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Defending the territory, defending life: Women human rights defenders resist extractivism in Latin America

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By Laura Carvajal, Urgent Action Fund – Latin America

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Throughout Latin America, women defenders of nature and the environment have organized themselves in diverse and creative ways to resist a hostile context of aggression and to transform an unsustainable extractive model that destroys their territories and ways of life.

Since the 1990s, Latin America has become the region that receives the highest figures of foreign direct investment for the extractive sector. In this period the extractive frontier has expanded so rapidly, generating pressure on diverse strategic ecosystems such as watershed headwaters, the Amazon jungle, moors, glaciers, high Andean lagoons, among others. In addition, along the continent large projects of road and energy infrastructure have been built. These projects are imposed in the territories of peasant communities, Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples, generating irreversible socio-environmental impacts and incurring serious human rights violations.

This model, which perpetuates historical inequalities and violence in the continent, has used strategies such as land deprivation, militarization and legislation in the service of the international financial systems. It restricts the right to participation, association, freedom of expression and protest, while allowing corruption, invasion and violent acquisition of peasant lands and ancestral territories. Faced with the legitimate resistance that comes to protect the territories, social protest has been brutally repressed, and defenders, such as Berta Cáceres, indigenous Lenca leader of Honduras, have been persecuted, criminalized and murdered. Thus, criminalization, which aims to frighten organizations and communities, to neutralize their struggles, also has specific ways of operating towards women. This phenomenon, ranging from harassment, verbal assaults, indictments and campaigns of defamation, to the legal prosecution and imprisonment seeks to delegitimize their work and punish them for questioning the established gender roles. They are singled out by presidents, corporate workers, religious fundamentalists, their community or their companions of being ‘witches’, ‘infants’, ‘bad wives’, ‘party women’ while questioning and trying to nullify their leadership.

In Ecuador, in the midst of the peaceful protest crackdown in August 2015, women from the community of were violently detained, beaten in their womb and threatened with rape. Today 5 of them  are tried and two have been sentenced to 4 years in prison. In Chile, Mapuche women, like Lonko Juana, Machi Millaray Huichalaf, political and spiritual authorities have been imprisoned, physically and sexually abused; Machi Francisca Linconao is still deprived of her liberty for a crime that she never committed, while her life and health are at risk.

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Extractive projects have a specific impact on women, exacerbating violence against them and discrimination in terms of participation, access to land and health. Women defenders face specific risks, due to the magnitude of the powerful interests they confront, by questioning and destabilizing systems of oppression based on gender, race and class. For them, the spectrum of actors that can attack them is broad, as they not only confront business and state actors, but they are also vulnerable within their families, communities and organizations, when patriarchal practices naturalize violence towards them. In recent decades, there have been more than 23 feminicides of HRDs, who have raised their voices against mining projects, dams and monocultures, among others.

Sexual violence constitutes one of the main forms of violence against women and is a weapon for the dispossession of their territories. In Guatemala, in Santa Cruz Barillas and Estor-Izabal, in the context of declaration of states of siege and forced evictions respectively, indigenous women, who resisted extractive industries, were raped and sexually harassed by security agents.

However, within the framework of their work in defense of the environment and nature, women have developed various actions that have allowed the positioning of their demands and particular perspectives. In many occasions, they have been able to temporarily stop or paralyze extractive undertakings that threaten their territories as in La Puya and Santa Cruz Barillas- Guatemala, in Santa Barbara- Honduras, in Cajamarca- Peru, in Río Bueno- Chile, and Ituzaingó-Argentina, among others.

In Latin America, women´s struggles are heterogeneous depending on the local and national context and the nature of the threats they face in their territories. Women have organized autonomously, regionally, inter-ethnically; they have created organizations of environmental protection, networks and through young, feminist, antiracist, art and cultural groups. They have generated significant transformations in the personal and the collective spheres and have built new practices towards other forms of protection and integral security.

WHRDs and activists demand freedom from repression and violence, fear, land dispossession and environmental degradation. Now more than ever, they hope for inter-movements political action and international solidarity and commitment.

“Pay attention. Stand up with and for us. Our fates are connected, and what happens to us can happen to you!” – Berta Caceres, 2010.

 

 

Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD-IC) Statement on International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, 29 November 2016

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Today we celebrate International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are women who defend human rights, and all persons who defend the rights of women and girls and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.  They are leaders in the protection of human rights, including in the areas of health, education, justice, employment, corporate accountability and environmental protection, and ensure state and non-state actors are held accountable for human rights violations and abuses.

However, instead of being applauded, encouraged and recognised as key agents of change, WHRDs more often than not are attacked, threatened, intimidated, imprisoned, harassed and even killed. Particularly, when WHRDs challenge gender stereotypes, structures of power and profit, and patriarchal cultural and religious norms and values. For example, when they work on issues such as sexual and reproductive rights, violence against women, transitional justice, environmental rights or indigenous people’s rights.

International WHRDs day has been celebrated since 2006. States’ international commitments to protect the rights of WHRDs to promote and protect human rights stretch back even further to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) and crucially, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998). Nonetheless, these rights have not been fully realised and accountability for violations is worryingly insufficient.

It is urgent that governments around the world publicly recognise WHRDs as legitimate and vital actors in advancing the implementation of all human rights. They must also acknowledge and send a clear signal that challenging deep-seated, discriminatory and unjust patriarchal structures and gender stereotypes is crucial for the realisation of a peaceful and just world without discrimination, oppression or exploitation.

In order for WHRDs to carry out their important work free from harassment, intimidation and violence, and to meaningfully participate in the development and monitoring of relevant policies and programmes for the advancement of gender rights and the rights of women and girls, as well as social and environmental justice, all governments must:

  • urgently put in place fully-resourced plans of action, including effective protection measures and impartial investigations to bring to justice those responsible for violence or threats; and
  • establish and/or strengthen national and regional laws in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, as well as international standards relating to non-discrimination particularly based on sex, gender, sexual orientation.

On this day of mobilisation, we also ask all state and non-state actors, from politicians to business leaders, as well as ordinary citizens, to bring international attention to the following urgent cases (which are representative of the challenges being faced by WHRDs worldwide) using their personal and professional platforms and channels:

  1. Cristina Auerbach (Mexico): https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/cristina-auerbach
  2. Ghada Jamsheer (Bahrain): https://action.manifesta.net/petitions/ask-the-king-of-bahrain-to-stop-persecuting-women-human-rights-defenders
  3. Mozn Hassan, Azza Soliman and Drm Aida Seif ElDawla (Egypt): http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/egypt/2016/11/d24071/ and http://freeassembly.net/news/egypt-travel-bans/
  4. Eren Keskin (Turkey): https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/w4r-turkey-eren-keskin/
  5. Sirikan “June” Charoensiri (Thailand): http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/thailand/2016/10/d24026/

For further information, please contact the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD-IC) through our website: http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/contact/

Visionary, Defiant and Resilient: Bahrain’s Dissenting Women

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This article appeared in the Huffington Post written by Semanur Karaman. We re-post it here.

The Gulf State of Bahrain is known for its extravagance. Gloating over multi-million dollar investments in tourism, sports and banking, the kingdom does not shy away from showing off with the Grand Prix races, or celebrity visitors the likes of Kim Kardashian. This alone, makes the Kingdom look like a miracle of some sort to many who associate the Middle East with subsequent failures, instability and conflict.

Read the full post here – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/semanur-karaman/visionary-defiant-and-res_b_12523172.html

 

Mozn Hassan and Nazra for Feminist Studies receive the “Right Livelihood” Award

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The “Right Livelihood” Award, known as the Alternative Nobel prize was awarded to Nazra for Feminist Studies. Feminist activist and woman human rights defender Mozn Hassan and Nazra received this award for the work they conducted on several issues – including and not limited to – combating sexual violence against women in the public sphere and provision of various support services to survivors of these crimes, supporting women’s right to participate in the political sphere and guaranteeing the inclusion of their rights in the constitution and Egyptian legislation, supporting young feminist initiatives in their work on different issues, and supporting women human rights defenders and shedding light on the violations they encounter and urging the Egyptian state to undertake necessary measures to ensure a real and effective participation of women in the public sphere, and exercise their fundamental right to bodily integrity.

It is worth mentioning that the “Right Livelihood” award known as the Alternative Nobel was founded in 1980 to recognize and support the courageous work of individuals and groups that present unusual and innovative solutions in the face of several important issues that face our world today. Approximately 166 individuals and groups received this award from 68 countries, where in Egypt both Dr. Ibrahim AboElEish – Applied Chemistry Scientist – and Sekem Foundation received it in 2003, and the Architect Hassan Fathy received the founding award in 1980. Nazra for Feminist Studies values this recognition, and asserts its continuation in moving forward to achieve its vision and objectives represented in ensuring a safe public space for women in Egypt, where they exercise all their fundamental rights, and also asserts that what Nazra has accomplished is a continuation and sustainability of what the Egyptian Feminist Movement has accomplished in almost 100 years,in addition to the current role worthy of recognition of our dear partners on the local, regional and international levels.

We also note that feminist activist and woman human rights defender Mozn Hassan will not be able to travel and receive this award due to a travel ban that was issued against her by an order from the general prosecutor within the context of her inclusion in Case 173 for 2011 commonly known as the “NGO Foreign Funding Case”.

 

Bahrain: Ghada Jamsheer arrested

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Baharain: Ghada Jamsheer arrested, and “illegal gathering” charges made against Maytham Al-Salman and Dr Taha Al-Derazi, who remains in detention.

More prominent human rights defenders have been interrogated, charged and jailed in Bahrain in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, according to reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).

On 15 August, women’s rights defender and President of the Women’s Petition Committee (WPC), Ghada Jamsheer, who is also a writer and blogger, was detained upon arrival from London, the United Kingdom at Bahrain’s airport in Manama. She arrived at 8pm local time and has not been released, but local reports indicate she has been moved from the airport. It is believed that she is being held in connection to sentences imposed on her for exercising her right to free expression on twitter. As of 19 August 2016, she has not been released and has not been granted the right to speak to a judge in order to request community service as an alternative to serving a prison sentence. She is believed to be held at Isa Town Detention Centre for Women, where she was held during a previous arrest in the same case in 2014.

Read more here.

A letter to Chief Justice of Kenya to End Police and Judicial Harassment of Ruth Mumbi and Bunge la Wamama

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This letter is directed to Dr. Willy Mutunga, Chief Justice of Kenya and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya to demand an end to Police and Judicial Harassment of Ruth Mumbi and Bunge la Wamama following their Campaign to Prevent Maternal Deaths.

Dear Doctor Mutunga,

We urge you to devote your full attention to an alarming case of police and judicial harassment against Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) in Kenya. Ms. Ruth Mumbi and members of the women’s social movement Bunge la Wamama (BLM) advance women’s human rights and raise awareness about the disturbing rates of un-investigataed maternal deaths at a maternity hospital in Huruma. Due to this important work, they have endured a 5 year long persecution, including evident police and judicial harassment.

On Wednesday April 20th , 2016 Ms. Mumbi and other WHRDs were arrested by the police and remanded at the court of Makadara. Reportedly, the court had issued warrants for their arrest upon Ms. Mumbi and her colleagues’ inability to appear in Court on December 4 th , 2015. This single case of inability to appear occurred due to circumstances that were well beyond their control.

The WHRDs were originally charged at the Makadara Magistrate court with the crime of “inciting public to cause violence” (Criminal Case 953/2011). The case has dragged on in court for 5 years, with the prosecution providing repeated pretexts to postpone the matter when the accusers failed to show up in court, which the court willingly accepted. It must be noted that with the exception of December 4 th , 2015, the accused, namely Ms. Mumbi and her colleagues, have always dutifully attended in court, frustrating as it may be when justice is delayed. It is thus of great concern that the court would find it prudent, in this instance, to take the very punitive action of ordering the arrest of the accused, thereby indicating the selective application of justice.

The case and ensuring injustice faced by the WHRDs are a direct result of their human rights work in a Nairobi informal settlement. In 2011, Ms. Mumbi and colleagues documented several deaths at a local health facility. They organized a campaign to alert state authorities of repeated cases of maternal mortality that had not been investigated. On February 28 2011 police disrupted a peaceful protest during which the organizers were arrested, beaten and some were sexually abused. They were held at the local police station until March 1 st , 2011, when they presented in court. The WHRDs reported that they were detained in appalling and inhumane conditions. Unable to raise the exorbitant bail, they were detained at Langata Women Prison until March 2 nd , 2011 when partner organizations posted bail for them.

Ruth Mumbi and BLM are conducting vital work to give voice to disenfranchised women in informal settlements and throughout Kenya; empower and educate communities about their rights; and promote justice and accountability in the public sector, thus strengthening human rights and the rule of law in Kenyan society. Their work is informed by a commitment to the rights of women and the conviction that No woman should die while giving birth. Giving life to a human being in a safe, dignified and respectable way is a basic human right. As a society it is our obligation to guard this right and ensure that women can access it.

The work of Ms. Mumbi as a WHRD has won international recognition. In 2013 she was a finalist of the Frontline Defenders International Human Rights Award, and was granted a human rights fellowship at the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York. She is also receiving the continuous support of Peace Brigades International. It is both unacceptable and deplorable that at the local level, where their work has contributed to highlighting the plight of marginalised women living in poverty, Ms Mumbi and her colleagues should be harassed and criminalised.

Dr. Mutunga, we honour your relentless struggle and immense contribution to justice and democracy. We trust that you will exercise genuine concern in this case, ensure that the matter is speedily concluded or dismissed. We would hope that your response sends a strong message that the rights of all Women Human Rights Defenders are fully respected, and their valuable work in Kenyan society is recognized and celebrated.

Sincerely Yours,

Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition
National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya
The Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York
Global Fund for Women
JASS (Just Associates)

 

 

 

Statement in solidarity with non-violent protestors in Kidapawan City, Philippines

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The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC) strongly condemns the violent response by the police in light of the protests in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato Province, Philippines.

Since March 30, 2016, more than 6,000 farmers from various municipalities of North Cotabato Province have been holding a protest to demand rice subsidies from the government following foot shortages caused by drought. 

When farmers asked for rice, the government responded with bullets.

On April 1 the local governor ordered the police to disperse the barricade, and in the process, police used water cannons, batons, and open fire against the non-violent protestors. The attack led to 2 confirmed dead (one of whom was a woman farmer), over 100 wounded (including children), and many are missing or detained. Among the detained, there are 34 women, 3 of whom are pregnant and 4 of whom are minors. Bai Ali Indayla, Secretary General of KAWAGIB Alliance for the Advancement of Moro Human Rights, was on the frontlines of this barricade as a part of the chief negotiating committee on behalf of the farmers.

After the police attack, protesters, including Bai Ali Indayla, sought refuge in the Spottswood, United Methodist Church, Kidapawan City. PNP-Region 12 and other units of state forces surrounded the church and prevented anyone from leaving the church compound. Support groups bringing food were barred and intimidated. Bai Ali was wounded during the violent dispersal, as she was pushed by riot policemen and hit by a water cannon. 

Karapatan, a human rights organization in the Philippines, of which Bai Ali and her organization KAWAGIB are members, reported that a national fact-finding and humanitarian mission would be conducted April 4-6 on the Kidapawan incident. We call on the government of the Phillipines to provide all necessary conditions for Karapatan to conduct their human rights investigation in a conducive manner, free from harm or hindrance.

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition condemns the attacks perpetrated by State agents against the farmers, including women and human rights defenders. We call on the Government of the Philippines to end the gross and violent attack of the peaceful protestors. We demand the release of those unlawfully arrested and detained and accountability for the violations perpetrated against the protestors.

The Philippines is a notoriously dangerous country for WHRDs defending their land, culture and livelihood. The WHRDIC realizes the meaningful and committed efforts of WHRDs in Philippines in defending their most fundamental rights under extreme risk. We call on our international community to join us in solidarity with these non-violent protestors mobilizing for their fundamental human rights.

WHRDIC MOURNS THE DEATH OF INDIGENOUS LEADER AND FEMINIST ACTIVIST BERTA CACÉRES AND DEMANDS JUSTICE

Berta Caceres stands at the Gualcarque River in the Rio Blanco region of western Honduras where she, COPINH (the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) and the people of Rio Blanco have maintained a two year struggle to halt construction on the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric project, that poses grave threats to local environment, river and indigenous Lenca people from the region.

We Demand Justice for Berta and Call on the Honduran Government and the International Community to Stop Violence against Women Human Rights Defenders

“I have been persecuted not just for political leadership but also for being a woman, for being Lenca. In this country it’s not the same being a male leader and being a female leader. And that comes with a very heavy weight.”                                                                        – Berta Cáceres

Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores was a Woman Human Rights Defender (WHRD) and prominent Lenca indigenous and feminist activist in Honduras. In the morning of March 3rd, 2016, Berta Cáceres was murdered in her sleep, in her home in Intibucá, Honduras.

Ms. Cáceres was the General Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH) and a member of Honduras’ National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders. Berta led the struggle for the rights of the Lenca indigenous peoples and against the construction of a hydroelectric project, Agua Zarca, by the Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA). The regional Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), the Dutch development bank FMO and Finnfund from Finland finance the project and Voith-Hydro (Siemens) supply the project’s equipment. Following this and other murders and violent attacks, FMO and Finnfund have announced their intention to withdraw from Agua Zarca project.

This political assassination is intended to silence the people’s opposition to a destructive and profit-driven model of development that has been violently imposed by corporate and state authorities. Berta was murdered because she confronted the country’s economic and political elites in the struggle for life, justice and the environment. She was constantly attacked due to her human rights work and also for being an indigenous woman.

Berta’s life was in grave danger for a long time and she has received countless death threats. She was subjected to attacks, threats and sexual harassment from people associated with DESA as well as arbitrary arrests and criminalization by Honduran State officers and entities. For this reason, Berta was granted precautionary protection measures by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) in 2009.

“They have threatened me with death. I have received threats by cell phone. Sexual harassment from the security guards of these companies. I have received threats against my family, against my daughters, against my son.” (Berta Cáceres, May 2014, Jacobin)

The WHRDIC warns that Berta’s assassination is symptomatic of the global backlash against WHRDs. Struggles for land and territory entail particular risks due to confronting powerful corporate actors. Indigenous women worldwide lead struggles to protect their territories and to counter the exploitation and abuse of people and nature. They confront “profit over people” paradigms as well as ingrained social structures of patriarchy and white supremacy.

“I think it may be easier to confront the transnationals and the army than it is to confront the patriarchy, because that we encounter everywhere.”

When women take leadership, they challenge gender norms and often contest the patriarchal culture perpetuated by communities, states and corporations. As a result, WHRDs are subjected to gender-specific and sexual violence and intimidation. Threats against their families and loved ones are intended to force them to abandon their critical work for rights and justice.

With lethal violence is on the rise worldwide, states have the responsibility to act for the gender-specific integrated security and safety of WHRDs.  States have the opportunity today to express true commitment to WHRDs in two key processes in the United Nations. Member States of the United Nations can endorse and fulfil their obligations on protection measures, currently debated in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and negotiated at the 31st Session of the Human Rights Council around the Resolution on Human Rights Defenders.

The WHRD IC reiterates that protection measures for Human Rights Defenders cannot be detached from gender-specific analysis, informed by an intersectional framework of race, ethnicity, class and sexual identity.

“We (compañeras from COPIHN) have not accepted the notion that we first had to fight against transnationals, and later against racism, and lastly against violence against women. We all experience multiple forms of domination – women being the most affected – so the fight must also be multiple and diverse, recognizing these multiple forms of domination.”

We celebrate the clarity and coherence of Berta’s voice and political action; her enormous generosity towards people and nature; her rebellious integrity to resist powerful institutions and the profit-driven, patriarchal and racist ideologies that justify them. We stand together in creating alternatives to global systems of economic and patriarchal domination and exploitation of human lives and natural resources. In the spirit of feminist solidarity, we reaffirm our commitment to Berta’s vision that ties together human life, social equality and environmental justice.

 

We Call on the Government of Honduras

  • To ensure an impartial and transparent investigation with the collaboration and oversight from regional and international human rights mechanisms, primarily the IACHR;
  • To immediately assume responsibility to end repression and lethal violence against the members of COPINH and all women and men Human Rights Defenders; to fully comply with the precautionary measures provided by the IACHR to Berta’s family, COPINH and the Honduran WHRD Network;
  • To acknowledge its responsibility in failing to provide adequate protection measures to Berta Cáceres and to investigate previous attacks and threats against Berta and COPINH;
  • To take measures to end to the murder, persecution, and criminalization of all Human Rights Defenders and environmental activists, to commit to their individual and organizational safety and security, and to develop gender-specific measures of protection for Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs);
  • To immediately remove all movement restrictions for the witness to Berta’s murder – Gustavo Castro Soto, the Coordinator of Other Worlds/Friends of the Earth Mexico – and to immediately ensure his safe return to Mexico.

We Call on DESA, FMO and Finnfund

  • To definitively withdraw from the Gualcarque River and put an end to the death and destruction that the Agua Zarca project brings upon the local communities;
  • To consult indigenous communities and women prior to commencement of any project, and to withdraw from projects imposed on communities undemocratically and against their will;
  • To take pro-active measures to prevent violations against HRDs by personnel, including security personnel.

We Call on the Governments of the Netherlands and of Finland

  • To direct FMO and the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation (Finnfund) respectively to completely divest from the Agua Zarca project and to monitor this process.

We Call Upon Civil Society Organizations Worldwide

  • To continue monitoring the progress towards an independent and transparent investigation;
  • To raise awareness about the gender-specific risks that Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) face, and promote adequate protection measures;
  • To acknowledge and pay respect to the critical work of WHRDs resisting patriarchy, racism, sexism and homophobia, among other important causes of their human rights work and struggles for justice.

 

UN EVENT CALLS FOR PROTECTION AND PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 2030

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(New York, 17 March 2016) “Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) are crucial in achieving the goals laid out in Agenda 2030, and states and the United Nations must take concrete steps to ensure that they are protected and recognised as key stakeholders and partners at all levels in implementing these goals,” said panelists at a high-level UN event yesterday. The event – “Empowering Women by Empowering Women Human Rights Defenders” – took place at the 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Panelists paid tribute to Berta Caceres, a woman human rights defender from Honduras who was killed in her home on 3 March. Berta’s daughter, Bertha Isabel Zuniga Caceres, spoke on the panel, describing her mother as her greatest inspiration. “The authorities did not protect my mother’s life as they should have,” she said, “and the Honduran government is ignoring the clamour of the world that is calling for justice.”

Opening the event, Ms Tone Skogen, State Secretary, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “With Agenda 2030, the international community has agreed on what kind of future we want. It’s both a roadmap and a call to action. We all have a role to play and we all need to contribute to ensure that no-one is left behind. Without the tireless and courageous of WHRDs, the ambitions of Agenda 2030 will not be realised.” She drew attention to the 2013 UN General Assembly resolution on WHRDs, and Norway’s commitment to making the protection of HRDs a foreign policy priority.

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Mara Marinaki, EU/European External Action Service (EEAS) Principal Advisor on Gender, stated that the EU is determined more than ever to do more to support and protect all HRDs, especially women. She said, “Activists are the voice of the voiceless. The empowerment of women and girls is at the core of Agenda 2030, not only Goal 5 but across all 17 sustainable development goals.”

The moderator of the event, Richard Bennett, Amnesty International, said, “WHRDs must be recognized as key stakeholders and partners in advancing that important vision and effectively implementing the 2030 Agenda, in particular Goal 5 on gender equality, but also across all other goals of the new development framework.”
WHRDs on the panel highlighted the specific issues faced by defenders in their respective regions and areas of work. Bai Ali Indayla, Secretary-General of KAWAGIB – Alliance for the Advancement of Moro Human Rights in the Philippines, spoke about the challenges faced by WHRDs opposing human rights violations linked to extractive industries. “We are labelled as enemies of the state, and this becomes a reason for the states to target WHRDs. There are extra-judicial killings and the conviction rate for this is 0%. Any goal that the Philippines government signs up for is of no use if the state continues to implement anti-people policies and if it does not protect WHRDs.”

Fatima Outaleb, co-founder of Union de l’Action Feminine (Union of Women’s Action, UAF) in Morocco, paid tribute to friends and colleagues who had been harassed, forced to leave their countries, or killed, because of their work. “We see the brutality of those who oppress us, we have no words for the atrocities happening in our countries. Women are supposed to be present but their voices often don’t count. If we leave women behind, there will be no sustainable solutions,” she said, “But our strength comes from meeting together. We are stronger because we have communities.”

Noelene Nabulivou, of Diverse Voices and Action (DIVA) for Equality, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Pacific Partnerships to Strengthen Gender, Climate Change Responses and Sustainable Development (PPGCCSD), and Pacific Feminist SRHR Coalition, said, “Gender equality and women’s human rights is the single major determinant of the success or failure of the Sustainable Development Goals. There are too many people who are suffering because we aren’t able to exercise autonomy and decide what ‘development’ means for us. It is the people who will make social change possible.”

Closing the session, Samira Merai Friaa, Tunisian Minister for Women, Family and Childhood, said, “Women of all ages who defend all human rights play an important role at local, national and international levels. They fight poverty, discrimination, and promote access to justice and democracy. The General Assembly resolution on WHRDs sets clear commitments for states to protect and promote the rights of WHRDs, and we believe that the role of WHRDs in the implementation of Agenda 2030 is vital for achieving the SDGs.”

The WHRD-IC, one of the co-sponsors of the event, said, “This discussion underlines how important it is that states express recognition for WHRDs as legitimate and vital actors, including in the implementation of Agenda 2030. WHRDs play a critical role in advancing not only Goal 5 on gender equality, but also across all other goals of the new development framework, such as ending poverty, protecting the environment, reducing inequalities, and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. States must ensure that WHRDs are protected from gender-specific threats, intimidation, and violence they may face due to their work and their challenging of deep-seated patriarchal structures and societal gender norms. States must also, take effective action to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for these violations. Finally, states must enable the work of WHRDs, including by ensuring their meaningful participation in the development and monitoring of relevant policies and programmes, including Agenda 2030, and by creating an environment conducive for WHRDs to carry out their important work free from harassment, intimidation and violence from state and non-state actors.”

Background

The UN General Assembly passed its first resolution on WHRDs in December 2013. Subsequent resolutions passed by the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly in 2014 and 2015 specifically referenced the role and the importance of the work of WHRDs, and the need for States to take appropriate, robust and practical steps to protect them and to integrate a gender perspective into their efforts to create a safe and enabling environment for the defence of human rights.

The CSW, meeting from 14-24 March 2016 in New York, is the principle global policy-making body dedicated to gender equality and the advancement of women. The theme of the 60th session is women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development.

The main outcome document of the CSW is the agreed conclusions on the priority theme. These will contain an assessment of progress, gaps and challenges and provide concrete recommendations for action by Governments, civil society, and other key stakeholders, to be implemented at the international, regional, national and sub-national levels.

In view of the important and legitimate role of WHRDs working on development-related issues, it is critical that the agreed conclusions urge States to facilitate the work of WHRDs, including by ensuring their meaningful participation in the development and monitoring of Agenda 2030 and other policies and programmes. States must create an environment conducive for WHRDs to carry out their important work free from harassment, intimidation and violence from state and non-state actors, and recognise WHRDs as legitimate and vital actors.

Contact: Mari-Claire Price, WHRDIC Secretariat <whrdic@whrdic.org>

JOIN THE WHRDIC AT CSW 60

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The WHRDIC is part of many events at the CSW60:

The Role of Women Human Rights Defenders and Feminist Organisations in Realising Goal 16 of the Agenda 2030
Tuesday 15 March 2016, 10:30am
CCUN, Chapel

For more information click here.
Sponsors include: CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, WHRDIC, Oaxaca Network WHRDs, Frida, The Young Feminist Fund, IWRAW Asia Pacific, Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
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Empowering Women by Empowering Women Human Rights Defendersempower_women_flyer
Wednesday 16 March 2016, 13.15 – 14.30
Conference room 12, UN Headquarters, New York
Opening remarks
• Tone Skogen, State Secretary, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
• Ambassador Mara Marinaki of Greece, European External Action Service (EEAS) Principal Advisor on Gender,
and on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and all other gender-related matters
Panelists
• Bai Ali Indayla, KAWAGIB – Alliance for the Advancement of Moro Human Rights, Philippines
• Noelene Nabulivon, Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Fiji
• Fatima Outaleb, Union of Women’s Action (UAF), Morocco
Closing remarks
Samira Merai Friaa, Minister for Women, Family and Childhood, Tunisia
Moderator
Richard Bennett, Representative and Head of New York UN Office
Watch live: http://webtv.un.org/

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GENDERING DOCUMENTATION:
A Discussion With and About Women Human Rights Defenders
FRIDAY, 18 March, 2016 –  12:30 PM
THAI CULTURAL CENTER (310 E.44th St.)

Join us for a discussion featuring activists who are thinking critically and creatively about how women human rights defenders are sharing our narratives about our lives, our activism, and the challenges we face.

Speakers
Amal Elmohandes (Egypt), Nazra for Feminist Studies
Carrie Shelver (South Africa), Coalition of African Lesbians

Moderator
Cynthia Rothschild (USA), WHRD-IC

“Documentation” – which can take many forms – is a politically motivated naming of women human rights defenders’ stories.  Our discussion rests in the ideas that WHRDs work with bravery and resilience, and that documentation of our experiences of both abuses and activism is critically important. For many, documentation is a courageous act of resistance.   Yet, our stories are often untold.

Presented by the WHRDIC with co-sponsoring members, including:
Amnesty International, Association for Progressive Communication WRP, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Coalition of African Lesbians, Front Line Defenders, International Service for Human Rights, ISIS-WICCE Uganda, Nazra for Feminist Studies, Urgent Action Fund, Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, World Organization Against Torture – OMCT/FIDH

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition has just launched its most recent publication: Gendering Documentation: A Manual for and About Women Human Rights Defenders.

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WHRDIC members are participating in many events at the CSW60:

 

AWID EVENTS happen every day of the CSW! For more information consult: http://www.awid.org/get-involved/awids-calendar-events-csw60

March 15

MADRE EVENT: Implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda: A Roadmap for the 1325 Global Study Recommendations
When UN Security Council Resolution 1325 passed, it marked a milestone commitment by governments to include women’s leadership in peacemaking. Fifteen years later, women peace activists are still too often excluded from the negotiating table. But a UN Global Study on Resolution 1325 proposes a way to change this, with recommendations to policymakers.
How can we bring these recommendations to life? Join experts and activists in a participatory discussion to find out.

Speakers
Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Laureate
Radhika Coomaraswamy, Global Study Author
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women
Madeleine Rees, Secretary-General, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Yifat Susskind, Executive Director, MADRE
Lisa Davis, CUNY Law School & MADRE

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 | 1:00pm – 5:00pm (FREE Entry)
CUNY Law School | 2 Court Square | Long Island City, NY 11101


ISIS-WICCE EVENT: Peace at the Frontline of the Sustainable Development Goals

Speakers
Helen Kezie – Nwoha (Isis-WICCE):
Global Peace and Security: A Reflection on SDG16 from a gender perspective.
Muadi Mukenge (Global Fund for Women)
The Peace and Security Cooperation Framework for the Great Lakes Region: Gains and the unfinished business
Dr. Renu Rajbhandari (National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders – Nepal): Recovering from armed conflict; Trapped by Natural disasters: Defending women at all costs”.
Bai Ali Indayla (KAWAGIB1 , Phillipines). Confronting militarism; Protecting environmental rights: Reflections from KAWAGIB
Linnea Hakansson, World YWCA;
Recharging the Movement for Peace and Security: Insights from WYWCA’s approach

Moderator
Juliet Were; Programme Coordinator – Isis-WICC

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 2:30-4_30pm
Church Centre; Drew Room

 

March 16

MADRE EVENT: New Tools and Next Generation Strategies to Advance Women’s Human Rights
More than 20 years ago, women won recognition that “women’s rights are human rights.” This widened definition was a victory for global women’s movements, and it allowed us to demand new rights-based polices for women worldwide. But today, the movements confront an impasse. The strategies honed two decades ago are far less effective in advancing women’s rights. What paradigm shifts are necessary now?

Speakers Include:
Charlotte Bunch, Founding Director and Senior Scholar, Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL)
Rose Cunningham, Founder and Director, Wangki Tangni
Mallika Dutt, Founder and President, Breakthrough
Anita Nayar, Director, Regions Refocus
Yifat Susskind, Executive Director, MADRE

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 | 8:30am – 10:00am (FREE Entry)
Thai Cultural Center, Suite L, Room 1| 310 E 44th St | New York, NY 10017

URGENT ACTION FUND EVENT: Celebrating Women Charting a Path for Women’s Peace in Korea
UAF is pleased to co-sponsor an evening on women building peace with Gloria Steinem and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leyman Gbowee. The event will feature women peacemakers from South Korea, Japan and the U.S. who are actively working across national boundaries for peace and the reunification of Korea.
When: Wednesday, 16 March, 6 PM – 9 PM
Where: Address given upon request (info@womencrossdmz.org)

March 17

Rally for Justice! Rally for Berta!
https://www.facebook.com/events/470220636519266/
#NiUnamás –  #JusticiaParaBerta – #BertaPresente- #NotOneMore  –  #JusticeforBerta


URGENT ACTION FUND EVENT: Women Human Rights Defenders Respond to Extractive Industries: Experiences

Event Moderator: Monica Aleman Cunningham, Senior Program Officer, Ford Foundation

Event Speakers:
Kate Kroeger, Executive Director, Urgent Action Fund
Bai Ali Indayla, Environmental Human Rights Defender, Philippines
Tatiana Cordero, Executive Director, Urgent Action Fund-Latin America
Lina Solano, Environmental Human Rights Defender, Ecuador
Ndana Bofu-Tawamba, Executive Director, Urgent Action Fund-Africa
Emem J. Okon, Environmental Human Rights Defender, Nigeria

Urgent Action Fund, Urgent Action Fund-Africa, and Urgent Action Fund-Latin America
When
Thursday, March 17, 2016 from 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM (EDT) – Add to Calendar
Where
Roger Smith Hotel, Starlight Loft, Mezzanine Floor – 501 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017

More information and RSVP

 

MARCH 18

ASSOCIATION FOR PROGRESSIVE COMMUNICATIONS WITH DUE DILIGENCE PROJECT EVENT: SDG 5 and Online VAW: Who’s Accountable? Due Diligence, the State & Internet Intermediaries

Access to information and communications technology is key to women’s empowerment. The transformative potential of the internet is (increasingly) under threat by high levels of online violence against women. Increased prevalence of online violence against women, the lack of effective measures to prevent and contain it and the ensuing impunity has created barriers to women becoming full participants and equal players in development. Event organised in conjunction with The Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of Malaysia.

Speakers
Zarizana Abdul Aziz, Due Diligence Project Director
Dubravka Simonovic, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
Frank La Rue, Former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression (Statement)
Jan Moolman, Association for Progressive Communications
Tania Farha, UN Women

Moderator
Janine Moussa, The Global Women’s Institute

When
Friday, 18 March, 10:00- 11:30AM

Where
Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at the UN, 666 Third Avenue, 19th Floor, New York 10017 (between 42nd and 43rd street)


NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS EVENT: Promoting Safety and Security of Women Human Rights Defenders through Community Leadership and Governance

18 March, 4:30 PM
Church Center

More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/506584229526652/

More to come!