Open letter: public figures call on governments to protect women’s rights activists

| Mar 08, 2019

On International Women’s Day 2019, it’s an astonishing fact that in no country in the world do women enjoy the same rights or opportunities as men. Every day, women and girls face discrimination, poverty and violence just because they are women. Globally, at least 1 in 3 women experience violence in their lifetime. Women work longer hours and are paid less. Fewer than 1 in 4 parliamentarians worldwide are women. Women’s rights are human rights, yet women and girls everywhere are still denied their rights.

As momentum behind the #MeToo movement continues to grow, we are witnessing unprecedented acknowledgement of the challenges women face. Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to overcome the systemic oppression that denies women their rights. It’s time to move on from conversations to action.

To do so, women in all their diversity – women of every nationality, race, ability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity - need to have their voices heard and respected. Every woman should have the freedom to make her own choices and claim her rights. Yet, when women speak out, attempt to have a say in the decisions affecting their lives or defend their rights, far too often they are silenced, undermined and even endangered. Women are at risk of backlash, censorship and violence wherever they speak out, both online and offline.  The expertise and experiences of women human rights defenders are not being recognised or trusted. Women are not being meaningfully consulted on issues that directly impact them. Women who speak out are facing all forms of violence and abuse. This has to stop.

Governments worldwide need to do more to protect women who stand up for their rights. We call on governments to recognise and trust the expertise of women’s rights organisations and women’s movements, in particular those representing marginalised women; to counter the silencing of women’s rights activists; and to fulfil commitments to protect women human rights defenders by bringing to justice those that perpetrate violence, and strengthening the law in line with international human rights frameworks.

Strong and diverse women’s movements have the skills, experience, vision, leadership and passion to transform our world through local, national, regional and international solidarity and collaboration, bringing women around the world into the process. Together, we can work towards a just world where the rights of women are respected, valued and realised.

We look forward to that future.

Abi Morgan - writer
Adwoa Aboah - model and activist
Alice Eve - actor
Amanda Mealing - actor
Amika George - activist
Andrea Riseborough - actor and producer
Annie Lennox OBE - Founder of The Circle NGO - Women’s rights advocate and Global Feminist
April de Angelis - playwright
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC - barrister and broadcaster
Baroness Martha Lane-Fox CBE - digital entrepreneur
Bidisha - writer, broadcaster and film-maker
Caitlin Moran - journalist and author
Cara Horgan - actor
Carey Mulligan - actor
Caroline Haworth - Chief Executive Officer, Womankind Worldwide
Caroline Lucas, MP
Charlotte Colbert - artist and filmmaker
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - writer and activist
Clémence Poésy - actor
Coky Giedroyc - film and television director
Dame Emma Thompson DBE - actor and activist
Dame Harriet Walter DBE - actor
Dame Stephanie Shirley CH - entrepreneur and philanthropist
Deborah Frances-White - comedian
Dinah Musindarwezo - activist and policy advocate for women's rights
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE – space scientist and educator
Dr Philippa Gregory - historian
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu - lawyer and women's rights activist
Dua Lipa - singer and songwriter
Emerald Fennell - actor and writer
Emma Watson - actor and activist
Estée Lalonde - content creator, author and podcast host
Farrah Storr - magazine editor
Felicity Jones - actor
Florence Given - illustrator and activist
Gillian Anderson OBE - actor and activist
Hayley Atwell - actor
Indira Varma - actor
Jane Shepherdson CBE - fashion consultant
Jessica Swale - film-maker and playwright 
Jo Brand - comedian and writer
Joanna Vanderham - actor
Justine Roberts - Mumsnet founder
Kanya King CBE - entrepreneur and founder of the MOBO Awards
Keira Knightley OBE - actor
Kelly Marcel - writer and producer
Laura Bailey - model, writer and photographer
Lisa Smosarski - magazine editor
Lolly Adefope - comedian and actress
Maggie Baxter OBE - Womankind Worldwide Chair of Trustees
Meera Syal CBE - actor, comedian and writer
Molly Gunn - founder, Selfish Mother and The FMLY Store
Natalie Gumede - actor
Nicola Walker - actor
Nimco Ali - activist, director and co-founder of Daughters of Eve
Noma Dumezweni - actor
Paloma Faith - singer and songwriter
Phoebe Fox - actor
Pinky Lilani CBE - author and women's advocate
Rakie Ayola - actor
Rebecca Hall - actor
Ruth Negga - actor
Sadie Frost - actor and film producer
Sally El Hosaini - filmmaker
Samantha Barks - actor
Samantha Bond - actor
Sara Pascoe - comedian
Sarah Solemani - actor and writer
Sarah Wood - entrepreneur
Sienna Miller - actor
Sofie Hagen - comedian
Sophie Dahl - author
Thea Sharrock - theatre and film director
Theo Sowa - CEO of the African Women’s Development Fund
Vicky Featherstone - theatre director
Wunmi Mosaku - actor
This open letter originally appeared in the Guardian alongside this article on 8th March 2019 (International Women's Day 2019 ).

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