WLUML Newsletter 2

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February 2006
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In November/December 2005, the International Coordinating Committee of the International Campaign on Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD-ICC) held an International Consultation to bring together WHRDs from different countries worldwide. Nearly 200 male and female women’s rights and human rights activists from approximately 70 countries worldwide gathered in Colombo, Sri Lanka to attend this historic global gathering on women human rights defenders.

The conference was linked to the international campaign launched in 2004 entitled “Defending Women – Defending Rights: the International Campaign on Women Human Rights Defenders (ICWHRD). Formed as a coalition of women’s rights and human rights organizations, the Campaign is rooted in overwhelming evidence that many women, active in human rights work, routinely face harassment, abuse, violence, discrimination and marginalization because of their gender, sexual identity and their advocacy.Defenders face specific challenges as women addressing a global rise in fundamentalisms and militarism and a climate increasingly hostile to the work of political activists in various social movements and regions. As women, they face some of the same abuses all defenders do, yet they are also exposed to or targeted for gender-based violence and gender-specific risks.The conference aimed to raise awareness of the need for special protection of WHRDs and other human rights activists defending the rights of women by focusing on the challenges faced by WHRDs in their political organizing.

Delegates shared experiences and developed a range of strategies to combat the violence, discrimination and other abuses they experience specifically because of their gender and because of their work in defence of human rights. The conclusions and recommendations will be submitted to Ms. Jilani (UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders) for consideration. Ms. Jilani will be submitting a report to the UN Commission on Human Rights and the UN General Assembly in 2006.This gathering marked the first time women’s rights and human rights groups have come together on a global level to address gender-specific concerns and experiences of women as human rights defenders.

As a member of the International Coordinating Committee (WHRD-ICC), WLUML helped to plan and facilitate this international conference. WLUML also funded the participation of two WLUML networkers from Nigeria and Algeria/France and nominated other WHRDs to participate in the meeting including Mervat Omari (Palestine). WLUML facilitated the participation of activists from Muslim countries and communities in continued recognition that shared experiences and knowledge about both common and diverse situations, helps to strengthen their struggles by creating the means and channels needed to support their efforts internationally from within and outside their own contexts.

Audio files of all the speeches made during the conference have been made available by Feminist International Radio Endeavour at: http://www.fire.or.cr/nov05/whrd/audio.htm