Health and Self-Care

The work of WHRDs, particularly those facing threats and attacks, can be exhausting and stressful. However, because of the sheer weight of work and challenges faced, WHRDs often neglect their own health and well-being. As well as  potentially leading to long-term health problems, this can have an impact on WHRDs' security, as stress and exhaustion can mean that they are less alert to risks or able to deal with them. This may also affect the quality of decision-making more generally within an organisation, as well as the relationships between its members. Therefore “not only is self-care critical to the well-being of individual WHRDs but it is crucial for the survival of movements and organisations.” (WHRD IC 'Ten Insights to Strengthen Responses for Women Human Rights Defenders at Risk').  

The resources below concern self-care and stress management. For organisations that provide emergency medical assistance and/or psychosocial counselling, please go to 'Emergency support' and go to the section 'International non-governmental organisations.'

Front Line Defenders' website has a section dedicated to Health and Stress Management, which defines stress, shares strategies to combat it, and lists resources on stress management and self-care. In addition, chapter 4 of its Workbook on Security: Practical Steps for Human Rights Defenders at Risk deals with well-being and stress.

Capacitar International provides Emergency Response Kits with 'simple wellness practices', as well as trainings on wellness in many countries in Latin America.

IM-Defensoras (Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative) runs a regional self-care programme, consisting of capacity-building, funding of self-care spaces and professional support, as well as issuing publications on self-care (in Spanish only):

Travesías para pensar y actuar. Experiencias de autocuidado para defensoras de derechos humanos en Mesoamérica

¿Que Significa el Autocuidado para las Defensoras de Derechos Humanos? Diálogos entre nosotras


Other publications include:

Self-Care And Self-Defense Manual For Feminist Activists by Marina Bernal. Artemisa, Grupo Interdisciplinario en Género, Sexualidad, Juventud y Derechos Humanos and Elige — Red de Jóvenes por los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos (2006). Published in English by CREA (2008). This manual is a resource to help feminist activists to know themselves better, optimize their strength, reflect upon their context and work on caring for themselves. The manual presents a series of exercises to build personal self-care strategies, a crucial step for self-defence against different forms of violence.

What is the Point of Revolution if We Can’t Dance? by Jane Barry with Jelena Dordevic. (Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (2007)). Based on conversations with numerous women activists around the world, the book takes a look at the culture of the women’s movement. It discusses the need for women human rights defenders to make their personal wellbeing a priority and the need to think about the long-term sustainability of their work.