By Liz Fisher-Frank
The 25th November 2016 was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It was therefore a very fitting opportunity for the launch of a Toolkit, developed by PBI*, for Women Human Rights Defenders (‘WHRD’) living and operating in the urban settlements of Nairobi.
Globally, Human Rights Defenders are often vulnerable due to the challenging nature of their work. Female Human Rights Defenders and/or those defending the rights of women in urban settlements are however particularly at risk. Amongst other things, they face gender-based, including sexual, violence and discrimination for failing to comply with, what is mainly, a patriarchal society.
The Toolkit is a practical on-line resource providing information to empower WHRD. From human rights principles to advising on violations and risks and how to document them, the Toolkit addresses issues identified as prevailing problems for WHRD in Nairobi. Interviews, workshops and focused group discussions were undertaken with 199 WHRD about their experiences and the everyday difficulties they face in protecting and defending women’s rights.
The content of the Toolkit has therefore been shaped by the needs of the women. Whilst the importance of establishing Networks is recognized in the Toolkit, as are the steps to improve peer support, it also provides practical information about support available including legal, medical, psycho-social and capacity and skills building.
The Toolkit will be ever evolving as effective practice, new systems and developments arise. It will mean that information can be shared for the benefit of all WHRD. Initially, details of the Toolkit will be widely disseminated across the urban settlements by experienced WHRD trained as Toolkit Organisers. It will also be available in print format.
The launch and subsequent dissemination of the Toolkit is hoped to be a huge step forward for WHRD and the risks they face in promoting respect for human rights. As the 25th November also marked the start of the UN’s 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign (which ends on 10th December, Human Rights Day) the need for such a resource could not have been more apparent.
*The toolkit was developed with funding from the Evan Cornish Foundation