Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Our Right to Safety: WHRDs' Holistic Approach to Safety




The following passage is an excerpt of the report.  To read the full report, please download the pdf.

Security on Our Own Terms—an Integrated Approach to Security

“For me, feeling safe means sleeping without having to worry, without thinking someone is going to come and break through the door when I ’m working, without feeling intimidated or threatened; when I know I have enough resources to do my work and to fulfill the needs of the women we are working with; when I can eat and get treatment without too much hassle. I feel safe when I know that if anything happens to me, I can call for help and receive it quickly, I can be brought to a safe place with my family; safety means my family is protected, and I feel my colleagues and family are behind me. Safety means having health insurance. Safety also meanshaving social protection, receiving recognition for our work, and there is awareness for our work.”

Women defenders are adamant that for them security goes beyond having a bulletproof vest, access to a mobile phone or a bodyguard at their front door. Security means to live without fear of being attacked and to be able to pursue their lives and their work in an environment free of violence. WHRDs’ approach is that of integrated security, which goes beyond the physical protection of an individual. For WHRDs the notion of security “cannot be conceived as of separate from the political, social, economic, environmental, and other systemic factors which produce and reproduce conflict, displacement, inequality, violence, patriarchal attitudes and practices which are at the root of these challenges. The security of such defenders is inherently linked to the security of their communities and can only be fully achieved in the context of a holistic approach which includes the deepening of democracy, the fight against impunity, the reduction of economic inequalities, and striving for social and environmental justice, among others.”

“Protection is the state of mind where I feel free to live and work without being afraid of being threatened or killed because of my commitment to promoting respect for women’s rights.”

A holistic approach to security takes into account the public and the private sphere and includes the need to feel safe at home, at work and in the streets. In terms of personal security, it encompasses support for the physical and psychological well-being of WHRDs, their organizations, as well as the security of their families. Security also means having a well resourced safe space for WHRDs and their organizations to do their jobs. This not only includes measures protecting organizations and staff, but it also refers to the guarantees and conditions that the state must provide to ensure that WHRDs can do their job in an enabling environment that recognizes, respects and value their role. An integrated approach to security involves the development of short and long term multi-sectoral responses for WHRDs that include health services, psychosocial counseling and financial support. It also involves coordination among different state law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to develop prevention initiatives as well as to carry out investigations and end impunity.

Inmaculada Barcia
Published Date: 
Political and Public Participation