International Women Human Rights Defenders Day Date in the current year: November 29, 2024

International Women Human Rights Defenders Day International Women Human Rights Defenders Day is observed annually on November 29. It celebrates all women who work tirelessly to defend human rights, as well as human rights defenders who fight discrimination against women.

The term women human rights defenders (WHRDs) encompasses women who defend human rights and people of all genders who defend women’s human rights. So a Black woman activist fighting against racial discrimination, a lesbian activist campaigning against laws prohibiting transgender people using bathrooms according to their gender identity, and a man advocating for abortion rights are all women human rights defenders.

WHRDs face the same challenges as other human rights activists, but female and female-identifying human rights defenders have additional vulnerabilities due to their gender identity such as sexual harassment and abuse, threats against their children, gender-based defamation campaigns, etc. WHRDs who challenge gender stereotypes and patriarchal norms and who focus on women-specific issues, like women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, are especially vulnerable to gender-based violence, as well as threats and reputation attacks linked to their status as women.

In addition, WHRDs working on women-specific issues face blatant hostility in regions where misogynistic beliefs are considered traditional. Since their works is seen as challenging cultural and/or religious stereotypes of women being submissive and pious, they are often stigmatized and ostracized by authorities, community leaders, faith-based groups, and the general population.

One of the world’s leading organizations that support the work of WHRDs and protect them in their defense of human rights is the World Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC). It has over two dozen members from around the globe, ranging from local grassroots groups to large international organizations such as Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

International Women Human Rights Defenders Day has been celebrated every November 29 since 2006. It is supported by the UN Human Rights Office and human rights organizations and activists around the globe. The observance aims to recognize WHRDs who work to make our world a better place for everyone regardless of their gender, raise awareness of the unique challenges encountered by WHRDs, and encourage action to empower women human rights defenders.

A big step toward protecting WHRDs was made in 2013, when the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing the work of women human rights defenders and their challenges, and calling for specific protection for WHRDs. It requires member states to take concrete steps to eliminate discrimination against women human right defenders, such as developing measures to facilitate the work of WHRD’s and ensure their protection. However, there is still much to be done in this regard, especially in countries where patriarchal norms are strong and human rights violations are prevalent.

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