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.


Portraits of Strength

Portraits of Strength: Women Defending Human Rights

Human Rights House Foundation’s “Portraits of Strength” photography exhibition honours and celebrates eight independent women human rights defenders from the network of Human Rights Houses. It highlights the vital role that women play locally, nationally and internationally in protecting and advancing human rights.

A landmark UN resolution in 2013 (General Assembly resolution 68/181), acknowledged these serious challenges women human rights defenders face, and urged far greater efforts to protect and empower them.

In the following year, marking the International Day for Women Human Rights Defenders on 29 November 2014, HRHF launched the first “Portraits of Strength” competition on women human rights defenders representing several Human Rights Houses.


Baia Pataraia (Human Rights House Tbilisi) photographed by Salome Sagaradze.

In Autumn 2019, Human Rights House Foundation launched its second “Portraits of Strength” photography competition, aiming to highlight the crucial work of women human rights defenders and to shed light on the unique challenges that they face. In 2020, the photographs were launched as an exhibition. Read more.


Lela Tsiskarishvili, Human Rights House Tbilisi photographed by Daro Sulakauri

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.

The portraits were first displayed in 2014 in London and have since been exhibited in Chernihiv, Vilnius, Oslo, Kyiv, Tbilisi and Yerevan. Read more.