Women human rights defenders are exposed to attacks on two fronts: they are targeted for their activism and they also face gender-based human rights violations. Violence against women remains one of the most widespread and pervasive human rights violations in the world. According to the United Nations, it is estimated that one in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime.
In both Latin America and Asia, the figures are alarming. The Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean reports that Mexico and Colombia have some of the highest rates of femicide and gender-based killings of women in the region. Furthermore, the United Nations surveyed 21 countries and found that Thailand is among the top five countries where women have suffered the most violence, while India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are among the top ten, and Indonesia is among the top twenty.
Additionally, women human rights defenders are exposed to attacks on two distinct bases; Global Witness shares that in addition to being attacked for their activism they also face gender-based human rights violations. Colombia and Mexico top the list of the most dangerous countries for women human rights defenders to work within.
The Norwegian Human Rights Fund (NHRF) recognises the tireless efforts of women human rights defenders working with our grantee partners in our prioritized countries, even though these country-contexts pose several challenges for the HRDs’ important work.
For this reason, we joined the UN's global campaign "UNITE to End Violence against Women by 2030" by launching the 16 Days of Activism campaign, from 25 November to 10 December, to highlight the courageous work of the women human rights defenders NHRF work with.
Find all 14 profiles here:
Naghma Iqtidar is a human rights defender who draws attention to various problems in Pakistan, such as the situation of women workers and enforced disappearances. Read more.
Zahida grew up in Punjab, Pakistan, and was paralysed by polio as a baby. She later became an advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. Read more.
Jalvat works to raise awareness of the rights of women textile workers and those working in brick kilns and home-based work in Pakistan. Read more.
María Eugenia Gabriel identifies the challenges for women in Mexico as the patriarchal system, the lack of protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, organised crime and the lack of formal jobs in her region. Read more.
Cristina lives in the coal mining region of Coahuila, in northern Mexico, and in her experience the work is hard, because coal mining is brutally sexist. Read more.
Jani Silva is a social leader. For more than 40 years Jani has been doing tireless social, environmental and community work in Putumayo, the "gateway to the Amazon" in Colombia. Read more.
Viviana Colorado explains that women face barriers and obstacles to training and participation within trade unions in Colombia. In addition, they are re-victimised by society during acts of anti-union violence. Read more.
Nelly Rodríguez (22 years old) and Ana Cristina Mena (15 years old) are two women leaders in charge of protecting and conserving Colombia's first river with rights: the Atrato. Read more.
Mireya Andrade is a woman who describes herself as a "peace builder" as she accompanies women and their families in the process of searching for people reported missing in Colombia. Read more.
María Elisa is a 64-year-old peasant woman who arrived in southern Colombia after she had to leave her territory with her children to escape the violence of the armed conflict. Read more.
Jutamas works to protect human rights from extractive industries in Thailand. According to her experience, the biggest challenge is to give more voice to women in the community. Read more.
Merin focuses on issues related to domestic and gender-based violence against domestic workers and their children, migrant workers and their families in India. Watch out.
Selvia is a young environmental rights defender from Bengkulu, Indonesia, and says that big companies are in direct opposition to the causes of human rights communities. Read more.
Nurlaela works by documenting thousands of cases of victims of severe human rights violations committed in the past. The results of the documentation are used as campaign material to engage the government and the general public. Read more.