WHRDs are women human rights defenders. They are women who work to defend human rights and all who defend women’s rights as human rights. They advocate for gender equality, economic and environmental justice, sexual rights and more.
On June 8, 2011, Ana Fabricia Cordoba, a member of the Ruta Pacifica de las Muerjes, was shot dead by an unidentified gunman. She was a community organizer and an outspoken advocate for human rights. She continued her work even with the knowledge that her repeated warnings of the threats against her life were routinely ignored. She was a WHRD.
On May 11, 2011, Maryam Bahreman, a member of Iran’s One Million Signatures Campaign, was arrested. She suffered 71 days in detention and 55 days in solitary confinement. She remains in prison, despite an order from the Prosecutor’s Office for her release. Maryam Bahreman is a WHRD.
Violence against human rights defenders is gendered, with women defenders working on women’s rights at increased risk of being threatened and suffering sexual harassment, sexual violence and rape. The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) was created in 2005 to address the issue of violence again WHRDs.
Together with AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development) the WHRD IC Working Group on Urgent Responses, of which MADRE is a member, has released a series of publications that focuses on the specific needs of WHRDs at risk. The series highlights resources available to WHRDs and offers steps toward eradicating violence against them.
“Ten Insights to Strengthen Responses for Women Human Rights Defenders at Risk” is the latest in the series. It seeks to contextualize the violence that WHRDs face so that practices to protect them can be implemented. Insights include widening the sphere of who is considered a WHRD, using the Human Rights Defenders framework to protect WHRDs and making sure they have both international and local support systems.
In addition to being a member of the coalition, MADRE works worldwide to ensure the safety of women who are threatened with violence through projects like the Afghan Women’s Survival Fund and the Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women.