New Report on Women Human Rights Defenders

In its new report, “Global Report on the Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders" the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition explores the factors that have increased the vulnerability of Women’s Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) in recent years.Women Human Rights Defenders are defined as women working to promote human rights, anyone working to advance women’s human rights and individuals advancing LGBT or other gender/sexual rights.This publication identifies and describes five contexts and global phenomena contributing to the systematic barriers to the work and safety of WHRDs and the populations they advocate for around the world.More specifically, it examines the impact of fundamentalisms, militarization and situations of conflict, globalization and neoliberalism, crises of democracy and governance, and heteronormativity.The second section of the report looks at the specific gender-based violations against WHRDs (i.e. the use of sexual and domestic violence to silence activists or attacks that target WHRDs’ families) and violations with gendered consequences for WHRDs (i.e. the gendered treatment of WHRDs in prison or the discrediting of activists with added consequence of stepping outside of proscribed gender norms). The final chapter outlines appropriate and specific “strategies [that can and should be] implemented to protect WHRDs at risk, as well as strategies to address the structural challenges” that have been described earlier in the report.

Several Overbrook grantees, the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, Front Line Defenders, Peace Brigades Internationaland the Center for Reproductive Rights, have contributed to this document through the provision of recommendations and some of the 43 case studies that make up much of the report.A central goal of the report is to use feminist methodology to document the experiences of WHRDs and the challenges that face them through an analysis driven by the stories of many targeted activists.At the same time, this publication seeks to emphasize the critical need for more documentation of these violations and the difficulties procuring these stories of Women Human Rights Defenders due to the fear of reprisals.

The Overbrook Foundation is proud to be involved with organizations taking a deeper consideration of the particular vulnerabilities of WHRDs and the responses required to support them effectively. Not only do they consider the recommended immediate responses to specific violations, but also they also critically assess of systemic underlying causes that must be dismantled. By demonstrating that the challenges and violations truly cut across cultures, types of activism, contexts and region, this report exposes the structural and oppressive nature of these threats to WHRDs.

At the intersection of Overbrook’s support of organizations’ defending human rights defenders and of those protecting reproductive and LGBT rights, this report functions as an advocacy tool and a capacity tool for many of our grantees by outlining “the need for more systematic and collective approaches to surface the specific experiences of WHRDs and ensure appropriate responses to them.”At the report’s launch last week, one grantee, the Center for Reproductive Rights, articulated how valuable these stories, recommendations and frames will be for them once adapted to CRR’s particular cases and advocacy efforts.We are pleased that so many of our grantees have recognized the importance of including this gender lens and plan to continue integrating it into their approach to defending human rights defenders in both the international and the domestic arenas.

For those interested in these issues, please explore the coalition’s website and publications, and the links to our grantees’ websites found in this blog post.In addition to this particularly comprehensive report, the coalition and some of Overbrook’s grantees have also recently published “Ten Insights to Strengthen Responses for Women Human Rights Defenders at Risk”, a shorter report outlining specific recommendations to the International community for short- and long-term responses to risks faced by WHRDs.