Women human rights defenders building solidarity across borders

Published by Brent Patterson on

Thank you for registering and hopefully being able to participate in our webinar marking International Women Human Rights Defenders Day.

If you missed it, you can watch the one-hour video of it here.

The gathering on November 29th enabled us to hear from Kenyan community activist Maryanne Kasina, Colombian lawyer Tatiana Triana and Mi’kmaq land defender Sophia Sidarous.

As we learned, woman human rights defenders face tremendous risks under normal circumstances, but the context of a global pandemic made 2020 even more challenging.

Militarized lockdown conditions have heightened the risks of state violence and police brutality for impoverished, racialized and Indigenous communities; corporations have used the economic crisis to push for weaker regulations; and expanded government powers have criminalized human rights defenders.

Maryanne highlighted the gendered nature of violence faced by women human rights defenders fighting the feminization of poverty in a context where police brutality and extra-judicial killings by the police  are commonplace. 64 local organizers were arrested earlier this year while protesting the lack of clean drinking water and other basic services in informal settlements during the pandemic. The majority of them were women.

Sophia noted that women are leading the frontline struggles for land and resource rights on Wet’suwet’en, Secwepemc, Algonquin, and Mi’kmaq territories. She emphasized that while Canada presents itself as an environmental champion around the world, it is important for the international community to know about the ongoing genocide against Indigenous women in this country. She also highlighted the violence that is experienced by Indigenous women due to the camps that house men working on megaprojects on Indigenous territories without consent.

Tatiana discussed the tremendous dangers faced by human rights defenders and social movements in Colombia at the hands of a right-wing state and paramilitary forces who are complicit with extractive industries that have benefited from this context. She further highlighted that women human rights defenders  play an important role in observing and  documenting violence and human rights violations.

The three speakers also highlighted ways to support frontline efforts including making donations directly to those struggles (including for resources for rapid responses to threats), sharing the inquiry report on missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, learning about what is happening on other territories, visibilizing struggles, building solidarity, recognizing emotional wellbeing as part of the struggle, and the need for more resources to support women organizing together on the ground.

Again, you can watch their full presentations here.

Moving forward, we hope to continue to build on this webinar by accompanying these struggles, amplifying the voices of frontline women defenders, affirming that a dignified life is a fundamental human right, and supporting the call for mutual liberation.

Peace Brigades International volunteers, of whom 70 per cent are women, accompany hundreds of women human rights defenders around the world who face threats, harassment, criminalization, judicialization and even death for their activism.

If you are able to make a donation to support the webinars we are planning for in early 2021 as well as our outreach efforts to find field brigadistas able to spend a year or more away from home accompanying human rights defenders, please click here.

In solidarity, Meera Karunananthan and Brent Patterson


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