Everyday heroes who defend human rights worldwide
Women’s rights are human rights. You don’t need super powers to stand up for human rights.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women, our #EverydayHero series introduces you to the unsung heroes around the world who are working hard everyday to stand up for women’s rights.
1. Deaf women connect to legal aid in Argentina
Ester Mancera, Mariela León Bani belong to the NGO “Enlaces Territoriales para la Equidad de Género” and Mariana Reuter works in the NGO FUNDASOR. They are our partners for “Sordas sin Violencia”, the only device in Argentina specifically created for Deaf and hearing-impaired women victims of gender-based violence to access justice and navigate the legal system. Read their full story here.
2. Standing up for LGBTQI communities in Barbados
René Holder-McClean-Ramirez the Co-Director of Equals Inc. and Chair of Eastern Caribbean Alliance of Diversity and Equality (ECADE).
When a member of the LGBTQI community in Barbados experiences discrimination such as workplace harassment, being fired from their job or being denied medical treatment for their sexual orientation or gender identity, they turn to René to see if their legal rights have been violated. Victims of sexual assault and other violent crimes turn to him as a first step in navigating the legal system to seek justice. Read his full story here.
3. Protecting human rights in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Norbert Bisimwa Yabe Ntaitunda is a lawyer for the South Kivu Bar Association, one of UNDP’s partner for legal aid in DRC.
“I am the father of nine children, including seven girls. I could not bear that any of my daughters should ever be a victim of sexual and gender-based violence.”
As a lawyer with the bar of South Kivu, Norbert offers free consultations to the poor in need of legal assistance. His office recently partnered with UNDP for the Tupinge Ubakaji Project. A public hearing was organized in Luvungi and another in Walungu on the issues of sexual and gender-based violence. Several lawyers have been committed to assist the victims.
4. A public defender’s story in Kazakhstan
“My morning begins with the words “Help!” I provide legal assistance, often free of charge for rape cases, I am engaged in legal informing of women, girls, children,” says Aiman Umarova, who has been working as a human rights lawyer and investigator for more than 25 years in Kazakhstan.
Aiman’s cases are complex and very grave crimes. She specializes in cases related to terrorism, extremism, violent extremism and gender-based violence. She often takes cases of rape (including group rape) against women, girls, children pro-bono. Read her full story here.
5. Preventing violence against women in Lebanon
Zoya Rouhana is a Lebanese women’s rights activist who has been advocating tirelessly for over 30 years to strengthen women’s and girls’ protection against sexual gender-based violence.
She is the co-founder and managing director of “KAFA (Enough) Violence & Exploitation”, one of the leading NGOs in Lebanon renown for their work with gender-based violence prevention and support to survivors. UNDP and UNFPA are currently working with KAFA on a two-year project funded by the UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, which aims to reinforce the capacity of the Lebanese law enforcement sector to respond effective to gender-based violence.
6. Policing to end domestic violence in Moldova
Contantin Zestrea is a police officer working in Seliste village in the Nisporeni district in the Republic of Moldova.
“Before these modifications (modifications of the Moldovan Law on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence), it was very hard to protect a victim of domestic violence as the aggressor was still in the house for several days and usually the victim was repeatedly assaulted.
Unfortunately, many women from our villages do not perceive that a slap or continuous verbal aggression might be qualified as a crime and of course they do not know when and where to ask for help.
This is probably the most challenging mission I have: to inform the women from my community about what domestic violence is, about their rights and make them aware of the fact that they should not be afraid or ashamed of talking about it.
For the last seven months, I issued more than 30 emergency restraining orders, being able to protect all these victims. It is extremely important to have legal tools that allow you to help victims,” said Officer Zestrea.
In Moldova, near 68% of women from rural areas have been victims of at least one form of violence from their spouse or partner.
Since March 2017, Moldovan police officers have been able to issue over 1600 emergency restraining orders due to key modifications to the Law on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence. Victims of domestic violence can now receiving immediate protection against the aggressor. UNDP, together with the UN family worked together with Civil Society, Government and Parliament to support the adoption of the milestone law №196 of 28 July 2016 that introduced unprecedented measures to increase the safety of victims of violence, as well as harsher sanctions against aggressors.
7. Access to justice for Palestinian women
One in two women — half of women in Gaza who have ever been married have been subject to a form of violence in the home and a third of women from the West Bank have experienced violence at home, according to UN Women. Yet, 65.3% of women in the region who experience domestic violence remain silent.
To increase protection for women, we strengthen rule of law. We work with partners like Lieutenant Colonel Wafa Muammar, who is the Head of the Palestinian Civil Police Family and Juvenile Protection Unit in Ramallah, located in the West Bank. Read her full story here
“Being a mother of four, and the highest-ranking female officer in the Palestinian police force, an occupation predominantly considered a man’s profession continues to be a challenge. Violence is a global issue that needs to be addressed collectively at the national and international levels. Establishing legislation and practical measures that protect victims’ rights, raising awareness of the community to combat gender based violence are all ways of fighting it. My message is never be silent after an attack. Speak up because silence is the aggressor’s weapon that drives him to carry on with his aggression” — Lieutenant Colonel Wafa Muammar (read her full story here)
Together with law enforcement, we work to strengthen the capacity of Family Protection Units to respond to cases of violence by recruiting more women to become civil police officers, who are the front lines for reducing violence against women.
8. A hotline for domestic violence victims in Serbia
Dragana Vujinovic-Gaga works at the Autonomous Women’s Center in Belgrade. Through the center’s SOS helpline, for the past 17 years, she has been helping women who are victims of violence. She provides consultations over the phone to help them begin the first step of getting help. She also runs self-help groups for women survivors of domestic violence.
Ivana Kostic and the Public Prosecutor Office in Cacak (Serbia) are part of a team of institutions, including the police and social welfare centers, fighting domestic violence with increased coordination and effectiveness at the national level. Their work provides the institutional and legal framework that law enforcement, the justice sector and NGOs need to tackle sexual and gender violence in Serbia.
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