UPDATE: In June 2019, the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights (of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development) released their full report: Raising Her Voice: Confronting the Unique Challenges Facing Women Human Rights Defenders. The MATCH Fund and Nobel Women’s Initiative pushed the Subcommittee to investigate how Canada could better support Women Human Rights Defenders. Our Policy Lead, Beth Woroniuk, was one of the witnesses and is quoted in the report. One of our key messages centred on the importance of strengthening women’s rights organizations: “Ms. Woroniuk told the Subcommittee, that “[w]e have heard over and over again from front-line defenders that their best protection is a strong movement behind them.”
We know that WHRD face challenges that all human rights defenders face. In addition, they encounter discrimination, harassment and challenges specifically because of their gender. They are punished because they defy social norms and speaking out. They are stalked and trolled online. They are threatened with sexual violence.Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) and LGBTIQ defenders stand up every day for the rights of women and girls. Brave activists like Anielle Franco from Brazil and Jay from our partner FEMA in Uganda. Anielle’s sister, Marielle Franco was an outspoken advocate for young people, poor black communities, and LGBTIQ people. She was murdered last year. Yet Anielle continues to speak out for the same causes as her sister and push for justice. Jay leads Fem Alliance (FEMA), an organization that creates safe spaces for LBT people who face discrimination and violence due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.–
That is why, along with Nobel Women’s Initiative, we have been calling on the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights (of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development) to undertake a study on how Canada can better support these brave defenders around the world.
On January 29th, Beth Woroniuk, our Policy Lead and Rachel Vincent from the Nobel Women’s Initiative, appeared before the Subcommittee. We outlined why this study is topical, some of the challenges facing WHRD and LGBTIQ defenders and key areas for the Subcommittee to look at in their study. The video of this session is here.
We are suggesting frontline defenders from whom the Subcommittee should hear and we will be following the Subcommittee as it moves forward with the study.