Women defending land and environmental rights are often confronting powerful interests, and as a result face persecution which can take a variety of forms... Read more
Women Human Rights Defenders working on land and environmental issues
Throughout Latin America there are brave women engaged in struggles to defend land and environmental rights on behalf of their families and communities. They may be peacefully opposing a range of major projects such as dams, mining, logging or tourist schemes imposed without consultation, and with potentiallty devastating impacts on the environment, as well as on their lives and livelihood. They may be seeking to defend their rights to land where their communities have lived and worked for decades, if not centuries.
In defending these rights, they can face multiple threats and challenges:
Peace Brigades International
Peace Brigades International (PBI) has been working to support human rights and promote nonviolence for more than 30 years. We send teams of international observers to areas of conflict and repression to provide protective accompaniment to local human rights defenders whose lives and work are under threat.
We accompany a wide variety of defenders working in different parts of the world, including Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. Almost half of them are women, and over half are land and environmental rights defenders – individuals and indigenous and peasant farmer communities seeking to protect the land and environment against a range of threats, including destructive monocultures, mining, hydropower and logging. Women human rights defenders and defenders of environmental rights are two of three groups of defenders PBI focuses on in its work, the other being defenders of the rule of law. What they all have in common is their struggle for human rights against heavy odds and the threats or violence they face purely as a consequence of carrying out their vital work.
PBI takes an integrated approach, combining a presence on the ground alongside human rights defenders with advocacy on behalf of these defenders at the national and international level. Through our advocacy work we remind states of their obligations to protect human rights defenders, as well as pressing for policies which offer them better protection. PBI also engages in activities such as providing training to help human rights defenders learn strategies for self-protection, and facilitating links with other human rights defenders.
PBI UK, as one of the country groups in Europe and North America, is responsible for the vital support work that allows PBI's field projects to operate smoothly. It engages in political support building, recruitment and training of volunteers, outreach, publicity and fundraising. It has produced this toolkit, with generous funding from the Evan Cornish Foundation, in response to needs identified at a conference it co-organised in London in 2012 - Women Human Rights Defenders: Empowering and Protecting the Change Makers (see also 'Needs identified' above).
For more information about the work of PBI UK, please contact the suggestions box (below).
About this toolkit
There are a range of measures that these women human rights defenders (WHRDs) can take to increase their protection. As well as capacity-building in security techniques and access to support in cases of emergency, WHRDs have identified other, no less important, strategies for protection, such as the ability to carry out advocacy, building alliances and support networks, as well as finding reliable funding sources and learning self-care techniques. All of these – and others - can help to ensure that WHRDs can work in a secure environment, and in groups and organisations which are sustainable. This toolkit is intended as an easy, accessible guide to some of the many resources on these subjects that exist, but which WHRDs working land and environmental rights may not be aware of. It is aimed at WHRDs, whether they are part of all-women organisations, mixed, or acting as individuals.
The content of the toolkit has been written by Jill Powis who has worked for PBI in a variety of roles since 2003, including as a field volunteer with the Colombia project. She has also carried out international accompaniment with other organisations, including in Honduras, and works as a translator, researcher and writer on human rights issues.
This toolkit was funded through a generous grant awarded by the Evan Cornish Foundation to PBI UK Section.