Needs identified

In October 2012, Peace Brigades International UK held a conference, ‘Women human rights defenders: Empowering and protecting the change-makers’ in collaboration with Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS UK), Womankind, Amnesty International UK, and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security.   It was an opportunity for representatives from international NGOs, the UK government, the European Union, and the United Nations to explore together with women human rights defenders (WHRDs) the best ways to support and safeguard their work.  It was the consensus of the conference that a wide range of combined coordinated approaches – at local, national, and international level – was needed to protect WHRDs and to achieve significant and lasting change.


Some of the key findings were:

An integrated approach to protection – delegates stressed the need for policymakers and funders to look beyond traditional concepts of ‘physical’ protection to embrace a  more wide-ranging view of elements which can make WHRDs safer and more able to do their work. These can include

  • attention to wellbeing,
  • economic security, including access to funding, and in particular the need to make funding more accessible to WHRDs in remote areas, and those who face language,  political, cultural, social and economic barriers,
  • support networks, 
  • empowerment, through the development of skills and capacities - areas identifed include human rights training; personal security and  protection workshops; digital security training and assistance; wellbeing and self-care; developing advocacy and fundraising strategies.

WHRDs said that the presence, accompaniment, and visits of international community on the ground often provided political and moral support to WHRDs,  underlined the importance of their work to local communities, state, and non-state actors, and served as a deterrent to would-be perpetrators.

Delegates recognised that diplomatic pressure, when strategically applied, can be effective in enhancing protection and empowerment of women defenders. WHRDs gave examples of being less vulnerable to attack, being released from prison, receiving greater recognition and a sense of wider support for their work, all as a result of international interventions directed at their governments.

These needs – in particular the need for an integrated approach to WHRD's protection - are ones that have also been identified by, for example, AWID (Association for Women in Development) in conjunction with the WHRD International  Coalition, of which PBI is a member, and are reflected in a range of their publications.

In the toolkit, as well as providing information on 'traditional' sources of protection, such as international mechanisms and emergency support, we have sought to reflect this need for integrated protection by providing links on subjects such as self-care, funding and capacity-building.