International Women Human Rights Defenders Day

Today we stand with pride and solidarity with all the brave women who have raised their voices and risked their lives to make a difference in pursuit of equal rights in all spheres of life. They have lit candles of hope and servitude in the darkness of human right’s abuses which have deliberately and systematically targeted women and girls globally. We recognise and applaud women human rights defenders for their essential contributions to the effective promotion, protection and realization of human rights including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). We strongly condemn structural and institutionalised violence that is used to deter women rights defenders including physical and verbal attacks, rape, threats of death and killings. We call for renewed commitments by all to protect all women human rights defenders, during the 16 Days Campaign, and throughout 365 days of the year” Ms. Rouzeh Eghtessadi, SAfAIDS Executive Director

The 29th of November is set aside and commemorated each year since 2006, as the International Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) Day. The Day is befittingly commemorated during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV); the Day highlights misogynistic attacks, GBV and lack of protection and access to justice that women who break away from predetermined traditional gender roles and fight for equality face. Additionally, the Day shines a spotlight on barriers faced by WHRD, including limited access to and lack of resources, and access to critical platforms in the public sphere, leaving a number of women rights defenders unrecognised for their leadership and contribution to multi-sectoral development. It is important to highlight the growing threat against WHRD; in 2017, 44 women human rights defenders were killed; an increase from 40 in 2016 and 30 in 2015 (Front Line Defenders 2018). On this day which falls within the 16 days of activism against GBV, SAfAIDS join the world in appreciating the WHRD untiring efforts in calling for gender equality and an end to gender-based violence against women.

The 2013 Resolution of the UN General Assembly focused on the “Promotion of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: protecting women human rights defenders,” which requires Member States to take concrete measures to eliminate discrimination against women, emphasising the importance and urgency of protecting WHRD. This historic resolution of the UN General Assembly recognizes the indispensable role played by women human rights defenders in society and their need for support, protection and empowerment.  SAfAIDS joins like-minded stakeholders in commemorating the Day; which also falls in a year where key anniversaries have been commemorated such as ICPD25, and other global milestone commitments including CEDAW and Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action.  SAfAIDS reaffirms its commitment to continuously empower and support women to take-up leadership roles and champion their human rights, in line with the global development agenda, as a stepping stone towards sustainable development of all citizens within the SADC region.

SAfAIDS stand in solidarity with African Women Human Rights Defenders; who continue to boldly condemn archaic and harmful legislatives actions, including the Global Gag Rule and other practices that are giving impetuous power to fundamentalists who are against the right to autonomy of women to make decisions over their own bodies. We must identify, support and provide means and recognition for our tireless and brave African WHRD – and say NO to laws that inhibit realisation of women rights and that promote violence against women. One act of violence and One death, are One TOO many!

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Join the 16 Days Movement-Take Action and Defend Women Rights Defenders!

Women human rights defenders face particular dangers due to the rise of political and social conservativism as well as discrimination, including sexism and racism, that are rolling back women’s human rights, and reaffirming stereotypical gender roles that curtail their participation in public and civic spaces…Yet, these violations often go unreported, undocumented and uninvestigated, perpetuating impunity and further entrenching gender inequality.”- Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women

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