Webinar series: Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights defenders

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a serious global health crisis that has already caused several hundred thousand of deaths worldwide and continues to be a threat to our health and livelihoods. Measures to contain the spread of the virus are vital, but they also bear potential for new risks. In response to this, governments and industry bodies are introducing extraordinary measures to slow down the spread of the virus.

Respect for human rights across the spectrum is central to the public health response’s success. States continue to be duty bearers and to hold obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights. Any restrictions to rights must be temporary, lawful, non-discriminatory, strictly necessary, and proportionate to the threat. They must not outlast the pandemic. Are state security and public safety measures guaranteeing respect for rule of law and upholding human rights?

DefendDefenders and AfricanDefenders will host a series of webinars to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on human rights defenders. We will explore challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic specific to the protection of human rights, freedom of expression, access to information, lawyers and the justice system, human rights defenders in situation of conflict, and women human rights defenders, as well as coping mechanisms.

Webinar 4: Sustainable Human Rights Activism

Webinar 3: Views from Human Rights Experts

Webinar 2: Challenges faced by HRDs (FR)

Webinar 1: Challenges faced by HRDs (EN)

The first webinar was held on Wednesday, 27 May 2020, from 4pm–6pm East Africa Standard Time.


Arnold Tsunga

Fatou Jagne Senghor

Enguday Ashine

AfricanDefenders Steering Committee Member and Chairperson of the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

Steering Committee Member of AfricanDefenders and Executive Director of Article 19 West Africa

Ethiopian Woman Human Rights Defenders Coalition Steering Committee Member

Simon Ndaula

Riad Alakar​

Moderator: Hassan Shire​

Freelance Psychologist and Counsellor

Human Rights Lawyer

Chairperson of African Defenders and Executive Director of DefendDefenders

For any further questions, please contact [email protected].


Human Rights Defender of the month: Esther Tawiah

In Ghana, Esther Tawiah is one of the loudest voices for women empowerment and gender. It is also why she is one of the most loathed. Born and raised in New-Tafo in the country’s eastern region, Esther grew up surrounded by a culture that frowned at the idea of women participating in public affairs, and witnessed firsthand, the backlash those who dared to challenge that cultural norm faced.

“I grew up in a society where ageism and sexism were so entrenched. As a young person, you weren’t supposed to give your opinion on public issues, especially if you were a woman. Women who dared to speak up were caricatured and branded as frustrated, unmarriageable prostitutes, all designed to shut them up,” she says.