Women human rights defenders

Women human rights defenders work to protect and advance freedoms, while facing discrimination and stereotypes about their role and participation in society.

Our position

Women human rights defenders are “more at risk of suffering certain forms of violence and other violations, prejudice, exclusion, and repudiation than their male counterparts,” as outlined by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders.

Their work can include, but is not limited to; women’s rights, challenging gender inequality and stereotypes, advancing sexual and reproductive rights, and promoting women’s empowerment and participation.

Respect and support for the activities of all human rights defenders is essential to the overall enjoyment of human rights.

The determination and involvement of women human rights defenders is reflected in the UN system, where significant progress has been made in highlighting the disenfranchisement of this group and in protecting their rights. More and more resolutions focusing on the human rights situation of women are being adopted, forming a strong corpus of standards aimed at protecting them.

“Women human rights defenders fight on two levels: first as human rights defenders, and second as women. There is double discrimination and double-violence,” as indicated by woman human rights defender Lara Aharonian, director of the Women’s Resource Center in Armenia.


On the International Day for Women Human Rights Defenders, 29 November 2014, HRHF launched its exhibition on women human rights defenders from all Human Rights Houses. The photographers in this exhibition use their portraits to convey the wisdom, courage and defiance of prominent women defenders. It is a visual journey through the challenging work they do, often unprotected, frequently unvalued by the authorities or their society.

Find out about our 2018 campaign: Rights of Defenders.