Defending the defenders

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The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC) is a network that supports and protects women human rights defenders worldwide in their defence of human rights.

“We’ve faced such threats to life, such challenges, as defenders of women’s human rights. So this coalition resonates deeply with us.” – WHRDIC organisational member, 2012


We want the world to recognise that people who advocate for women’s human rights, whatever their gender or sexual orientation, are in fact human rights defenders.

If you are a woman activist; or a man who defends women’s rights; or a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) human rights defender; or you represent a group committed to the advancement of women’s human rights and sexual rights – the Coalition is here for you.

Recognition of risks

The world over, against all odds, WHRDs work tirelessly to protect human rights. Yet, the general public, and indeed the human rights sector, doesn’t fully recognise their work or the gender-specific risks they face.

WHRDs are subject to the same risks and violations as their male colleagues, such as surveillance; false charges and unfair trials; arbitrary detention; torture and other violence; enforced disappearances; and assassination.

They have additional vulnerabilities due to their gender; such as sexual abuse and harassment; domestic violence; conviction of ‘moral’ crimes; threats against their children; and gender-based attacks on their reputation. These are perpetrated by husbands, partners, family members, male colleagues and community leaders; as well as police, the military, the courts and other state actors.

On top of these, WHRDs who work on women-specific issues face great hostility where their work challenges cultural or religious stereotypes of women as symbols of family honour, submission and piety.

The gendered nature of these risks means that WHRDs require gender-sensitive protection and support.


We denounce violence and other rights abuses against WHRDs, and advocate for protection mechanisms, laws and policies that provide justice for defenders.

We let WHRDs know what resources are available to them if they are at risk, and help our members collaborate on urgent appeals.

The coalition also provides information and analysis to the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders, and links the Special Rapporteur with WHRD groups around the world.


We take collective action to amplify the voices of women human rights defenders, build international solidarity and support WHRDs to carry out their work free from threats and violence.

We take strength from the principles of feminism, while working closely with members who both do and don’t identify as feminist.

We provide WHRDs with tools, resources and analysis to be effective advocates in their communities, countries, and internationally.


The Coalition has 28 members from all over the world, ranging from local, grassroots organisations to large, international organisations.

WHRDIC has an Executive Committee, and works through three Working Groups (Documentation and Training; Advocacy; and Urgent Responses).


The WHRDIC works in partnership with and has received recent funding from the following organisations and institutions. We wish to thank all our funders for their continuing support and acknowledge the importance of their support in enabling the Coalition to carry out its activities.

The Norwegian Human Rights Fund

The Norwegian Human Rights Fund (NHRF) works to protect and promote human rights internationally through direct support to organisations working in the first line of defence for human rights.

The NHRF aims to be a flexible, courageous and global actor that provides direct support to local organisations working for the rights of vulnerable and marginalised individuals and groups.

Filia die Frauenstiftung

Filia.the women’s fund was established in 2001 in Wiesbaden by nine women. They adopted the model of a community foundation which is focused on growth and participation as they wanted many to help improve the world for the benefit of women and girls.