Every man and woman who defends human rights should be able to do so without fear of being at risk.


At Protection International, we build the capacities of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) to analyse the specificity of the risks they face and to develop their own security and protection strategies. We also participate in regional networks’ initiatives contributing to the protection of WHRDs, such as the Mesoamerican WHRD network.


Women defenders face risks on a daily basis. These risks are common to men and women as well as gender-specific. As recognised by several international bodies, women defenders are challenging traditional cultural norms and social structures. Their role in society is often insufficiently recognised, which exposes them to several risks. Key actors in protection often fail to apply a gender lens to their work.


To shine a light on the courageous work of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) worldwide, Protection International has launched a new series ‘The Women Who Defend Human Rights’. This series of interviews will see a monthly portraits of WHRDs.


The Women Who Defend Human Rights - Rehana Hashmi

Protection International interviews Rehana Hashmi   It’s dangerous being a woman in Pakistan. A report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan shows just how much by listing the numerous challenges that are faced by Pakistani women. It’s even more dangerous being a Pakistani woman that defends human rights. Being the target of death threats and harassment, one such woman, Rehana Hashmi, had to flee her country with her family. [...]

The Women Who Defend Human Rights – Eva Bande

On 10 December 2014, in the spirit of International Human Rights Day, President of the Republic of Indonesia, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, granted clemency to Indonesian woman human rights defender (WHRD) and land rights activist Eva Bande.   Eva had been sentenced to 4 years in prison because of her work peacefully defending farmers’ rights against a national palm oil company in her province, Central Sulawesi.   She was arrested and [...]

The Women Who Defend Human Rights - Alejandra Ancheita

Protection International interviews Alejandra Ancheita Alejandra Ancheita, the newest Laureate of the 2014 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders visited Brussels in November 2014. Protection International (PI) was able to sit down with her. Alejandra, a Mexican lawyer and human rights activist, is the founder and Executive Director of Proyecto de Derechos Economicos, Sociales y Cuturales. Together with ProDESC, she has worked tirelessly with labour workers, migrants and indigenous [...]

The Women Who Defend Human Rights - María Martín

  María Martín is a lawyer by training and has worked as consultant, researcher, and legal advisor in human rights institutions in Latin America, mainly on matters relating to protection of (women) human rights defenders. María is also part of Protection International’s Policy, Training and Research Unit.   Protection International spoke with María about criminalisation patterns and how it specifically affects women who defend human rights.     Protection International: [...]

The Women Who Defend Human Rights - Irene Petras

  The human rights record of Zimbabwe is a tainted one. Despite challenges, Zimbabwe has a dedicated human rights community, Irene Petras tells us. Irene is the Executive Director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). She tells us about the context in which human rights defenders must work in Zimbabwe.   Irene joined ZLHR in 2002 and has been its Executive Director since 2008. The organisation provides legal support services to [...]

The Women Who Defend Human Rights - Mary Jane Real

  PI: Can you tell us a bit about how you have become a woman human rights defender? MJR: Well, I´ve been active in defense of human rights and women´s rights since I was a student. The more I became aware of how gender inequality impacted my personal and professional life, the more I became involved in women’s rights issues. Around 2005, I started working with women human rights defenders [...]

The Women Who Defend Human Rights - Bernadette Ntumba

Given their many conflicts in recent decades triggered by strategic geopolitical position, human rights remain a very difficult issue in the Kivu regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1999, an assistance project was launched in the province of South Kivu in the Ruzizi area, near the border with Burundi. Called the Association of Christian Mamas for Assistance to Vulnerable (AMCAV), the organisation provides services to vulnerable groups and [...]

The Women Who Defend Human Rights - Victoria Atieno, Ruth Mumbi and Gathoni Blessol

Bunge La Wamama Mashinani (Grassroot Women Parliament in English) is a Kenyan social movement enabling grass-root women in informal settlements to engage with each other, have access to education, information and training opportunities. Bunge La Wamama is also a platform that amplifies the struggle of marginalized communities. Protection International met 3 members of the movement: Victoria Atieno, Ruth Mumbi and Gathoni Blessol, and discussed with them about protection networks.   [...]