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[16days_discussion] Women Human Right Defenders

radha paudel rpaudel456 at
Tue Jul 26 11:50:36 EDT 2011



Who are Women Human Rights Defenders? What are they doing? Where? Are they
facing challenges now? Will they face them in the long run? Who are
responsible to speak for them? These questions need to be recognized and

Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) are activists who raise voices against
violation of human rights. Their history begins with Yogmaya and continues
till date. However, on behalf of various civil society organizations, WHRDs
have been working more systematically since the time of Maoist insurgency.
They are distinguished from Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) and
women associated with paralegal committees by their roles and

Usually, WHRDs gather information, investigate and report on violations of
human rights as they know them in line with their Terms of Reference (ToR).
They may also go beyond that because; i) the scope of human rights is very
wide. So, they are heavily engaged in protecting, promoting and exercising
the civil, social, cultural, political and economical right of women, men
and transgender groups. They belong to activists groups of all kinds, child
right, women right, domestic violence, disputes/conflict, land right,
property right, food right, sexual and reproductive right, disability right,
right of minority groups, rape, torture, discrimination, enforced
disappearance, extortions, dalit right, minority rights etc ii) the rights,
roles, responsibilities, and places are also gendered, iii) they always
stand against violence of any form, iv) they are easily available as
volunteers, v) they represent the same caste, class,region, religion (mostly
at the local level), vii) they are recognized by the community, vii) they
organize themselves in networks and federations and viii) they always stand
at risks, and challenges beyond the comfort zones etc. They are now working
across the country under various organizational hats of political parties
and professions, e.g. independent journalists.

Unfortunately, their human rights are violated by political leaders,
perpetrators and sometimes by government service providers, including
police, chief district officers, and village secretaries etc. Their risks
and threats range from unnecessary accusation, character assassination,
sexual harassment, court cases, family/social exclusion, and telephonic
threats for kidnapping to death as well.

In this situation, WHRDs are facing the following major challenges; i) work
overload, their work starts since early in the morning and they also have to
wake up at mid night e.g. when the incidence or violence happens. By
experience, violence occurs during festival and planting season, so WHRDs
are unable to give time to their own business, ii) multiple hats, they lose
the identity or support during crisis and are used as guided by
facilitation/funding agency, iii) economically poor or dependent on their
family members, so they are always in stress for managing daily stuff such
as their travel, communication expenses, iv) having inadequate skills and
knowledge on ongoing changes in policies, guidelines, technology, language

Thus, regardless of the hats of WHRDs and their facilitating agencies,WHRDs
are suffering injustice themselves or exploited by the facilitating
agencies. Most of WHRDs come from the poor and marginalized communities.
Emotionally, they are down to earth and work with their minds and hearts for
emancipation from injustice, discrimination and violence of all forms. But
none of the system is taking care of them and their future. They are
mobilized as project based activities in the beginning, later the activism
starts, because, they are neither able to keep silent nor the community
leaves them.

   Thus, WHRDs work for ever to protect, promote and respect human
   rights, but their own human rights are always undermined. Their identity
   and efforts are highlighted occasionally and limited within the day’s

   To this end, the following points should be carried out seriously; i)
   avoid multiple hats, naming and faming. Because most of WHRDs or activists
   or human rights workers are doing similar jobs or they are totally different
   from Female Community Health Volunteers and Paralegal women. Funding
   agencies should come up with single working modality or strategy as well as
   making them accountable towards success as well as challenges. They have to
   clearly mention their organizational position in case of risks and threats.
   Naming and faming is not the concern of WHRDs especially at local level, ii)
   ensure the system for economic independence, including provisions of the
   identity card, insurance,  provident fund or any scheme for them, iii)
   capacity building of WHRDs as their interest, capacity and aspirations.
   Think more loudly in terms of sustainability of these skills and knowledge
   including training on report writing, computer training, proposal writing,
   language etc
   *email:**rpaudel456 at* <rpaudel456 at>


Radha Paudel
email: rpaudel456 at
Skype: rpaudel456
Phone: 977-9849596298

Radha Paudel
email: rpaudel456 at
Skype: rpaudel456
Phone: 977-9849596298
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