to keep our heads down, we don’t have to think that the film we make or our comment on politics, or a joke we tell on stage could land us in prison where we might be tortured or punished,” Jolie, 42, added. “We don’t have the censorship. We don’t have to worry what acting in a play or singing on television will bring violence or dishonour to our families. We don’t have to tailor our clothes or our opinions to when it’s acceptable to religious authorities or violent extremist groups. We are not shunned and considered immoral because we dare to speak our mind about why we consider to be wrong as a society. We have the right to think thoroughly and to speak freely and to put forward our ideas on equal terms. There are women across the world who face serious danger and get hurt just trying to have a voice and an opinion.”


sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/women-human-rights-defenders_uk_5a2692dce4b087120d865f21

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/environment/developmental-issues/women-who-have-been-tortured-for-the-environment/articleshow/61926819.cms

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/200-environmental-women-defenders-killed-in-2017-activists-117120401285_1.html

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30333107

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-11-30/killing-of-mexican-prosecutor-of-crimes-against-women-sparks-outcry

https://www.themarysue.com/5-women-to-remember/

https://iva.aippnet.org/philippines-cpa-statement-on-the-occasion-of-international-women-human-rights-defenders-day/

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/29/1763688/women-human-rights-defenders-say-they-face-graver-challenge-under

https://ifex.org/middle_east_north_africa/2017/11/29/women-rights-defenders/

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/iachr-calls-states-recognize-and-protect-work-women-human-rights-defenders

https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/isabel-flota-ayala-awid/this-is-why-we-fight-interview-with-isabel-flota-ayala

http://www.ishr.ch/news/bahrain-women-human-rights-defenders-must-be-protected

https://www.awid.org/whrd-tribute

http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/women-activists-targets-gender-biased-violence/

https://krugersdorpnews.co.za/340928/count-me-in-together-moving-a-non-violent-sa-forward/

Angelina Jolie Is Fighting For Female Empowerment Through Art: ‘Help Them Tell Their Stories’

 

Remembering women killed fighting for human rights in 2017

December 4, 2017

Source: Remembering women killed fighting for human rights in 2017 | AWID

Gauri Lankesh and Gulalai Ismail win 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award

October 6, 2017

Thursday 5 October 2017, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR – <http://www.rawinwar.org) celebrated the courage of Gauri Lankesh, an Indian journalist and human rights campaigner, and Gulalai Ismail, a Pakistani human rights and peace activist by according them the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award for their courage to speak out and to defy extremism in the context of violence and armed conflict in their countries, for which they suffered death threats and Gauri paid for it with her life. Gulalai opposes Islamic extremism in Pakistan and Gauri – the Hindu extremism in India. A month ago today, on 5th September 2017, she was murdered when entering her home, in an attempt to silence her voice. For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/anna-politkovskaya-award

On Gulalai Ismail and Gauri Lankesh receiving the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award, as well as the special tribute to Jamalida Begum (Myanmar/Bangladesh)Baron Judd of Portsea, a member of the 2017 Award Nominations Committee, said:  “Amidst all the disturbing violence and repression, not least of journalists, which is increasingly prevalent, Anna Politkovskaya remains a heroic example of courage and integrity.  I am glad to salute Gulalai Ismail and the late Gauri Lankesh together with Jamilida Begum as brave champions of Anna’s cause.  In doing this I also salute the countless individuals who are victims of oppression, tyranny, torture, sexual abuse and disappearances, wherever this occurs.”

Gulalai Ismail, at the age of 16 in 2002, founded Aware Girls , with her sister Saba Ismail, aiming to challenge the culture of violence and the oppression of women in the rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  area in the north west of Pakistan. Driven by a passion to challenge the inequality, intolerance and extremism, they began running workshops to provide girls and young women with leadership skills to challenge oppression and fight for their rights to an education and equal opportunities. Malala Yousafzai was an attendee of Aware Girls programmes in 2011.
Gauri Lankesh Gauri Lankesh, 55, an outspoken Indian newspaper editor, was shot dead outside her home by unidentified assailants in the southern city of Bengaluru, at a time of rising nationalism and intolerance of dissent in the country. She was a major figure in India, critic of right-wing Hindu extremism, campaigner for women’s rights, fiercely opposed to the caste system, campaigning for rights of Dalits and so on. With mixed feelings, Kavitha Lankesh, Gauri’s sister, told media persons here on Thursday that the Anna Politkovskaya Award was a morale booster for people who want to write and continue to fight against injustice. It was an honour not only for the members of Gauri’s family, but also to “huge family” that loved Gauri for her commitment to the cause of secular ideals, justice, equality and women rights. “In fact, the award honours what Gauri stood for throughout her life… that ‘you cannot silence me’”.

Sources: Gauri Lankesh & Gulalai Ismail Win 2017 RAW in War Anna Politkovskaya Award for Women HRDs | NewsClick

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/gauri-lankesh-posthumously-honoured-with-anna-politkovskaya-award/article19802238.ece

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-journalist-award/award-honors-slain-indian-journalists-courage-to-write-and-fight-idUSKBN1CA01U

Four young women human rights defenders speak out

September 21, 2017

Millennials often get a bad rap, accused of being politically apathetic and selfie-obsessed, says SARA VIDA COUMANS in Open Democracy of 15 September 2017, but around the world, young people who are sick of government inaction are stepping up to speak passionately on behalf of their communities. These four young women live in different continents and have had diverse experiences. Each is involved in Amnesty International campaigns, fighting for human rights from Australia to Peru. Here they talk about their local struggles, and what motivates them. (“We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too”)


Madeline Wells, indigenous rights activist in Tasmania.

Madeline Wells.

Madeline Wells. Photo: Lara Van Raay. All rights reserved.

“As a First Nations person, I have always felt I have a duty to fight for the rights of my people, a feeling of being part of something much bigger than me,” she said. “Activism can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be rallies or marches.” Climate change disproportionately impacts indigenous communities, and indigenous youth “face many other injustices: deaths in custody, high rates of youth detention, racism and discrimination, high suicide rates, and poor healthcare,” she added. “Activism can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be rallies or marches – art, music and dance are equally powerful ways of speaking out, and social media has had a huge impact.”


Nancy Herz, student and author from Norway.

Nancy Herz.

Nancy Herz. Photo: Vincent Hansen. All rights reserved.

In 2016 Herz wrote an article entitled “We Are the Shameless Arab Women and Our Time Starts Now” – and a movement of women reclaiming the word “shameless” subsequently started in Norway. “We don’t want to have our identities defined by others,” she said. “We don’t want to have our identities defined by others.” “I feel so proud when I receive messages from young girls who say I have encouraged them to speak out – that because I dare to be myself, they do too,” said Herz. “This is what fighting against injustice is about. By using our voices, we can make the space for freedom of expression bigger…it’s an ongoing struggle, but I believe that we have to keep pushing towards a world in which everyone can enjoy their basic right of living freely.”


Sandra Mwarania, youth activist from Kenya.

Sandra Mwarania.

Sandra Mwarania. Photo: Kenneth Kigunda / Amnesty International Kenya. All rights reserved.

Mwarania co-founded the Student Consortium for Human Rights Advocacy. “Young people are brilliant creatives, strategic thinkers, problem solvers, innovative communicators and active doers,” she said. “It is unfortunate that we are yet to be taken seriously by decision-makers who still perceive us as inexperienced and rowdy.” “We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too.” “As well as being well-informed on human rights issues, students and young people need the skills to address the pressing socio-political issues around them,” Mwarania added. “When young people are engaged at every level of the decision making process, the results can be amazing. We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too.”


Fabiola Arce, women’s rights defender from Peru.

Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone).

Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone) in #NiUnaMenos protest in Lima, Peru, 2016. Photo: Andrick Astonitas / Amnesty International Peru.

Arce has campaigned to pressure her government to investigate cases of forced sterilisation of women in the 1990s. “This serious human rights violation mostly targeted indigenous women, and caused a huge amount of pain and suffering,” she said. “Peru has a huge historical debt to women, and that’s part of what motivates me.” “We are determined not to let the injustices of the past go unaccounted for. Peru has a huge historical debt to women, and that’s part of what motivates me to work towards shaping a different future.”

Amnesty International’s BRAVE campaign works with young women human rights defenders like these and fights for their recognition and protection. Find out more.

Source: “We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too”: young women human rights defenders speak out | openDemocracy

News from the HRC34: Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders extended

June 8, 2017

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Right Defenders – Michael Forst – was extended for a period of three years. The draft of this resolution was submitted by Norway and adopted without a vote.  Hostile amendments to the resolution were submitted by the Russian Federation and China. All of these amendments were rejected.

  • Amendment L.43 sought to have the term Human Rights Defenders removed from the text. Such a motion undermines the importance of the work of Human Right Defenders and seeks to remove a well established term that has been mainstreamed within UN resolutions.
  • Amendment L.44 proposed the removal of the term Women Human Rights Defenders. In response several delegations emphasized the double violence that Women Human Right Defenders face due to their gender and their work and thus the importance of this term. They also recalled that part of the Special Rapporteur’s mandates is to focus on the violence specifically directed to Women Human Right Defenders and as such the term is key to the completion of the mandate.

Download the resolution

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/23/norwegian-resolution-un-human-rights-council-defenders-amendments/

Source: HRC34: Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders extended | AWID

Women Nobel Laureates ask to fight fundamentalism in all its guises

May 18, 2017

On 16 May 2017 Jennifer Allsopp reported for 50.50 from the second day of the Nobel Women’s Initiative conference at the historic Kaiser-Friedrich-Halle in Mönchengladbach, Germany. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/20/nobel-womens-initiative-defending-the-defenders-24-26-april-2015/]

Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative Conference. Credit: author.

Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women’s Initiative Conference. Credit: author.

Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Shirini Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman have come to address the 900 attendees about their work fighting totalitarianism and fundamentalism in its many global guises in order to build a more peaceful just and equal world. The public event took place on the final evening of the sixth international conference of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Over the last three days, more than 50 women human rights defenders have been in Mönchengladbach to discuss the future of the feminist movement in collaboration with Initiativikreis Mönchengladbach.

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The global response to refugees has been a key theme of the conference over the past three days and is a concern of all the laureates. One of the reasons the delegates decided to hold the conference in Germany was to come and congratulate Germany for its policies, explained Tawakko Karman, Yemeni human rights activist and 2011 Nobel Peace laureate. Since the beginning of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe, Germany has welcomed more than one million refugees, more than any other country in Europe. For 2016 and 2017 alone, the government has set aside 28.7 billioneuros of funding for their accommodation and integration.

….Many of the young people here have been politicised to defend human rights more broadly because of personal experiences of getting to know refugees in Germany. It heartens me because I know this experience will stay with them for life. I saw the same transformation time and time again myself as a national coordinator with the UK NGO Student Action for Refugees which supports students to set up volunteering and campaigning projects in their local communities. But unlike Germany, the UK – and other countries who are now turning their backs on refugees – are training the next generation to look inwards rather than out. They’re turning away from fostering international consciousness among citizens. This Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace prize for her work to ban antipersonnel landmines, has repeated over the last three days, is “the real fake news”.

Germany’s decision to welcome refugees has nevertheless not come without challenges, especially in terms of the far right explains Brigitte Schuster, a German teacher who has come along to hear the Nobel laureates speak. She teaches as part of a network of state funded programmes run by BAMF (the Federal for Migration and Refugees). Despite some “teething problems” in the provision of services, Bridgette insists, people are nevertheless now moving forward with their lives. They are contributing a lot to the community, she explains, including through sharing their stories and fostering consciousness of totalitarianism in other parts of the world.

After the event in the foyer the laureates message appears to have got through. Attendees have been issued a call to action. The laureates have thanked the German people for welcoming refugees but also asked them to keep up the pressure on the totalitarian regimes that they have fled and to fix the gaps in their own democracies. Tawakkol Karman, Yemeni human rights activist has called on those present not to victimise people but to “be close to people’s dreams, their aspirations and their suffering.” And she’s issued an order. “You will fight for a society of equal citizenship for men and women.

Five boys, all aged 15, jump over one another to tell me what they found most inspiring when I ask them in the foyer after the event. They’ve been brought along by their English teacher Meike Barth from the Gymnasium an der Gartenstraße which has around 900 students. They are also curious to learn about human rights struggles other parts of the world and how they can support them, in part because of the new refugee friends they have made at their school.

Ahmet says he was especially touched when Shirin Ebadi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote human rights in Iran, mentioned the Berlin wall: “She said that that physical wall and the wall Trump wants to build is like the Berlin wall and we can bring it down,” he recounts. But Ahmet’s also struck by her message about breaking down the walls between people ideologically. “It’s not just physical walls but walls in our hearts. People can always find ways to talk across physical walls, but what’s more hard is what she said about solidarity and people, the politicians trying to stop that connection. Actually,” he reflects, “I was thinking of this different metaphor of a different kind of wall we all build together with that hope, like bricks but you also need cement….It’s a metaphor in progress!”

Ahmet is also inspired by Jody William’s work to erase landmines. “There are still landmines in Vietman”, he tells me, “actually I read about that just last week and I was sat there thinking we need to do something about that.” I ask him what he’s going to do: he’s going to organise a local event and write to politicians.

Sebastian meanwhile tells me what stuck with him was the message advanced by Northern Irish peace activist and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laurate Mairead Maguire to use academic studies to advance the cause of peace, whatever the discipline. He enjoys chemistry, biology and maths and wants to help tackle climate change. “People thing human rights is just a subject but it’s actually about everything, the whole environment. It’s not just politicians saying this and that.” He’s been inspired by the public meeting tonight to organise his own event. Benjamin, another student, wants to get active on social media and says he is going to help him.

 

Source: Fight fundamentalism in all its guises: a call to action from Yemen to Germany | openDemocracy

Women human rights defenders and their films at Movies That Matter 2017

April 10, 2017

Beth Murphy (Filmmaker/Journalist) wrote in the Huffington Post of 31 March 2017 under the title “The world’s human rights movement would look very different ‘if it weren’t for women’” a piece that highlights women human rights defenders in the context of the Movies That Matter Film Festival which took place in the Netherlands earlier this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/15/movies-that-matter-film-festival-in-the-hague-from-24-march-to-1-april-2017/]. Movies that Matter, the Amnesty International film festival celebrated nine human rights defenders and screened films that share their powerful stories. Here some of these defenders: Read the rest of this entry »

10 women human rights defenders in cartoon images

March 23, 2017

10 December is obviously International Human Rights Day, but there are several countries that have a different or additional Human Rights Day of their own. One of them is South Africa where 21 March is historically linked with 21 March 1960 and the events of Sharpeville (on that day 69 people died and 180 were wounded when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered in protest against the Pass laws – https://www.parliament.gov.za/project-event-details/2)

Boipelo Mokgothu in Traveller24 used the occasion on 20 March 2017 to publish  a compilation of the 10 most inspirational women from historical figures till today:

Read the rest of this entry »

Amnesty International campaigns with “7 women who refuse to wait for their rights”

March 8, 2017

Also in the light of International Women’s Day 2017…….here are the seven Women Human Rights Defenders whom AI UK are profiling in their campaign of women who “refuse to wait in the face of injustice, and often paying the price of freedom in the process”..:

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng – She won’t wait… while women are still denied abortions 

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng

Tlaleng is a medical doctor in South Africa. She fearlessly advocates for sexual health as a radio presenter, spreading her message far and wide.  ‘I won’t stop until the right of women to have an abortion is respected and provided for safely,’ she says. ‘In South Africa, women die every year due to unsafe abortions, yet politicians think they can use women’s reproductive rights as a political ping pong ball.‘ Tlaleng is also challenging rape culture, and championing the drive to get health practitioners to treat patients with respect and without discrimination.

Karla Avelar – She won’t wait… while refugees are denied safety

Karla Avelar

Karla Avelar is a survivor. She’s made it through gang attacks, murder attempts and prison in El Salvador. Today, she heads Comcavis Trans, which supports LGBTI people, all of whom face threats and violence in El Salvador. Their situation is so difficult in the country that many flee as refugees. Through Comcavis, Karla provides information and other support to help them on what is often a treacherous journey that normally takes them to the USA or Mexico. But the US’s hardline stance on refugees and migrants entering the country has thrown these LGBTI refugees into even greater jeopardy – something Karla is now tackling with energetic defiance.

Su Changlan – She won’t wait … to reunite another child bride with her parents

Sue Changlan

Former school teacher Su Changlan’s story is not unique. One of her closest friends says that hers is the story of many women in China. She couldn’t stand by when she heard about girls trafficked as brides or parents whose children had gone missing. She did her best to help them and many others, her activism extending to land rights issues and support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. She did all this knowing that she might have to sacrifice her freedom in the process. Sadly, this is just what happened. She has been detained by the authorities since 2015. ‘I hope that parents do not despair about searching for their missing children. We, civil society, should work together to help them reunite with their children. The government should also invest more in these efforts instead of hindering our work!

Samira Hamidi – She won’t wait… while women are excluded from government

Samira Hamidi

Since 2004, Samira Hamidi has been blazing a trail for women in Afghanistan. As Chairperson of the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) she has actively tried to ensure that women’s voices and concerns are represented at the highest levels of government. At the same time, she is a staunch advocate in the international arena, reminding governments and potential aid donors that promoting and securing women’s rights in Afghanistan must be part of any conversation they may have with the country’s leaders. She faces a steep road, but she remains undaunted, championing other women human rights defenders, ensuring that their concerns are amplified. Women should be given an equal opportunity to make a better Afghanistan.

Jeanette John Solstad Remø – She won’t wait… for the right to be recognised as a woman

Jeanette John Solstad Remo

Until recently, she was John Jeanette, her name signifying the dual identity she was forced to accept every day in Norway. Although this former submarine commander felt her future could only be female, Norwegian law did not allow her to change her legal gender without undergoing a compulsory ‘real sex conversion’. This would have involved having her reproductive organs removed, as well as a psychiatric diagnosis. She refused to put herself through any of this. As a result, her driving license, passport, medical prescriptions, even her library card, still referred to her as male. She campaigned hard against Norway’s abusive law and her actions, alongside those of her supporters – including Amnesty – scored a huge victory. In 2016, Norway finally adopted a new law on legal gender recognition, which allows transgender people to choose their gender. Today, in acknowledgement of this milestone, she has changed her name to Jeanette John.

Loujain al-Hathloul – She won’t wait… for the right to drive a car 

180Loujain%20al-Hathloul.png

Fearless and formidable, Loujain defied Saudi Arabia’s driving ban and faced the consequences. In November 2014, she was detained for 73 days for live-tweeting herself driving into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. Released in February 2015, she went on to stand for election in November that year – the first time women were allowed to both vote and stand in elections in the state. However, despite finally being recognised as a candidate, her name was never added to the ballot. Today, she continues her fight to create a better future for her fellow Saudis – one where women enjoy their rights as full citizens of their nation. ‘I will win. Not immediately, but definitely.’

Connie Greyeyes – She won’t wait… for another sister to be stolen

Connie Greyeyes

Connie Greyeyes is an ‘accidental’ activist. An Indigenous Cree woman living in the province of British Columbia in Western Canada, she realised that a shocking number of Indigenous women in her community had gone missing or had been murdered. She began organising to support the families of these women and took the demand for a national inquiry to the Canadian capital in Ottawa. According to official figures, more than 1,000 Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada in the last three decades. The efforts of Connie and many other Indigenous women across Canada have borne fruit, with the Canadian government finally announcing an inquiry in 2016. ‘When we’re together, there’s so much strength. Being able to smile even after finding out that your loved one was murdered. How can you not be inspired by women who have been to hell and back over their children? How can you not be inspired and want to continue fighting?

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/campaigns/international-womens-day

International Women’s Day 2017: honoring, defending and watching women human rights defenders

March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day focuses on many different aspects of the struggle for the human rights of women. I have selected three special actions this year:

(1) a short piece honoring woman who are land rights defenders;

(2) a digital protection tool for women human rights defenders (Cyberwomen);

(3) a documentary film on how rape was made into a international war crime.

[Of course this blog has had many earlier posts on women human rights defenders: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/ ] Read the rest of this entry »