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Tribute To Honour Women’s Human Rights Defenders (#WHRDsResist) at #HLPF2017

Exhibition launched at High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development Goals

12.07.2017 |

Photo: © IISD

The Women’s Major Group, alongside core partners launched its exhibit highlighting the crucial role of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD’s) in the sustainable development agenda.

For the SDG’s to be implemented, every actor’s voice will help achieve the ambitious and transformative agenda. There is recent progress on commitment to WHRDs at a global level, including the first UN General Assembly resolution on WHRDs in 2013, and subsequent resolutions passed by the UN Human Rights Council and the GA in 2014 and 2015, that specifically reference the important work of WHRDs, and the need for states to take appropriate steps to protect them.

This exhibit seeks to bring into light the interlinkage between existing WHRDs instruments and the 2030 Agenda, but also to point out the need of making explicit that they are central to the agenda. Despite calls from civil society, the 2030 agenda fails to mention the important and legitimate role of WHRDs working on sustainable development-related issues. Even more so, we can’t achieve sustainable development if one single person risks its life or dignity in pursue of the highest standards of human right and the health of our planet.


Since the start of the 2030 Agenda, hundreds of women human rights defenders (WHRDs),  have faced repression, persecution, threats, intimidation, violence, and even murder and assassination. Just last week, the daughter of Berta Cáceres’ (a Honduran feminist activist, environmental human rights defender and leader of the indigenous Lenca community who was murdered by the militia in her country last year) survived an assassination attempt. To honor the women human rights defenders who continue to risk their lives as they work fearlessly to advance women’s rights in their communities and countries, draw attention to their plight, the Women’s Major Group (WMG) hosted an exhibition and peaceful tribute during the High Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations.

Photo: © IISD

Here are some of the women who were commemorated:

Tuğçe Albayrak, Germany, 

Dorothy Stang, USA/Brazil

Helen Joanne Cox, UK

Loretta Saunders, Canada

Hande Kader, Turkey

Leila Alaoui, France/Morocco

Intisar Hasairi, Libya

Nilce de Souza Magalhães, Brazil

Brenda Marleni Estrada Tambito, Guatamela

Anabel Flores Salazar, Mexico

Angélica Miriam Quintanilla Hernández, El Salvador

Berta Cáceres, Honduras

Sagal Salad Osman, Somalia

Fezekile Ntsukela "Khwezi" Kuzwayo, South Africa

Joan Kagezi, Uganda

Teresita Navacilla, Philippines

Safia Ahmed-Jan, Afghanistan

Sabeen Mahmud, Pakistan

Samira Saleh Al-Naimi, Iraq

Helen Rumbali, Papua New Guinea 

Sunila Abeysekera, Sri Lanka

Despite growing attention to the violence and violations of rights that WHRDs face globally and increased awareness of the need to protect them--reports show violence against WHRDs has continued to increase in all parts of the world. Militarization, conflicts over resources, and all forms of religious fundamentalisms and cultural extremisms are all factors in the growing repression of women who stand up for their rights and for the rights of their communities. 

WHRDs continue to take a stand for freedom of expression, land rights and rights of indigenous and rural communities, rights of political participation, reproductive rights (including the right to abortion), sexual health and reproductive health rights, and rights of communities facing discrimination because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. All which are key issues that must be addressed in the aim to eradicate poverty (the theme of this year’s HLPF), and absolutely vital in the cause to defeminize poverty.

Their work in these areas has meant they face repression, arrest and detention, and physical violence, including assassination. Despite recent progress on commitment to WHRDs at a global level, including the UN General Assembly passing its first resolution on WHRDs in December 2013, and subsequent resolutions passed by the UN Human Rights Council and the GA in 2014 and 2015, in 2016 and 2017 alone, hundreds of WHRDs (see WHRDIC’s Statement below) globally have faced increased crackdowns by state and non-state actors in their work; proliferation of laws that limit freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly; restrictions and attacks on organizations and civil society groups, and shrinking of feminist spaces; violence, threats, intimidation and murder.


WMG's press release

Interviews, Qoutes & Photos:

Contact:, whatsapp: +4915204058573

Visual Resources:

Watch a powerful tribute video by AWID honoring #WHRDs

Online campaign: #WHRDsResist

Other Resources:

Women’s Major Group’s HLPF 2017 position paper

Statement on International Women Human Rights Defenders day 2016 WHRDIC


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