Everyone has the right to stand up, to speak out and to defend human rights.
Everyone has the right to defend human rights safely, without fear of retribution, such as physical violence, slander or attacks on their families.
Equally, everyone has the right to defend human rights and enjoy a full life, without sacrificing livelihoods, health or happiness. Everyone has the right to stand up, to speak out and to defend human rights.
We dedicate this manual to all of the human rights defenders who joined us in its creation. Each one spoke to us about different aspects of security – both private and public – echoing the stories of so many others.
We heard of the price of speaking out against injustice in Serbia that was met with vicious personal slander in the media, and death threats behind closed doors. Another aspect of facing insecurity as a woman human rights defender is the toll it takes on the personal life. We were told how difficult it is to cope with the stress of constant security threats while working on difficult and hard issues. And how difficult it s to balance life as a woman human rights defenders with taking care of one’s family, and what it meant to be a ‘good wife’ in many culture. To be able to step out of that role, despite the pressure to conform, to empower other women.
Their voices, their strength, and their stories remain a source of inspiration. They are a reminder, to all of us, to continue to do the work we love with passion, and with hope.
They remind us, too, to take the time to cherish and protect our own bodies, hearts and families with exactly the same passion that we give to others.
Defending human rights around the world, in our communities, is so important.
And the life of every human rights defender is equally important to this work.