Portraits of Strength: Women Defending Human Rights 2014

Human Rights House Foundation’s 2014 “Portraits of Strength” photography exhibition honours and celebrates 18 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.

About

Women human rights defenders work to protect and advance freedoms, while facing discrimination and stereotypes, based on their gender, about their role and participation in society. In civil society, women often face additional threats, violations, and abuse – from smear campaigns to sexual and gender-based violence.

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.

The exhibition created from the photographs of the competition were used to lift and celebrate the work of these courageous and determined women, as well as highlighting the challenges that they face.

The photographs were taken by local female photographers and portray and share the stories of strong, inspirational and determined defenders from around the network of Human Rights Houses.

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

In 2020, a new “Portraits of Strength” was launched.

Exhibition

Human Rights House Foundation’s “Portraits of Strength” photography exhibition honours and celebrates 18 independent women human rights defenders from the network of Human Rights Houses. The photographs in this exhibition were taken by local female photographers. The photographs can be downloaded from HRHF’s photo archive.

The Women Human Rights Defenders portrayed are: Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska and Danuta Przywara (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights); Sonja Biserko (Human Rights House Belgrade); Maja Stojanović (Human Rights House Belgrade); Olga Gnezdilova (Human Rights House Voronezh); Lela Tsiskarishvili (Human Rights House Tbilisi); Inna Ayrapetyan (Grozny Resource Centre); Tetiana Pechonchyk (Human Rights House Crimea); Oleksandra Matviychuk (Human Rights House Kyiv); Daria Svyrydova (Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv); Shahla Ismayil (Human Rights House Azerbaijan); Malahat Nasibova (Resource Centre Nakhchivan); Sanja Sarnavka (Human Rights House Zagreb); Vesna Teršelič (Human Rights House Zagreb); Zhanna Litvina (Belarusian Human Rights); Tatsiana Reviaka (Belarusian Human Rights House); Lara Aharonian (Human Rights House Yerevan); and Zaruhi Hovhannisyan (Human Rights House Yerevan).

Are you interested in hosting the exhibition in your city? Let’s talk about it. Contact us at communication@humanrightshouse.org.


Past Exhibitions

Exhibition on Women Human Rights Defenders
Exhibition on Women Human Rights Defenders

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


 

Competition

The winning photograph

Lela Tsiskarishvili, Human Rights House Tbilisi photographed by Daro Sulakauri

Jury representative Michaela Crimmin, an independent curator, co-director of Culture+Conflict, and tutor at the Royal College of Art (RCA), introduced the winning photo.

We have had some amazing entries, as you can see. My fellow judges Jenny Matthews and Mark Sealy and I unanimously chose Human Rights House, Tbilisi, Georgia – a portrait of Lela Tsiskarishvili by Daro Sulakauri.

“The picture is dramatic. The woman is right up against the front of the frame: There’s no escaping her. She dominates the guards – the one behind, and the ones more at leisure on the left. She’s very alive, against such a sombre backdrop. There is nothing ambiguous about the subject matter – yet it’s not a dark picture. We thought it was very well composed. It tells a story. The definition is very good. A striking and unforgettable image! It’s a winner!”

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