Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network

Human Rights Defenders

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 1



Tawakkul Karman, is 32 year old woman and mother of 3 who staged sit ins and advocated for the human rights of women.  She is the first Arab woman, to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  She is a Yemeni activist who founded Women Journalists Without Chains and has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.

The U.N. Security Council is set to vote on a resolution calling on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to immediately step down after 33 years in power. All five permanent members of the Security Council back the measure, which "strongly condemns" government violence against demonstrators. The popular uprising Yemen continued despite more attacks by government forces, including dozens of demonstrators murdered by snipers.

Women's Rights are Inalienable and Indivisible from Human Rights

The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action affirms that “the human rights of women and of the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights”. It prioritizes the full and equal participation of women in all dimensions of their lives.

It calls for the eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex as a priority objective of the international community.  It considers that acts of gender-based violence, including those resulting from cultural prejudice, are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person, and must be eliminated.

Coupled with the fact that 186 members States of the UN have also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, States are legally obligated to ensure that the social causes of inequality and discrimination against women are eliminated, including those based on social and cultural patterns of conduct that are premised on the inferior or subordinate status of women in family and in public life.

I will be a hummingbird

"Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach."

-- Clarissa Pinolla Estes

Taking Root tells the dramatic story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai whose simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy—a movement for which this charismatic woman became an iconic inspiration.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”
― Chief Seattle

Christy Turlington Burns (USA) works to stop the global epidemic of maternal mortality. She began working with organizations such as Bono's (RED) campaign, and CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) as Advocate for Maternal Health, and in 2008 began work on a documentary called “No Woman, No Cry” which shares the powerful stories of at-risk pregnant women in a village in Tanzania, the slums of Bangladesh, a prenatal ward in the United States and a clinic in Guatemala. Christy also spearheaded the “Every Mother Counts” campaign, which is partnering with Amnesty International to educate the American public on the importance of the Maternal Health Accountability Act.

Christy Turlington Burns - Maternal Health

"Sixty years have passed since the founders of the United Nations inscribed, on the first page of our Charter, the equal rights of men and women. Since then, study after study has taught us that there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, or to reduce infant and maternal mortality. No other policy is as sure to improve nutrition and promote health—including the prevention of HIV/AIDS. No other policy is as powerful in increasing the chances of education for the next generation. And I would also venture that no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended. But whatever the very real benefits of investing in women, the most important fact remains: Women themselves have the right to live in dignity, in freedom from want and from fear."

—UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Women's rights are an essential component of universal human rights, as recognized by the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. Currently 187 states have ratified or acceded to this treaty, committing themselves to an improvement of women’s rights. Many human rights defenders have bravely taken action to change the cultures, laws and lives of women and girls in their societies. Yet, discrimination and abuse of women remain widespread, and human rights defenders worldwide still have much to do. 


CEDAW consists of a preamble and 30 articles, defining what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

"I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed. Sojourner Truth was a bridge. Harriet Tubman was a bridge. Ida B. Wells was a bridge. Madame C. J. Walker was a bridge. Fannie Lou Hamer was a bridge."

-- Oprah Winfrey

Basic Facts

Women are the principal caretakers of their households, families, and lands and make up half the world population and yet 2/3rds of women are illiterate.  

Childbirth can still be a life or death situation for many women. Every minute a woman dies from pregnancy and childbirth complications, but 90% of these deaths are preventable .   99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries simply because mothers lack access to proper medical care .

Violence against women takes a dismaying variety of forms, from domestic abuse and rape to child marriages and female circumcision. Ongoing social and economic equality leads to an environment that leaves women and girls easy prey for sex traffickers. 

From 2009-2010, the unemployment rate for women globally remained unchanged at 6.5%, whereas the rate for men was reduced slightly from 6.2% in 2009 to 6.0% in 2010.

In South Asia, the gap between female and male labor force participation is at more than 40%.

In North Africa, women face higher unemployment rates than men (15% versus 7.8%)

In the USA, women are paid roughly 70% of what men earn for the same work .

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded  to the 2011 Trafficking Report, which ranked 184 countries, including the United States:

“We have to really mix the commitments with actions in order to get results. For example, the number of prosecutions worldwide has remained relatively static. And so the measure of success can no longer be whether a country has passed laws, because so many have in the last decade; now we have to make sure that laws are implemented and that countries are using the tools that have been created for that.”

"Violence against women constitutes a violation of basic human rights and is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace."

Platform for Action, Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995

“A person's rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use.”

― Pope John Paul II, Love and Responsibility

Beyond Democracy and Killing Economies

A Human Rights Defender, Dr.Vandana Shiva from  India, was named by Forbes as one of the seven most influential women  worldwide, demonstrating that women can be extremely capable leaders,  especially when they are personally impacted by the issue at hand.  Dr. Vandana Shiva is a physicist and philosopher of science deeply  engaged in the ecological, social and economic struggles of subsistence  workers in India. Her work is deeply interdisciplinary, drawing on  indigenous knowledge systems, feminist studies, philosophy, physics and  the hard sciences, environmental studies, postcolonial and  deconstructionist theory. Inspired by the non-violence of the Chipko Movement, Dr. Shiva is a strong, bold voice for women’s rights and food security.  She founded Diverse Women for Diversity, which promotes the rights of small farmers and fights against environmental destruction by governments and corporations.

This is lecture she gave  at Pitzer College on October 14th 2009.

In all societies, to a greater of lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture. The low social and economic status of women can be both a cause and a consequence of violence against women. (Fourth World Conference on Women Beijing, China, 4–15 September 1995. A/CONF.177/20 (1995), section D para 112, cited in Kelly, 2005 pg. 481)

Key Words and Concepts

Human trafficking:  The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation"

Gender-based discrimination: any unequal treatment in any situation where a person shows prejudice towards another that would not occur had they been the opposite sex. Historically, women have been subjected to legal discrimination based on their gender and cultural stereotypes that view them as the "weaker sex". Such beliefs were used as justification for preventing women from voting, holding public office and working outside the home.

Maternal health: the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. The major direct causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include hemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labor. (World Health Organization)  


Ecofeminism: the social movement that regards the oppression of women and nature as interconnected.

It is no exaggeration to refer to sexual and gender-based violence as a pandemic.  Globally, women and children are most in danger of being targets of this insidious form of human rights abuse, and those displaced or caught-up in conflict are often at greatest risk. The problem is pervasive and spans everything from domestic violence to rape as a war crime. No community, society, country or region is immune to sexual and gender-based violence. (UNHCR, 2001 foreword)

"This lover of love sings: "Mother ! Mother! Mother! Who can fathom your mystery, Your eternal play of love with love? You are divine madness, O goddess, Your love the brilliant crown of madness. Please make this poor poet madly wealthy with the infinite treasure of your love."


"It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union... Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less."

-- Susan B. Anthony

Women's Rights NGO's

  • A Life Free of Violence: It's Our Right
    Description: Website of the United Nations Inter-Agency Campaign on Women's Human Rights in Latin America and The Caribbean.

  • Adhunika
    Description: Adhunika is a global volunteer organization dedicated to the promotion of technology usage for women in Bangladesh. Their main goal is to promote web presence of women.

  • Center for Women's Global Leadership
    Description: This Center seeks to develop an understanding of the ways in which gender affects the exercise of power and the conduct of public policy internationally. Their focus includes a global campaign to end violence against women.

  • Face to Face International
    Description: An international campaign to give voice to the millions of women denied basic human rights and freedoms. The goal of Face to Face is to increase global awareness that women's rights are human rights. Website gives information on recent news, activities and events, partners and projects, celebrity field visits, companies making a difference, and a photo exhibition.

  • Gabriela Network
    Description: Organization is a US-based women's solidarity organization working with GABRIELA Philippines. They organize around issues such as the global traffic of women, world trade and the sex industry, the mail-order bride industry, first world and third world perspectives on the women's movement, and gender relations in the Asian-American community. GABNet operates a speakers' bureau which offers lecturers and discussants who lead in-depth discussions on these issues. They also publish a bimonthly newsletter, kaWomenan.

  • Human Trafficking
    Author: VAWnet
    Description: The political and human rights issues related to human trafficking. Critical thinking questions are posed, along with facts sheets and policy initiatives.

  • Institute for Women's Policy Research
    Description: Maintains a Welfare Reform Research Coordination Project which often includes information about domestic violence and welfare reform.

  • International Center for Research on Women
    Description: ICRW's mission is to improve the lives of women in poverty, advance women's equality and human rights, and contribute to the broader economic and social well-being. ICRW accomplishes this, in partnership with others, through research, capacity building, and advocacy on issues affecting women's economic, health, and social status.

  • Research, Action, and Information Network for the Bodily Integrity of Women (Rainbo)
    Description: Organization works on issues within the intersection between health and human rights of women. Starting with the issue of female circumcision/female genital mutilation (FC/FGM), they explore means of preventing this and other forms of gender-related violence. Website includes information on their international program, Africa program, African immigrant program, publications, how you can help, and links.

  • Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan
    Description: The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) campaigns for women's rights and provides education and health facilities for women and children. They fight nonviolently for human rights and social justice in Afghanistan.

  • Saving Women's Lives
    Author: Family Care International
    Description: Aims to educate and raise awareness of the broad range of women's global health and rights issues, including reproductive health, safe motherhood, poverty and economic development, violence against women, women's social status and education. Gives information on the facts, the experts, the polls, and the news. Also gives links to other resources and organizaitons.

  • Sisterhood is Global Institute
    Description: An international non-governmental, non-profit organization dedicated to the support and promotion of women's rights at the local, national, regional, and global levels. Website includes action alerts, resources, information about human rights education, publications, a newsletter, and a section for events and milestones.

  • Stop Violence Against Women
    Author: Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
    Description: STOPVAW is a site developed by Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights as a tool for the promotion of women's human rights in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). This site addresses violence against women as one of the most pervasive human rights abuses worldwide. The STOPVAW site provides women's rights advocates with information focused on ending the most endemic forms of violence against women in the region:

  • Women Against Violence Europe
    Description: European network of non-governmental women's organizations working to combat violence against women and children. Website includes a database of addresses and publications from across Europe, as well as good practice models.

  • Women's Human Rights Resources
    Author: Bora Laskin Law Library

    Description: Database from the Bora Laskin Law Library, University of Toronto. Includes conventions, reports, bibliographies, and articles available on the internet.

  • Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
    Description: An organization that aims to bring women of different political and philosophical tendencies together to study and help abolish the political, social, economic, and psychological causes of war and to work for a constructive peace.

  • WomenWatch
    Description: This is the United Nations Internet gateway on the advancement and empowerment of Women. Here you can learn about the work of the United Nations entities and inter-governmental and treaty bodies that deal with the advancement and empowerment of women and about international instruments on women's rights, as well as find information about UN conferences, statistical data, and UN appointments.

2011 Nobel Peace Prize joint winners Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Tawakkul Karman, and Leymah Gbowee.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first female elected head of State; Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist; and Tawakkul Karman, a journalist and pro-democracy activist from Yemen, are the joint winners of this year's prize.

Nobel judges, announcing the decision in Oslo, Norway, cited the winners' "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peacebuilding work."

Women's Rights

You cannot rob us of the rights we cherish,
Nor turn our thoughts away
From the bright picture of a "Woman's Mission"
Our hearts portray.

We claim to dwell, in quiet and seclusion,
Beneath the household roof,--
From the great world's harsh strife, and jarring voices,
To stand aloof;--

Not in a dreamy and inane abstraction
To sleep our life away,
But, gathering up the brightness of home sunshine,
To deck our way.

As humble plants by country hedgerows growing,
That treasure up the rain,
And yield in odours, ere the day's declining,
The gift again;

So let us, unobtrusive and unnoticed,
But happy none the less,
Be privileged to fill the air around us
With happiness;

To live, unknown beyond the cherished circle,
Which we can bless and aid;
To die, and not a heart that does not love us
Know where we're laid.

Annie Louisa Walker

Human Rights Organizations - Women's Rights

Amnesty International (AI)



Areas of work: Defenders, death penalty, armed conflict, business and human rights, children’s rights, counterterrorism, discrimination, economic, social and cultural rights, freedom of expression, indigenous peoples, international justice, poverty, the rights of refugee, migrant and internally displaced people, sexual orientation and gender identity, and violence against women. Through its campaign to Stop Violence against Women, AI has developed and used campaign tools to highlight the profiles and cases of WHRDs.

Geographic focus: International

Languages: The website is available in English, French,

Spanish, and Arabic.


Front Line (FL)



Areas of work: Protection of defenders at risk.

Geographic focus: International

Languages: The website is available in English, French,

Spanish, Arabic, and Russian.


Human Rights First (HRF)



Areas of work: HRF runs a program on defenders. Other areas of work include: refugee protection, discrimination, crimes against humanity, law and security.

Geographic focus: International

The defenders program has focused on Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran and Thailand.

Languages: The website is available in English, with some

urgent actions available in Spanish and Farsi.


The International Federation for Human Rights




Areas of work: Together with the OMCT, FIDH runs a defenders program called the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory). Other areas of work include: international justice, terrorism, death penalty, women’s rights, forced disappearances, migrant rights and globalization and economic, social and cultural rights.

Geographic focus: International

Languages: The website is available in English, French,

Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and Farsi.





Areas of work: Women’s human rights, including health and reproductive rights, violence against women, peace building, economic development, and environmental justice, education and other human rights.

Geographic focus: International. MADRE works in the following countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Peru, and Sudan.

Languages: The website is available in English and Spanish.


Peace Brigades International (PBI)



Areas of work: Protection of defenders at risk.

Geographic focus: International. PBI currently works in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Nepal.

Languages: The website is available in English and Spanish. Country Groups also maintain websites in their own languages.


The Urgent Action Fund (UAF)



Areas of work: Promotion and protection of WHRDs through rapid response grant making, research, publications, advocacy and alliance building.

Geographic focus: There are three UAF sister-fund organizations. One based in Africa, one based in Latin America, and one based in the United States. Any grant application from the continent of Africa should be sent to UAF-Africa. Any applications from Spanish or Portuguese speaking Latin American countries should be sent to UAF Latin America. All other requests should be sent to UAF in the United States.

Languages: The website is available in English. The grant applications are available in French, Spanish, Arabic, Russia, Nepali, Bahasa, Indonesian, Haitian Creole, Turkish, Georgian, Urdu, Albanian, and Serbian.


The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)



Areas of work: Together with the FIDH, OMCT runs a defenders program called the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Observatory).

Other areas of work include: torture, economic, social and cultural rights, children’s rights and violence against women.

Geographic focus: International

Languages: The website is available in English, French,

and Spanish.


Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)



Areas of work: Promotion of women’s equality and their rights in Muslim and non-Muslim contexts. WLUML provides information, support, and a collective space for women whose lives are shaped, conditioned, or governed by laws and customs said to derive from Islam.

Geographic focus: International

Languages: The website available in English, French,

Arabic, Farsi, Russian, and Chinese.


Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia)



Areas of work: Forum Asia runs a defenders program,  which includes WHRDs. Other areas of work include:

social justice, sustainable human development, participatory democracy, gender equality, peace and human security.

Geographic focus: Asia

Languages: The website is available in English.

24 Urgent Responses for Women Human Rights Defenders at Risk June 2011


Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC)



Areas of work: WHRDs, trafficking, migration, women’s health, violence against women, economic socio-cultural rights such as right to food and right to women’s health, children and youth development, sustainable livelihood, community development, chhahari programme (a drop in center for women working in the informal sector and entertainment area).

Geographic focus: Nepal

Languages: The website is available in English and Nepali.


The National Commission on Violence against Women in Indonesia (Komnas Perempaun)



Areas of work: violence against women, including violence

against WHRDs.

Geographic focus: Indonesia

Languages: The website is available in Bahasa Indonesia (currently developing the English version).

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP)



Areas of work: Protection of defenders.

Geographic focus: East and Horn of Africa. EHAHRDP

focuses on Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya,

Rwanda, Somalia (together with Somaliland), Sudan (together with South Sudan), Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.

Languages: The website is available in English.

Communication in French is available.

Coalition for African Lesbians (CAL)



Areas of work: Lesbian equality.

Geographic focus: Africa

Languages: The website is available in English.

The Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ)



Areas of work: Promotion and protection of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, and humanitarian law through national and international litigation, monitoring, and public policy design.

Geographic focus: Colombia

Languages: The website is available in Spanish.


Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas-Colombia (LMDC)



Areas of work: Rights of displaced women in the context

of the armed conflict.

Geographic focus: Colombia

Languages: The website is available in Spanish.


Unidad de Proteccion a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (UDEFEGUA)



Areas of work: Protection of defenders and WHRDs.

Geographic focus: Guatemala y Honduras

Languages: The website is available in Spanish.

"At one level, the argument for greater global investment in reproductive health services should be obvious. The international community has long recognized that all couples and individuals have a right to decide whether and when to have children. Yet, hundreds of millions of people worldwide who want to space their families lack access to modern contraceptive methods. This is a violation of their human rights, and the consequences are appalling: millions of unintended pregnancies, often resulting in unsafe abortion or maternal or infant death; and continuing rapid population growth in the world's poorest countries."

—UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya A. Obaid

"We all know that human rights cannot just be transplanted as external principles into individuals or their communities. Human rights principles must be internalized by each individual, women and men, and must be absorbed and expressed in their own ways and within the positive aspects of their cultural values and beliefs. In order for this to happen, women must believe in human rights and must believe that these rights will protect them and not expose them in a battle against the society. They do weigh the social costs of entering into conflict as opposed to the benefits coming from the status quo. Women will claim their rights if they know there is a support system that will protect them from the reaction of their own communities. This support system should certainly include some of those who hold the keys to the power structures—religious, community and traditional leaders."

—UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya A. Obaid


World Health Organization

UN News Centre, 2004

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Global Employment Trends 2011, International Labor Office

UN Women Watch’s Fact Sheet and reports from the Global Conference on


Indigenous Women, Climate Change and REDD Plus in the Philippines

Platform for Action, Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

Strengthening Gender-Responsive Governance in the UNESCAP Region: A Building-block for Post-conflict Reconstruction Policies

Technical Background Paper commissioned by the Gender and Development Section (GADS), Emerging Social Issues Division (ESID) and prepared by Tone Bleie, Chief, GADS/ESID.4

The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences

The Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

The Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

The Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

The Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity

The Independent Expert to update the Set of Principles for the protection and the promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity

The Independent Expert on Minority Issues

The Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

The Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights


“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
― Leo Buscaglia

Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network


P.O. 42700 

Washington, DC 20015

MedicalWhistleblowers (at)


"Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself."  Confucius

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt- Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic", delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910