2018 marked the 20th Anniversary since the United Nations unanimously adopted the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, commonly known as the “UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders”. Yet still today Human rights defenders (HRDs), and women HRDs in particular face unique challenges when participating in the public space and stereotypical and discriminatory attitudes, violence and harassment.
According to information from Protection International, in the period 2014-2017, at least 170 community and rural-based Women Human Rights Defenders have been the target of judicial harassment due to their outspoken roles in the defence of the environmental, land rights and equal access to natural resources. WHRDs in Thailand are subject to systematic violence and discrimination due to their identities and unyielding struggles for rights, equality and justice. It is the informal networks of women human rights defenders themselves that provide protection. These individuals and informal networks have become vital in both raising awareness and drawing attention to the issue, but also for the women themselves in recognition of their work and for building solidarity with local and global movements.
In this collaboration between The Canadian Embassy in Bangkok and Protection International under the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) they launched the project called "Her Life, Her Diary: Side by Side WHRDs 2018 - Diary of Hope and Dreams". I was commissioned to photograph the 20 featured WHRDs in Thailand in time for a public event on International Women Human Rights Defenders Day.
The underlying need is to raise awareness of the many struggles and challenges Women Human Rights Defenders face in their daily work to promote social justice and universally recognized human rights, and their outstanding tenacity and courage.