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Discussing challenges and strategies helped us to create, together, a framework for empowering women human rights defenders to talk safely about their security in a way that fits their priorities and realities.

The first and most important component of this framework is this:

Women human rights defenders should define security for themselves.

Women human rights defenders described consistently a concept of security that incorporates a range of inter-related priorities, many that are not typically considered as security concerns in a ‘traditional’ sense. These include the right to:

  • conduct their work freely, without restrictions;
  • work in safe spaces, in their own spaces, without the constant, grinding need to justify the work, or themselves;
  • travel without fear;
  • stay healthy and happy;
  • be able to do the work, and still to take care of the basics for one’s self, and one’s family;
  • justice and recognition; and
  • rest, recover and renew.

This concept of integrated security recognises that women’s security is about many different, yet interconnected, issues. That justice and reparation are as important as gaining the right to communal land, as the freedom to speak, travel and to work without any obstacles, and as access to spiritual leaders. It is about not having to explain your work. Or that you are human. It is all connected.

The concept breaks down artificial boundaries between the ‘public’ and the ‘private’ sides of security. And it links them.

It is also a framework that offers, for the first time, a gendered perspective on human rights defenders’ security – recognising that, while women, men and transgender defenders face common challenges, there are many obstacles and response strategies that are specific to their gender identity.

It reaffirms and strengthens women human rights defenders’ own capacity to uncover and assess the range of challenges they face, and to share and develop the strategies they need to be safe and well – and continue their work.