Exclusive conference coverage from openDemocracy 50.50: Jody Williams writes Defending the Defenders: A daunting challenge for our Defending the Defenders conference.
Some of the people most at risk in the world are those who dare to work to promote and defend the human rights of us all. Not surprisingly, because women are always among the most vulnerable in a world that still chooses to treat us as beings with something less than an equal status with men – and because their very act of speaking up and taking action against authority is a threat to the patriarchal status quo – it is women defenders who are most frequently under threat and attack. They need and deserve our support.
Some 120 women who work to protect and promote human rights around the world are meeting in the Netherlands from April 24 to 26, at the 5th biennial conference convened by the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Many of the women coming to the conference are those we have met and worked with through Nobel Women’s Initiative delegations to the Thai/Burma border, to Palestine/Israel, to Liberia, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the Tar Sands of Alberta, Canada, and to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.
The purpose of these various trips and others, in their essence, is to gather evidence and first-hand stories of the impact of escalating violence against women and their rights, assess the role and response of governments and regional bodies, and evaluate ways of supporting women who are organizing to protect themselves and their communities. We are coming together in the Netherlands to deepen our understanding of the most recent risks for activists, and to strategize about how to strengthen efforts to defend the defenders. It is a daunting challenge.
openDemocracy 50.50 has been covering the Nobel Women’s Initiative biennial conferences since 2007 in articles written by participants and openDemocracy’s own authors. Visit their website for more coverage of our 2015 International Conference: Defending the Defenders.