About DefendDefenders

About Us
DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) seeks to strengthen the work of human rights defenders (HRDs) throughout the East and Horn of Africa sub-region by reducing their vulnerability to the risk of persecution and by enhancing their capacity to effectively defend human rights. We work in Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia/Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

DefendDefenders serves as the secretariat of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, which represents hundreds of members consisting of individual HRDs, human rights organisations, and national HRD coalitions.

Our Vision 
A region in which the human rights of every citizen as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is respected and upheld.

Before DefendDefenders, there were no regional organisation promoting and coordinating the work of human rights defenders in the East and Horn of Africa. In addition to filling this gap, we are also an Africa-based organisation, run by people from the sub-region. In DefendDefenders, many are exiled HRDs themselves. This enable us to fill the gap using the relevant tools, methods, and strategies.

Hassan Shire, Executive Director

How do we protect and promote human rights defenders?

We protect HRDs 
through emergency support, protection grants, relocation programs, and legal support.

We advocate for HRDs
and their work at the UN Human Rights Council and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. 

We build HRDs’ capacity 
in, among other areas, physical and digital security, advocacy, monitoring and reporting, and mental health.

We connect HRDs
and human rights organisations through the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net).

We raise awareness about HRDs in the East and Horn of Africa by conducting in-depth analysis and research, and carry out strategic communications. 

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Our Story

DefendDefenders was established as a regional non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Uganda in 2005, as a result of an extensive field research in the sub-region. The research identified the vulnerability and complex challenges faced by HRDs, and the need for strong structures to promote and protect their work and well-being.

DefendDefenders serves as the secretariat of East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net) representing hundreds of HRDs and human rights organisations. We are also a member of AfricanDefenders (the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network).

DefendDefenders was established based on the following prerequisites:

  • Enhance the collaboration and coordination between human rights organisations in the sub-region;
  • Reduce Resource constraints (notably material), which greatly undermine the effectiveness of the work carried out by HRDs;
  • Enhance knowledge gaps, in particular regarding international human rights instruments and mechanisms, as well as crisis management; and
  • Supplement the efforts of local and national HRDs by the wider international community, especially when attacks on intra-national HRDs are involved, hence the need for systematic protocols for such support.


Observer Status

DefendDefenders holds consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), as well as observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Legal Status
DefendDefenders is registered under Registration No. S.5914/5983 as a NGO under the Non-Governmental Organisations Registration Statute, 1989 of the Republic of Uganda.

DefendDefenders serves as the secretariat of East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net) representing hundreds of HRDs and human rights organisations. We are also a member of AfricanDefenders (the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network).

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net)

DefendDefenders serves as the Secretariat of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net) representing more than 100 HRDs, both individuals and organisations. Together, the network members aim to protect and support HRDs, and to ensure structured coordination and cooperation between human rights actors across the East and Horn of Africa sub-region.

Do you want to become a member of EHAHRD-Net?

AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)

AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network) is the African HRD network dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) across the African continent. AfricanDefenders consist of five African sub-regional organisations, where DefendDefenders in one of them. DefendDefenders also hosts AfricanDefenders at our office in Kampala, Uganda.

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Sign up to Workshop 1: Challenges faced by HRDs