Women defender networks meet at UN for first time to denounce violence and discrimination against women activists throughout the world

This week, IM-Defensoras has been present at the UN Human Rights headquarters in Geneva, as part of a delegation composed of women rights defender networks from farflung regions of the globe to meet with the Working Group on Discrimination against Women, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, groups dealing with Special Procedures and other international organizations.

This has been possible thanks to JASS, the initiator and organizer of these activities, with the support of AWIDWHRDICWomen Human Rights Education InstitutePBIAmnesty InternationalISHR, International Platform against Impunity, National Network of Women Defenders of Colombia and WHRDMena, which have all joined forces in order to:

  • Highlight the challenges faced by women defenders in combating gender discrimination that affects their work and places their lives at risk.
  • Share experiences and lessons learned about gender-based protection by defender networks.
  • Formulate recommendations to the States and to the United Nations to promote environaments of protection and equality for the participation of women.

On Wednesday morning, May 17th, our Co-Coordinator Alejandra Burgos participated in a joint meeting with the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women (UN-WGDAW) and the Rapporteur on the Situation of Defenders, Michel Forst.

Among the issues addressed were gender discrimination against women defenders in each of the regions represented; contributions and challenges of women defender networks and recommendations for strengthening them; and some ways in which the UN-WGDAW and the Rapporteur can strengthen the work of defender networks.

The following day, Thursday, May 18th, the públic event was held. Co-convened by IM-Defensoras, it bore the title “Strengthening Women Defender Protection Networks: Challenges and opportunities in the current context.”

Our comrade Marusia López, a member of JASS and IM-Defensoras, was in charge of presenting and moderating a roundtable attended by our Co-Coordinator Alejandra Burgos; Alda Facio, of the Working Group on Discrimination against Women; the Rapporter on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst; Winnet Shamuyarira, of JASS Southern Africa; and Farah Salka, of WHRD-Mena, as a representative of the Miiddle East and North Africa.

In her presentation, Marusia López recalled Berta Cáceres and alluded to the ways in which war, militarization, and the rise in authoritarian governments have brought about the closing and narrowing of democràtic spaces throughout the world, thereby heightening violence against human rights defenders. She also noted the ways in which discrimination and gender violence continue to be used as mechanisms of social and media control to instill fear and demobilize society.

In her remarks, Alejandra Burgos described the context faced by women defenders in Mesoamerica, presenting data from the Mesoamerican Registry of Attacks. She spoke of the work developed by IM-Defensoras and stressed the importance of networks and the need to incorporate a gender perspective in the national protection mechanisms and eliminate discriminatory attitudes displayed by públic oficials.

The roundtable discussion concluded with the formulation of several recommendations to the States regarding the protection of women defenders, such as recognizing formal and informal women defender networks, providing and guaranteeing suitable surroundings in which women defenders and their organizations can exercise their legitimate rights, and abstaining from supporting laws and actions that restrict the political organization and participation of the civil society.

It is important to note that this was the first time that the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and the Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders organized a joint event of this type, which is an indicatin of the relevance and progress made in approaching the situation of womun human rights defenders from the viewpoint of discrimination against women.

We, of IM-Defensoras express our thanks to UN Human Rights, the Working Group on Discrimination against Women, the Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, and all the co-convening and participating organizations for having made possible the opening of these spaces that are so basic to moving forward in the comprehensive protection of women human rights defenders.

More press releases: