ZLHR Statement on International Women Human Rights Defenders Day

ZLHR Statement on International Women Human Rights Defenders Day


ON International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (IWHRDD), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) joins the rest of the world in celebrating achievements and contributions by women who defend human rights and are on the frontline of the movement to protect and promote human rights.

Commemorated on 29 November, IWHRDD celebrates women’s activism in defending human rights around the world, recognises the growing role that women play in defending human rights and also encourages all stakeholders to protect WHRDs.

On IWHRDD, ZLHR salutes women human rights defenders (WHRDs) across the world and in Zimbabwe who, because of their tireless efforts, have contributed to creating an environment where the general populace can enjoy and exercise their human rights.

For working and committing to protect and promote human rights, WHRDs often face harassment, discrimination and violence in private and public spheres,  arbitrary arrest, detention, prosecution and persecution.

In Zimbabwe, WHRDs are not spared as both state and non-state actors seek to roll back the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

At a time of the imposition of disruptive national lockdowns, there has been increased attempts to silence WHRDs as a result of their advocacy or their gender or for challenging gender norms and contesting the patriarchal culture.

This leaves WHRDs subjected to gender-specific and sexual violence and intimidation including threats against their families which are meant to force them to abandon their critical work of advancing human rights and justice. WHRDs have been subjected to heinous treatment such as torture, assault, abductions, arbitrary arrest including prolonged pre-trial detention. They have also been subjected to character assassination  including on social media.

It is imperative to recognise that the full and complete development of a nation, improvement in welfare and maintenance of peace, requires the participation of women on equal terms with men in all spheres.

It is saddening to note that the public and political participation of women in society has been curtailed by discriminatory practices, gender stereotypes and some obstacles which include misogynistic attacks, lack of protection and access to justice, gender-based violence and lack of support to women defenders’ participation in political and public life.

ZLHR reminds government that it has a primary and critical obligation to create and nurture an enabling environment for all WHRDs and all human rights defenders and to protect them from threats and attacks.

On this IWHRDD, ZLHR calls upon both state and non-state actors to;


  • Stop criminalising the legitimate work and actions of WHRDs.
  • Deepen and resolutely support and recognise WHRDs by strengthening protection mechanisms and ensuring an enabling environment for their work.
  • Promptly investigate the intimidation, violence, threats and other abuses against WHRDs.
  • Cease promulgation of laws such as the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill which hinder WHRDs from executing their legitimate work and enact legislative and administrative provisions that facilitate carrying out of their work.
  • Develop measures that are necessary to ensure the protection of WHRDs which integrate a gender perspective in order to create a safe and supportive environment for the defence and promotion of human rights.


Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
Kodzero/Amalungelo House
No. 103 Sam Nujoma Street, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263 8677005347, +263 242 764085/705370/708118
Email: info@zlhr.org.zw