"In the current political climate, in which there is a backlash against human rights, women defenders are often the first to come under attack.” - UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, 2019 Report
Women human rights defenders across the world are fighting for positive change in their communities. They share many challenges experienced by their male counterparts but face additional obstacles because they undermine the status quo twice over: through their work in its own right, and through their implicit challenge to accepted norms about the role of women in society.
As a result, they are even more vulnerable to threats, stigma, and violence. This can include attacks on their families, or public defamation campaigns accusing them of neglecting their children or pursuing sexual partners. This situation has become increasingly normalized by the use of misogynistic language by prominent political figures in recent years, while the concept of ‘gender ideology’ has emerged as a perceived threat to family values.
It is essential that states commit to ensuring a safe environment for all human rights defenders by implementing prevention and protection programs with a gender focus. This must follow the investigation of all cases of threats and attacks against women defenders and condemnation of those responsible.
PBI provides direct protection and support to women human rights defenders to keep them alive and help their activism thrive. Our international volunteers accompany at-risk activists, standing shoulder to shoulder with them in a display of solidarity that deters violent attacks. We also provide longer-term support – from security monitoring and psychological assistance to communications and capacity-building training.
This is paired with multi-level advocacy aimed at creating favorable security, policy and political environments for women defenders to work within. At a global level, we build networks that can be mobilized at short notice to provide much-needed support. We also provide defenders with a platform to amplify their voices and ensure that their calls for rights and freedoms are heard by those who can make a difference.