Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

  • العربية
  • English
  • Français
  • Bahasa Indonesia
  • اردو

WELDD Partners Champion Women’s Rights at 26th Session of Human Rights Council

Published Date: 
Tuesday, June 17, 2014

This May, eight women from WELDD partner projects took part in an intensive two-week advocacy programme hosted by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR).  Leaving behind their homes and organisations in Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, the WELDD participants headed to Geneva to complete the Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme (HRDAP).

On entering the ISHR headquarters, located metres away from iconic Palais des Nations, the WELDD participants met the 12 other participants, who in turn gave in insight into their own work, which ranged from indigenous and environmental rights to LGBTI rights.  After getting to know one another, it was straight into intensive training session on engagement with UN mechanisms.  As well as lessons on the mechanisms of the UN, this involved practical exercises in advocacy, such as pairs taking on the character of ‘diplomat’ and ‘human rights’ defender’ and role-playing one-on-one advocacy session.  This gave the participants a chance to anticipate the responses of diplomats and prepare their counter-arguments ahead of their attendance at the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council and meetings with individual diplomats.

Throughout the training, the following message was stressed: not only is the UN is an important body for human rights defenders; human rights defenders are also integral to the UN.  Defenders provide the UN with information, and guide its direction. The participants experienced this message first-hand as they attended exclusive consultations with the President of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights, and with the newly appointed Special Rapporteur for Human Right Defenders.  During the consultations, the WELDD participants raised concerns about the situations they are working in citing extremism, armed conflict, government crackdown on protest, and online hate speech as factors contributing to their diminished security as women activists.  Discussion even covered the ways in which their presence at the Human Rights Council might lead to reprisals in their home countries.  Following this, the group presented a statement expressing their hope in the Human Rights Council’s potential to counter reprisals and protect activists in their work.

The final days of the fortnight were spent in one-on-one meetings that participants had arranged with UN officials, during which they lobbied on the human rights situations in their respective countries.  For the WELDD participants, this was an important opportunity to put forward the pressing issues facing women’s rights in their contexts, using the skills they had practised in their training.  The participants grasped this opportunity with both hands, raising the issues most important to them from, which ranged from legal aspects of child marriage in Nigeria, to the detention of human rights defenders in Sudan.

See more pictures of the HRDAP training

Read about the experience in the participants' words


Political and Public Participation
Culturally Justified Violence Against Women