Giving Compass’ Take:
• Here are some lessons learned from the stories of female human rights defenders that shed light on how to make activism spur long-lasting movements.
• How can donors bolster sustainability in movements to promote longevity?
• Read more about funding women’s movements.
In the past few decades, organisations and movements working on human rights have become more aware of the pervasive and systematic attacks against human rights defenders, including the particular challenges faced by women human rights defenders.
Human rights defender is a broad term which includes people who act to promote or protect human rights—this could be a lawyer arguing for civil rights in courts, an indigenous person defending their land, or ASHA workers who help realise the right to health in their communities. Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) face threats both externally, from the state and business sectors, but also internally from their families and community members. When women enter the public sphere as activists, they defy patriarchal norms and challenge societal expectations. This in turn can lead to resistance and backlash from family and community members. In addition to gender, caste, class, and religion also shape the backlash women defenders face—poor, indigenous, Dalit, and Muslim women are more vulnerable.
A recent report from Nazdeek (the organisation where I work) shares the stories of six women defenders—from Assam’s tea plantations to Delhi’s informal settlements—who have faced serious threats and attacks while advocating for socio-economic rights. The report also provides strategies for security that draw from their experience, along with resources for the same. Based on it, here are three lessons we learned:
- Defenders should know their rights
- Community support is critical
- Defenders should be able to create their own strategies for security
Threats and attacks faced by women defenders are a symptom of patriarchal norms and shrinking civic space. Feminist perspectives on protection and security provide a lens that centres well-being and care in activism.
Read the full article about making movements resilient by Amani Ponnaganti at India Development Review.
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