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Put the protection of women human rights defenders on the agenda

Today SAHR addressed State delegations and the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Ms Dubravka Simonovic, at the 32nd Human Rights Council at the UN in Geneva. Our call to the States was: ensure that UN Resolutions are drafted to protect women human rights defenders from violence - and - that States be reviewed on the same.

We thank International Service for Human Rights for the support and training to equip us to lobby States, to introduce us to friendly diplomats, to guide us to think strategically in our lobby.

Below is the edited script which our colleagues from Honduras and Nigeria and us delivered to States during the interactive dialogue on the resolution concerning violence against women.

Thank you, Chair, and good afternoon respected delegates.

Today, we speak on behalf of our fellow colleagues who are also women’s rights defenders from Africa, Latin America and Asia. Globally, we speak for WHRD from rural areas, indigenous women and women detainees. Amongst us, we work on sexual violence, domestic violence, sexual and reproductive rights, women in detention. We are journalists, social workers, lawyers.

We work with women and girls who are victims of violence, and sometimes we are victims of violence ourselves.

WHRDS face violence, threats of violence, intimidation and even killings in violation of their rights, especially when they challenge gender stereotypes, social and cultural norms, religious fundamentalism and land grabbing.

Attacks against us are easy. It is easy to scare us with threats of rape, sexual harassment and use our children as pawns in the negotiation of our civic space. Gender-based violence against us means we are targeted for our activism and the type of violence used is specifically chosen to demean us as women.

Berta Caceres’s recent political assassination is an example. She was an indigenous woman who fought for people’s land rights. She called on the Inter American Commission of Human Rights saying she was in danger and needed protection. The State failed to act.

This is an example of why we as women and as defenders need to States to fulfil their legal obligation to protect our rights and to provide the measures to safeguard our unique security needs.

Unless States recognise WHRDs and recognise our specific security and safety needs, we will remain invisible.

We call on states, as they negotiate resolutions like this one that speak directly to our work on the ground, to:

  • Recognize us as legitimate and vital actors

  • Create a safe and enabling environment for us to work, free from harassment, intimidation and violence from both state and non-state actors.

  • Ensure that we can access justice.

  • Allow us to sustain our activism and contribute to building just and equal societies.

Thank you

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