Tribute to Feminists and Women Human Rights Defenders Who Are No Longer With Us
As part of the 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Based Violence (November 25 – December 10, 2014) AWID is honoring Feminists and Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) Who Are No Longer With Us and whose contributions to the advancement of human rights are very much missed.
The tribute was first launched at AWID’s 12th International Forum on Women’s Rights in Development, held in April 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey. The new version of the tribute takes the form of an online photo exhibition launched on November 25th, Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on December 10, International Human Rights Day with a special slide show featuring 16 WHRDs from around the world. The tribute features photographs and biographies of women’s rights leaders from around the world. Each day of the campaign we will share the story of a WHRD(s) on our website as well as through Facebook and Twitter using hashtags #16days and #AWIDMembers and link back to the full online exhibit which will commemorate and celebrate the work and lives of WHRDs who have passed away since January 2011.
In addition to paying homage to these incredible women, we seek to shed light on the plight of all WHRDs who have been assassinated or disappeared in an effort to silence and end their activism. We bring them all into our collective memory and carry their legacy of struggle as our torch in the feminists and women’s rights movements. Women like Sunila Abeyesekera a lifelong feminist and women human rights defender from Sri Lanka and South Asia, who played a lead role in the global women’s rights movement for over 40 years. And whose life and work we will honor on November 29th International Women Human Rights Defenders’ Day. On that day will invite you to use hashtag #remembersunila and join with us in honoring her memory.
AWID received contributions from all over the world for this tribute. And while many of these women have passed away due to accidents, illnesses and natural disasters, about one third of those honored in this tribute were killed or disappeared due to their activism. Women like Agnes Torres, from Mexico, who was killed because of her gender identity and sexual orientation; or Cheryl Ananayo, an environmental activist from the Philippines who was assassinated as she struggled against a mining company; Colombian women’s human rights defender Angelica Bello who died in suspicious circumstances; and Petite Jasmine, board member of Swedish sex worker’s rights organization Rose Alliance who was murdered by the father of her children, who had threatened and stalked her on numerous occasions.
We honor our sisters and we denounce the high levels of violence against feminists and WHRDs across the world. These killings and disappearances are not isolated cases; they are meant to weaken our movements and stop us from challenging patriarchy, heteronormativity, and fundamentalisms that oppress women and prevent the realization of human rights for all. Increased militarization, strong presence of organized criminal groups, crises in democracy and governance, and growing tensions as a result of increasing inequality generated by dominant economic systems, are all contexts around the world in which women’s rights activism becomes more dangerous and at times deadly.
As we grieve, we also have much to celebrate and be proud of in remembrance of the legacy, passion and commitment of these WHRDs and feminists activists. Women like Gabriela Leite, the founder of the movement for sex worker rights in Brazil; Dorothy Musakanya Mapulanga, a Zambian disability rights activist in Southern Africa who played a prominent role in in research focused on women with disabilities and HIV and AIDS; Cassandra Balchin, from Britain, who was at the forefront of unmasking and demystifying religious fundamentalisms through her analysis and research and Domitila Barrios De Chungara, a long-time Bolivian social activist, union leader, feminist, and revolutionary who gained international recognition for her peaceful activism against the Banzer dictatorship.
As feminists and women’s rights activists in all our diversity, we need to build solidarity across social movements and strengthen our collective capacity to respond to violence against WHRDs and violations of their rights. Recognizing that security, safety and self-care must be a priority in all our political agendas is a crucial step to collectively respond to violence against feminists and WHRDs, and to ensure the sustainability of our movements for gender equality, women’s rights, and justice for all.
AWID would like to thank the families and organizations who shared their personal stories and contributed to this memorial. We join them in continuing the remarkable work of these women and forging efforts to ensure justice is achieved in cases that remain in impunity.