Women Human Rights Defenders – Unsung Heroes

It seems appropriate, during the month that marked International Women’s Day (Tuesday 8th March), to have a think about all those women out there who, through their everyday actions, are amazingly brave.

Some call them, quite rightly, ‘Women Human Rights Defenders.’ I’d call them gutsy, intelligent and inspirational.

What I’m talking about is women like Dina Meza, a journalist from Honduras. Like me, she is a mother of three. Like me she writes. Like me she is middle-age- ish. But unlike me as I sit at my desk and, with growing irritation, watch the rabbits eat my plants, Ms Meza faces harassment, threats and intimidation as she goes about her working day. Standing up to oppressive regimes, fighting for freedom of expression and justice, calling for an end to impunity for serious crimes like rape, women like Dina Meza, put themselves at risk on a daily basis in their efforts to do the right thing.

Another example, Sara Mendez from Mexico. She is striving for justice for a large indigenous community who are fighting to maintain the right to live and work on their ancestral land now threatened by major investment projects. She frequently receives death threats for her work.

Very recently Berta Caceres, a Honduran activist, who led a movement to stop a dam being built without consulting the indigenous population, was murdered.

Women Human Rights Defenders need protection. Plus there needs to be more awareness of the courageous work they do. Organisations, such as Peace Brigades International (‘PBI’), are attempting to do just this. In various parts of the world PBI are helping ‘human rights defenders,’ who can be anyone from women’s groups, indigenous communities and lawyers, protect and promote the human rights of others. PBI volunteers accompany human rights defenders as they go about their work. The visibility this then affords, provides the human rights defenders with an element of protection that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Take a look. www.peacebrigades.org.uk

It would be great if somehow women in the UK could, especially after last weeks focus on International Women’s Day, show our respect for and solidarity with these women by supporting campaigns such as that of PBI.


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