On Tuesday 3 March 2020, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS), together with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights, Amnesty International UK (AIUK) and GAPS hosted an event titled ‘Brave women on the frontlines of peace and rights’ for International Women’s Day 2020. This event builds on AIUK’s global BRAVE campaign which calls for the urgent protection of human rights defenders (HRDs). In their BRAVE campaign, AIUK are asking the UK Government to prioritise its work to support human rights defenders in response to the unprecedented surge and global scale of attacks, this includes a focus on women human rights defenders (WHRDs). This aligns with the 10th and latest UN Security Council Resolution 2493 on Women, Peace and Security, which contains explicit provisions in paragraph 6 encouraging States to support, enable and protect the work of women leaders, peacebuilders and human right defenders, recognising the vital contribution that they make towards the aims of the WPS agenda: peace, gender equality, and women and girls’ rights.
In this event, we were joined by Zaina Erhaim, award-winning journalist, Feminist and manager with Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Hamsatu Allamin, Educator, Gender Activist, Human Rights Defender and Peace Maker, Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, and Baroness Hodgson of Abinger CBE, Co-Chair of the APPG-WPS. Zaina began by sharing the experiences of WHRDs, in Syria and all over the MENA region, and the extensive threats and violence they face. She spoke about the difficulty of WHRDs to be in public spaces and the risks that come with their work, such as sexual harassment, detention, bullying and a range of attacks. Zaina pointed out that very often, WHRDs are forced to leave public spaces and will face systematic bullying, she linked this to the use of social media to shame WHRDs and as discouragement from taking part in political affairs.
Similarly, Hamsatu highlighted the various dangers that WHRDs face in Nigeria. As a response, Hamtasu works on documenting the stories of WHRDs and provides a platform for them to amplify their voices. Within her work, she has related a network for the victims and people affected by humanitarian crises and the Boko Haram conflict. Hamsatu stated that there has to be narrative change, which means a shift from investing in war to investing in peace. Additionally, one of the critical needs that Hamsatu identifies is the need for connections and resources to support WHRDs, to share their stories and to strengthen their work. This is something that Kate has also found in her work on WHRDs at AIUK. Kate claimed that we need to support WHRDs and also ensure that the work that they do is supported, which is why they will continue to push the UK Government for more progress. AIUK will work on making the advances that are necessary and increasing the support for WHRDs.