Human rights awards can be a significant aid to human rights defenders (HRDs). They can provide  recognition and encouragement, and as such can represent important moral and psychological support for HRDs stigmatised for their work. By raising their media profile, awards may also increase protection for HRDs although this is not guaranteed, and the HRD should consider the likely impact of increased publicity on their security situation if being considered for an award. Awards can also be accompanied by a cash donation to the HRD or organisation, which can be an important source of funding for, for example, expanding activities or improving security measures. 

The True Heroes Foundation has on its website a Digest of International Human Rights Awards (in English) containing well over a hundred awards, which can be searched by theme or region. Below are four of the most prominent international awards (the last four taken from 'Online Directory of Urgent Responses for WHRDs' by AWID and the WHRD International Coalition), which are not specifically for women human rights defenders, but a number of recipients are women.

As well as international human rights awards, there are other, country-specific awards, which are  granted by a range of sponsors, for example, NGOs, members of the diplomatic community or the state (see below for a couple of examples). 

Given the sheer number, when in contact with funders, NGOs, states etc it is worth checking their websites to see whether any offer awards. 


Goldman Environmental Prize

Each year this award honours 6 grassroots environmental actvists from each of the world's inhabited regions for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment.  The Goldman Prize views “grassroots” leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them.  Prize recipients are often women and men from isolated villages or inner cities who chose to take great personal risks to safeguard the environment - protecting endangered ecosystems and species, combating destructive development projects, promoting sustainability, influencing environmental policies and/or striving for environmental justice.  Each Prize recipient is awarded $175,000 to pursue their vision of a renewed and protected environment. From 2012 to 2015 the winners from the South and Central America region have been women.    

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

This award is granted annually to an individual or organisation who has demonstrated an exceptional record of combating human rights violations by courageous and innovative means. The award aims at encouraging HRDs who are at risk and therefore in need of immediate protection.   The prize money of at least 20,000 Swiss Francs is to be used for further work in the field of human rights. The Martin Ennals Foundation, which grants the award, is a collaboration among ten of the world's leading human rights NGOs.

Front Line Defenders Award

The annual Front Line Defenders Award was established to honour the work of a human rights defender who, through non-violent work, is courageously making an outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of the human rights of others, often at great personal risk to themselves. A cash prize of 15,000 euros is awarded to the Award recipient and his/her organisation in an effort to support the continuation of their important work.

Human Rights Tulip  (Website in English only)

The Human Rights Tulip is an award of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs for courageous human rights defenders who promote and support human rights in innovative ways. The prize is intended to help human rights defenders to learn from each other. The winner can use the prize worth 100,000 euros to further develop or expand the scale of its work for human rights. 

Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty  (Website in English only)

The Award is presented by Human Rights First every other year to a human rights organization or activist outside the United States that has made a distinguished contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights. Criteria upon which the Baldwin Medal is awarded include distinctiveness and effectiveness of the nominee’s human rights advocacy and the degree to which the nominee faces risk as a result of their work. The awardee receives a trip to the United States to engage in advocacy and US$25,000.


In addition to international awards, there are a range of others to HRDs which are specific to particular countries, and are granted by a range of sponsors. Two examples for Latin America are:

The Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defenders Award issued on behalf of the US-based Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC). The award recognizes an individual, organization or community who has demonstrated a commitment to the defence of human rights, and for which he/she has been exposed to threats, violence and/or other attacks. The award serves as a means to highlight the struggle of the recipient on an international level and represents a commitment by GHRC to provide ongoing support. The recipient is invited to a public recognition event where he/she will have the opportunity to give a speech regarding his/her work. Additionally, the GHRC accompanies the recipient to advocacy meetings with governmental officials and/or other international solidarity organizations.

National Award for the Defence of Human Rights in Colombia (Premio Nacional a la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Colombia) is a tribute to HRDs from the international community, the Swedish Embassy and Diakonia, which aims to highlight and give recognition to the work of men, women, processes, organisations and NGOs defending human rights in Colombia. There is a public call for nominations for the award. The award ceremony is a high-profile event on Colombia's National Human Rights Day, attended by members of civil society, state officials, diplomats and the international community present in the country, and is a public means of endorsing the legitimacy of HRDs' work and highlighting the contribution they make to democracy and peace-building. There are a number of winners in various categories.