Honouring Women Human Rights Defenders

Women’s rights are human rights, and you can’t defend one without being on board to defend the other, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.

 “Let’s be clear about this, it is very basic: You have to be a defender of women’s rights to be counted as a defender of human rights,” he said.

Zeid made his comments as part of the Beijing +20 Women Human Rights Defenders Campaign. The campaign, which was launched on International Human Rights Day last December, shone a spotlight on the work done by women who put their lives, reputations and families on the line to defend the rights of others.

Beijing + 20

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing. It laid out a vision for ensuring women’s human rights and achieving gender equality around the world. In the Beijing Declaration, States committed to protecting and promoting the human rights of women and girls, acknowledging the importance of “the voices of all women everywhere.”

The UN Human Rights Office #reflect2protect campaign has two components. The first is a series of short videos which profile the work of women’s human rights defenders, showcasing the type of work that they do and the risks that they face while doing this work. Working as a human rights defender can already be a difficult task. But women’s human rights defenders often find that there are added difficulties, including challenges to reputation, to family, or even their right to speak out, said Lucinda O’Hanlon, Advisor on Women’s Rights from the Office.

“We thought that we needed to be shining the light on the defenders who are working across all of the areas of concern of Beijing as they undertake this work at great risk to their own lives and their families … all to defend human rights,” she said.

The second part of the campaign is a social media push, to get the public to stand in solidarity with women human rights defenders. Using the banner #reflect2protect, people are invited to send in selfies in a mirror reflection. The mirror was intended to highlight that a women’s human rights defender can be anyone.

The selfie push has already been very successful with hundreds of selfies being sent in via a variety of social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook.

Twin events on 9 March for International Women’s Day are being held in Geneva and in New York to highlight the campaign and the crucial work of women defenders all over the world. 

“It is very clear to me that this is a real cause that has to be championed by women and men,” Zeid said. “Real change doesn’t happen unless women and men fight for these rights.”

You can still join the campaign. Send in your mirror selfies using the hashtag #reflect2protect using Twitter or posting on Facebook page.

6 March 2015

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