The work to protect women human rights defenders (WHRDs) is relatively new, and many existing resources were not designed specifically for them. It is widely recognised that WHRDs face the same types of risks as all human rights defenders, with additional gender-specific risks, such as being targets for gender-based violence. Many rights groups have, therefore, developed strategies and plans of action to provide WHRDs with support and solidarity. However, the lack of systemised knowledge about the array of urgent responses used to support WHRDs threatens the effectiveness and viability of these efforts.
This report contains the first mapping of the range of urgent responses for WHRDs at risk. The purpose of the mapping is twofold: to serve as a guide for WHRDs in their search for particular support measures, and to offer a survey of different organisations’ approaches and contributions to supporting WHRDs. Focusing on urgent measures, this study examines how different responses can fit into a broader strategy to protect WHRDs. The research included interviews with representatives from seventeen organisations that provide assistance to WHRDs, representing a broad range of human rights organisations operating at different levels (national, regional and international) and with different thematic priorities (including those working on women's rights, human rights and sexual orientation). Many interviewees described urgent responses that are not designed exclusively for WHRDs or have not been tailored to women’s needs but are able to serve a multiplicity of purposes. Ensuring gender-specific responses is an area identified as remaining to be strengthened. The various kinds of responses (programmes and resources) developed to assist WHRDs include the following:
- International pressure and visibility: urgent appeals, working with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and other international and regional mechanisms, sponsorship programmes, awards, solidarity and monitoring visits, and trial observation
- Resources for local action: legal assistance, medical assistance and psychosocial counselling, stress management programs, safe houses, protective accompaniment, and emergency hotline
- Support for relocation and other grants: temporary relocation; emergency grants and relief programs, and fellowships.
In spite of efforts to support WHRDs, participants in this project highlighted that the lack of recognition of WHRDs as such continues to pose a major challenge in providing protection. Research participants further underscored the need to reach out to WHRDs and to grassroots women’s groups in order to publicise the resources currently available for their work, as well as to help find long-term solutions to specific cases. This mapping of resources for women human rights defenders was developed by Inmaculada Barcia, and facilitated by the Association for Women’s Rights In Development (AWID), as part of its work as Chair of the Working Group on Urgent Responses for WHRDs at Risk of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC). The AWID website hosts an online directory of urgent responses for WHRDs, which is based on this initial mapping. This web portal is a tool for WHRDs to locate resources for their protection, support, and wellness. The responses are organised by type and by organisation. This online directory is available in English, French and Spanish: http://urgent-responses.awid.org/WHRD/.