Across the world, brave and resolute women rights defenders are taking action on everything from advocating for equality, access, and justice, to standing up to corruption, environmental violations, and even persecution of fellow activists. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic made already difficult operating environments even worse: an increasing number of governments have used COVID-19 as a smokescreen to implement repressive measures that strangle civil society, as well as roll back progress made for gender equality and reproductive rights. Yet, the fightback continues. Here are 16 people-powered movements and campaigns to add your voice to this 16 Days of Activism.
#Lifeinleggings is one of the winners of this year’s Nelson Mandela - Graca Machel Innovation Awards. This campaign was founded in 2016, speaking to gender-based issues and discrimination faced by women and changing the mindset and the lives of women in the Caribbean. The campaign started with the hashtag #LifeinLeggings in virtual spaces as a safe space for women who experienced sexual harassment and sexual assault. It was a call of solidarity and empowerment to speak across social media platforms. While the hashtag spread in the Caribbean and the diaspora, they transferred the conversations to the physical spaces. They transformed it into a grassroots movement called for social transformation and committed to dismantling the rape culture within the Caribbean through advocacy, education, empowerment and community outreach and forward to dismantling the patriarchal system that affects both men and women.
Be part of the transformation and spread the word about #Lifeinleggings
2. #OrangeTheWorld Campaign
Each year, the United Nations invites people to Orange the World, in support of ending Violence Against Women. Civil society and women's rights organisations, governments, schools, universities, the private sector and individuals host orange themed events - film screenings, exhibits, radio shows, etc - to raise awareness and get people talking. The campaign helps share knowledge and innovations, amplify stories, and promote women and girls' leadership. COVID-19 has triggered a rise in gender based violence and women's rights violations, making this campaign more important than ever.
Join the movement, take action and orange the world.
3. Drop Case 173
In Egypt, Case 173 of 2011, also known as NGO Foreign Funding Case, continues to undermine women’s rights and civil society organisations working towards defending human rights. After a decade of the systematic targeting of organisations and persecuting activists, women human rights defenders, and feminists, Egypt refuses to close the case entirely and stop the judicial harassment of women’s rights defenders like Magda Adly, Suzanne Fayyad, Aida Seif ElDawla and Azza Soliman.
#DropCase173,a campaign led by regional and international feminists, women’s rights and human rights organisations, calls on the Egyptian state to dismiss cases against civil society activists and organisations persecuted under Case 173 and immediately drop the charges and lift any travel bans and asset freezes against them.
Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) in Egypt should not be silenced and harassed for carrying out their work, call on the government to #DropCase173
4. GHANA: Reject the anti-LGBTI+ bill
While some progress has been made in a number of countries towards LGBTI+ rights, the rights of this community continue to be under threat in many parts of the world. Ghana, is one such example. The government of Ghana has brought forward the “Family values” draft bill that would criminalise the country’s LGBTI+ community and its allies. If passed the bill will amongst many other things discriminate LGBTI+ community and criminalise the promotion and funding of their activities.
This bill and many others that criminalise rights of people based on their gender stands to reverse the remarkable gains made over the years in LGBTI+ equality. In order to achieve equality and inclusivity we need to step up the struggle for LGBTI+ rights, especially in countries like Ghana. Here’s a first step you can take, show solidarity by signing a petition calling lawmakers to reject this bill
5. Stand As My Witness
High numbers of women human rights defenders are facing persecution for their activism, making the global Stand As My Witness campaign mportant to support right now.
Launched in 2020, the campaign calls for the release of human rights defenders jailed as a result of their work and who they are. The campaign is currently calling for the release of Teresita Naul- an advocate for the rights of poor and marginalised people, María Esperanza Sánchez García - a Nicaraguan human rights defender targeted for her civic activism, and Sudha Bharadwaj - a human rights lawyer who defends Indigenous people’s rights, and many more. The #StandAsMyWitness campaign urges people to write letters on behalf of the defenders, sign a petition rallying for their freedom, and share the defenders’ individual stories on social media using the hashtag #StandAsMyWitness
Find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved here.
6. Free Saudi Activists
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a long history of forcefully silencing men and women who dare to stand up to the country’s unjust laws and patriarchal gender norms. The crackdown on freedom of expression, association and assembly in Saudi Arabia continues to worsen, with the CIVICUS Monitor rating the state of the country’s civic space as closed.
On 15 May 2018, a few weeks before Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on women driving, authorities launched a large-scale coordinated crackdown against women human rights defenders in the kingdom. Tens of prominent WHRDs, among many others, have since been arrested. Saudi authorities targeted WHRDs who fought to lift the country’s driving ban on women, and those calling for an end to the male guardianship system, which requires women to get permission from a male relative to travel, marry or work. While some women's rights activists, including Loujain al- Hathloul, who spoke against this system have been released, some remain in jail and others continue to have travel bans and asset freezes imposed against them.
Stand in solidarity with women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, sign this petition today.
7.FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders
Women are under-represented in leadership positions in many sectors including the social impact sector. FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders is an initiative established to advocate for Feminist Leadership and accelerate gender equity in the social impact sector by monitoring the proportion of women in leadership and advocating for Feminist Leadership. Recently, FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders hosted 8-week-long series where they explored many topics around Feminist Leadership, from accountability and authenticity to collective leadership and sisterhood. With the belief that “true and lasting transformation is not a matter of checking boxes, but rather the sum of small changes we live and breathe in our everyday life”, the initiative continues to take tremendous strides towards ensuring that more women are in places of leadership.
Join the movement and be an advocate for Feminist Leadership.
On 22 October 2020, Fikile Ntshangase, a grandmother in her sixties, and an activist from the Mfolozi Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) who resisted and spoke out against the activities and expansion of the Tendele anthracite mine on her community's doorstep, was murdered in her home in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Despite many public outcries from civil society actors and world leaders, her family are still waiting for her murderers to be apprehended. Fikile joins a long list of environmental defenders who have been brutally killed for defending their community’s land and environment.
This campaign draws our attention to the plight of many environmental women human rights defenders who are killed with impunity around the world. Sign this open letter calling for #JusticeForFikileNtshangase
9. She Changes Climate
From the sinking small islands to drought-stricken villages, women bear the lion’s share of the burden of the climate change crisis. It is for this reason and many others that now more than ever, women, women’s rights activists and organisations are calling for meaningful inclusion in climate decision making processes. #SheChangesClimate was launched in November 2020 with a #5050 vision to address women leadership in decisions and policymaking related to the climate crisis.
The campaign calls for greater representation of women, in all their diversity, at the top levels of all future climate delegations. In the lead up to and during this year’s COP meeting, #SheChangesClimate actively ensured that gender imbalance of decision-making didn’t go unnoticed. There is no denying that we need urgent solutions to the climate change crisis, for #SheChangesClimate, the need for women's voices and insights in the climate discussions is equally important.
Together, let’s call for women’s participation in climate decision making processes : She Changes Climate
10. #FreeViasna Campaign
Tatsiana Lasitsa and Marfa Rabkova, the two WHRDs among other members from the Viasna group in Belarus, are currently in prison. Since 2003, the Belarusian authorities have been harassing Viasna because they have been actively monitoring and documenting human rights violations. The reprisals against Viasna are a part of the broader repression and the systematic silencing of the civil society in Belarus. More than 200 civil society organisations have been shut down or in the process of being closed down.
The #FreeViasna Campaign was launched in September 2021 by a group of international human rights organisations. They demand the release of Viasna members and hundreds of the victims of politically motivated prosecutio. Further to this, the campaign calls on the government to respect and protect human rights defenders' work and ensure the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and expression of all people in Belarus.
The members of Viasna and other human rights defenders need your action, support #FreeViasna
Erin Keskin, a lawyer and a human rights activist in Turkey, who dedicated her life to amlifying the voices of women and exposing abuses happening to them in Turkish prisons. Keskin has been among many other activists and human rights defenders, arrested, imprisoned, and subjected to numerous lawsuits related to her human rights activity and now she is one of the leading witnesses in the Turkey Tribunal.
The Turkey Tribunal was founded in 2020 to document and investigate the increasing number of human rights violations committed by the Turkish government towards activists, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders. This tribunal aims to break the silence by providing information, raising awareness towards the issue, and mobilising the international community.
Learn more about this campaign here.
12. #FreeNasrin Campaign
Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian lawyer and a human rights defender, has been sentenced to 33 years of prison and 148 lashes for defending women’s rights in Iran. Sotoudeh, PEN America’s 2011 Freedom to Write Award honoree and a co-winner of the European Parliament’s 2012 Sakharov Prize, is one of Iran’s most prominent voices. She has been harassed and targeted by the Iranian government, imprisoned multiple times. In June 2018, she was incarcerated on national security-related charges levied after advocating on behalf of women detained for protesting Iran’s compulsory hijab law.
This campaign calls on Iranian authorities to drop all charges against Sotoudeh, release her and stop their harassment of her family, allow their access to their finances and drop charges against her daughter. It also calls for the release of all political prisoners currently held in Iranian prisons on unjust charges.
Amplify the voice of Nasrin and hundreds of WHRDs in Iran, sign the petition.
Around the world, women and girls face extreme barriers to accessing legal abortions. This is no different in Poland. In October 2020, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal imposed a near total ban on abortion, sparking mass protests, most of which were organised by the Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike) movement. Strajk Kobiet has worked relentlessly to stop the various initiatives proposing an almost complete ban on abortion in Poland. A year on, many women human rights defenders who took part in the protests continue to face an increasingly hostile and dangerous environment. Among many others, Marta Lempart, co-founder of Strajk Kobiet has become a target of repeated threats for leading demonstrations supporting legal abortion and women’s rights. Despite this, Strajk Kobiet continues to bravely campaign for women’s rights in Poland.
Check their website to know more about their work of defending women’s rights:Ogólnopolski Strajk Kobiet
14. Justice for Marielle Franco
It has been 3 years since the murder of one of Brazil's most courageous social leaders, Marielle Franco and to this day no one has been brought to book. On 14 March 2018, Marielle was brutally assassinated on the streets of Rio de Janeiro shortly after leaving a gathering of young Black activists.
We remember Marielle for bravely mobilising for social and economic change in the lives of people living in Rio’s favelas and for unapologetically advocating for women and LGBTI+ rights.
Recognise the work of Marielle, remember her story and call for her justice.
Shatha Odeh, a prominent Palestinian healthcare expert, and the Middle East and North Africa regional coordinator of the People’s Health Movement (PHM) was detained by Israeli security forces on July 2021. The Israeli campaign against Shatha extended to further criminalise 6 prominent Palestinian civil society organisations by targeting and labelling them as "terror organisations". Among the targeted is the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees (UPWC), a feminist grassroots organisation which has been defending women's rights since 1980.
The decision puts at risk the legitimate and fundamental work of hundreds of human rights defenders, activists and organisations documenting human rights violations, conducting advocacy campaigns for freedom, justice and equality and providing tools for protection as well as legal social and health/medical support for Palestinian citizens.
#StandWithThe6 is launched to build solidarity with the Palestinian civil society, pressure the international community, policymakers, and representatives to take the needed measures, and stand with the Palestinian civil society against the Israeli assaults on human rights and human rights defenders.
Stand with Palestianian civil society, #StandWithThe6
16. Write for rights Campaign
Write For Rights is a campaign run by Amnesty International yearly over the months of November and December. The campaign encourages individuals to write messages of solidarity to activists, organisations and movements that have suffered injustice and abuse.
This year, the Write for Rights campaign is asking that you stand in solidarity with 10 human rights defenders and activists. Among them, 15-year-old Janna Jihad who is facing death threats and intimidation for her work speaking up for human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 22-year-old Rung who is is facing life in prison for speaking out for freedom and democracy in Thailand and Ciham Ali who has been missing for over 8 years and was last seen taken by the Eritrean authorities while trying to leave the country.
Follow this link: Write a letter, sign a petition and protect their rights today.