Resilience and capacity development
SouthernDefenders provides demand-driven technical assistance to national (local) coalitions of human rights defenders (HRDs) in Southern Africa. The technical assistance entails conducting local networks capacity assessments, co-creating network strengthening plans, and facilitating scenario-based strategic planning processes. The interventions are designed to increase the resilience and operational effectiveness of local agency as well as to strengthen or help build sustainable, accountable, inclusive, and locally-driven HRD and social justice coalitions and protection networks. Working with local actors and coalitions, SouthernDefenders also works to build the holistic security capacity of grassroots HRDs and civil society activists in Southern Africa, contributing to their empowerment to manage their physical, digital, and psychosocial well-being and to share knowledge and capacity across their networks. Over the past two years, SouthernDefenders assisted in the formation of national platforms for HRDs in Angola, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa.
The activities include but are not limited to trainings on human rights mechanisms, risk assessment and management for HRDs; cyber (digital) security and literacy, systematic human rights and civic space data collection and analysis, documentation, and reporting, and evidence-based advocacy.
To support the new national networks, SouthernDefenders will seek to invest in leadership development at all levels including the regional level. The different layers of leadership that are skilled and capacitated will serve as the bedrock of the organisation’s succession planning.
Together we defend!
Effective holistic protection
SouthernDefenders provides rapid, practical gender-sensitive, and holistic 24-hour protection to HRDs and social justice activists at risk, with clear plans on being responsive to immediate emergency situations. Holistic protection entails providing physical security, digital security as well as psychosocial support and support for a holistic approach to defend their struggles and rights. In the past two years, SouthernDefenders provided protection support to over 300 HRDs at risk, including gender-specific protection for women HRDs.
SouthernDefenders support includes the undertaking of country research, analysis, relationship and partnership building with at-risk HRDs/social justice initiatives, and increasing the provision of effective protection grants. Legal support, medical support, psychosocial assistance, and emergency relocation support were given as well as other support as requested- to HRDs, their families, organizations and movements. In 2018, SouthernDefenders co-founded the Ubuntu Hub Cities Initiative to enable HRDs to be relocated to hub cities in Southern Africa, where they would have access to amenities to continue their work, despite being removed from the context.
Safe but not silent
Research, Advocacy, and Visibility
SouthernDefenders works to increase public recognition and acceptance of HRDs as key development actors. It conducts utilization-focused action research aimed at identifying entry points to improve the situation of human rights defenders and social justice initiatives in the region, with a special focus on the least connected or the most marginalized groups. These include land and environmental rights defenders, women human rights defenders, and the LGBTIQ population. SouthernDefenders shares research products and monitoring reports with key accountability institutions such as the special mandate holders at the AU and UN, and other solution holders. SouthernDefenders also coordinates regional solidarity campaigns aimed at improving the civic space and the situation of HRDs and social justice initiatives (End Impunity campaign, adopt model laws to protect and promote HRDs campaign). The value of information and research lie in its usage, targeted research accompanied by a clear plan for its further usage in advocacy and campaign activities for example will be pursued.