Advocating for Human Rights

Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights apply to everyone everywhere.

WLP provides training and resources to women in the Global South to become advocates for a just, equitable, and peaceful world, where human rights are realized and protected.

Program Highlights

Local, national, and regional rights campaigns

Dozens of successful campaigns to amend laws

Dissemination of information on women's rights violations

Human rights reports to the UN and CEDAW

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There is no time to rest until our world achieves wholeness and balance, where all men and women are considered equal and free.
Leymah Gbowee, Liberian activist, Nobel Peace Prize recipient

WLP promotes the universality of rights in our workshops, publications, and films. In some countries, the universality of human rights, and especially women’s rights, is met with harsh resistance by state and local authorities who see the reform of discriminatory laws as an attack on their religion and customs. In response, WLP uses a community-based approach to disseminating knowledge about women’s rights and democratic ideas, and to increasing our partners’ organizational, strategic, and tactical capabilities. 

Through dialogue and the free exchange of ideas, WLP shares human rights values that shape the bases for people’s conduct and choices. We recognize that there are numerous interpretations and authorities on religion and culture, many of which are consistent with human rights and that promote women’s equality. We frame our human rights campaigns around local history, traditions, and religious customs that support women’s advancement, working in collaboration with women’s organizations, social service organizations, legal advocates, government officials, and religious leaders.

Curriculum on Human Rights

WLP’s Beyond Equality: A Manual for Human Rights Defenders, is being used in workshops and other forums to promote the continuing relevance of human rights to the struggle for women’s freedom and advancement. The manual’s lessons provide a starting place for frank conversation about the conflicts that can arise in supporting human rights, and help advocates develop locally applicable strategies for their human rights campaigns.

Beyond Equality begins by asking the most basic but important questions about what are human rights and why are they essential. The sessions that follow explore the rights enumerated in international human rights agreements through discussions about contemporary issues. The final sessions look at the most frequently used international human rights and women’s rights legal tools, and consider how and where they might be applied to current social justice campaigns. 

Human Rights: The Unfinished Journey Documentary Film

Used in conjunction with Beyond Equality, or screened by itself, WLP’s documentary Human Rights: The Unfinished Journey examines how human rights since 9/11 have been marginalized in favor of “hard security,” and the impact of that shift on communities around the globe. The film underscores the linkages between women’s human rights and social, economic, and environmental rights, and the importance of bringing the human rights framework back into the development paradigm.

Books in Translation

WLP has translated and published several works by leading women’s rights activists on their human rights strategies and campaigns in the Global South.

  • Guide to Equality in the Family in the Maghreb (2005) outlines legal and tactical approaches for reforming family law in Muslim-majority societies based on the experiences of advocates in Morocco and the region.
  • Iranian Women's One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality: The Inside Story (2010) details the history, strategies, and values that brought together a diverse group of Iranian rights activists who successfully mobilized for women’s advancement.
  • In Violence without Borders: Paradigm, policy and praxis concerning violence against women (2016) author Yakin Ertürk, former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, uses 10 country case studies to present her theoretical framework for understanding gender-based violence. Ertürk examines patriarchal forces that deny women access to their rights and perpetuate cycles of violence, and how these forces can be overcome.
We are in the process of lobbying authorities to take an interest in women's issues. It’s starting to have an impact. Today in the street and in public gatherings, all the discourse is on women. There is a wake-up call, a mobilization on all levels across the board – among the youth, among men, at every level.

,Executive Director, WLP Mauritania/Association des Femmes Chefs de Famille (AFCF)

Human Rights Advocacy

WLP’s partners have been engaged in dozens of human rights and women’s rights campaigns over the last two decades. In collaboration with the WLP Partnership, many of these campaigns have grown from local crusades into regional movements, and from regional movements into international campaigns. 

One of WLP’s top priorities is to provide greater visibility for our partners’ local and regional human rights campaigns. We help our partners support each other’s campaigns through pooling resources and mobilizing their constituents. We engage with traditional media, educate our supporter networks through online communications, create films, and publish resources that tell our partners’ advocacy stories. Whenever possible, WLP promotes our partners’ participation on panels at international conferences and at other speaking events. We bring experienced leaders and grassroots women into frequent contact with funders, activists, and scholars who can help them grow their women’s movements. 

Claiming Equal Citizenship Campaign

Women’s right to equal citizenship is guaranteed by the majority of Arab constitutions, as well as by international law. Yet across the MENA region and the Gulf, women are denied their right to a nationality – a crucial component of citizenship. In many of these countries, women who marry men of other nationalities cannot confer their nationality on their husbands or children; only fathers can confer their nationality on their wives and children. 

The impact of statelessness on children can be dire, especially in countries that provide social, educational, and health services only to their own nationals. Children born to fathers who are not citizens can suffer from poverty and low education, and are vulnerable to economic and other exploitation. 

WLP’s partners have been engaged in the Claiming Equal Citizenship campaign for over a decade. We have led rallies, produced radio and television programs, provided legal representation to affected families, met with legislators, and led workshops to educate grassroots activists on how to change the citizenship laws in their countries. 

Economic Rights and Empowerment

WLP’s partners, particularly in Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East, are working on advocacy objectives that support women’s economic rights and empowerment. These education campaigns cover a range of related issues from women’s rights to banking, borrowing, and investing, to equal access to jobs, equal pay for equal work, and alternative business models and business collectives that promote women’s economic advancement. 

Equal Land and Inheritance Rights for Women

In some communities, old traditions hold more sway over inheritance practices than the national laws. WLP’s partners help women in both urban and rural setting who must fight for land that is legally theirs. In Lagos, Nigeria, our partner is helping women who have been illegally dispossessed of their property or their lawful use of land has been disrupted. Our partner in Morocco has worked for decades with Soulaliyate women, whose rights to their communities’ collective lands has been eroded as land is sold, and the profits shared only among men. In Senegal, our partner is advocating for rural women to play a more prominent role in decisions affecting climate change, and in promoting sustainable livelihoods for women in regions that are most deeply impacted. 

Family Law Reform to End Violence against Women

In 2016, the WLP Partnership launched an international research and advocacy project to reform discriminatory family laws. Our research is drawing attention to the many linkages between discriminatory family laws and the levels of violence towards women in some societies. We are finding that where women are more equal in practice and under the law, there is less violence against women. 

Read more about Reforming Family Laws.

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