On May 7, a group of armed men barged into Miriam Elizabeth Rodriguez Martinez’s home in Mexico and killed her. Miles away in Nicaragua, police arrested and beat Aydil del Carmen Urbina Noguer. In Marange area in Zimbabwe, police and military are using violence to silence women who speak out against mining companies that have occupied the area. This is just a glimpse into the reality that women activists are facing everywhere. Unfortunately, despite considerable effort, institutional and conventional responses to this violence are coming up short—as evident in the escalating risk for women activists. Given the urgency of the situation, JASS and allies are questioning the underlying assumptions guiding activist safety, and bringing a feminist and movement building perspective to rethinking the approach. We are drawing on knowledge from our long-standing collaborative work in the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative and with other protective networks and strategies of women activists in that region and beyond. To deepen our learning and analysis and better inform practices, we are convening a series of dialogues and joint strategic spaces with human rights organizations, donors, frontline activists, and UN human rights officials that contribute towards building a shared understanding and joint solutions that can effectively address this escalating violence against women activists. 

What are women confronting? 

Around the world, women activists are increasingly at risk, threatened, harassed, and even killed for daring to stand up to powerful interests including the state and private institutions such as transnational companies or drug cartels. Because women are working to protect human rights, economic justice, their land, water, territories, and democracy itself, many, but not all, call themselves women human rights defenders (WHRDs), or simply defenders. For their courage and leadership, these women activists face attacks in the streets to silence their political activism, criminalization and stigmatization in the courts and media, and even rejection and abuse in their own communities and homes for stepping outside traditional gender norms. The public and private forms of this violence are compounded by on-going gender-based violence and other forms of inequality (class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.), which heighten women’s vulnerability.

A variety of trends

CONTINUES

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