Fighting for what’s right can be dangerous work, especially for women championing human rights in adversity.
In the last year, dozens of female environmental activists, rights advocates, and journalists were killed while working to improve human rights and shed light on abuses, according to the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID).
The group, an international feminist organization and network, recently published a list of all of the female activists who died in 2017. Several female land and environmental defenders were killed in Brazil, the Philippines, and Colombia.
Maria da Lurdes Fernandes Silva, a Brazilian land rights leader, received death threats from landowners after she spoke out against the illegal acquisition of land — she and her husband were shot in their home in July. She was just one of several women silenced this year for speaking up on behalf of the environment and the marginalized communities whose lands are being taken from them.
Earlier in the year, Filipina Mia Manuelita Mascariñas-Green was shot and killed while on her way home with her three children, reportedly because of her work as an environmental lawyer and advocate.
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Following Mascariñas-Green’s murder, Yeb Saño, the Executive Director of Greenpeace in Southeast Asia said, "Those who cause environmental destruction are resorting to savage measures and deplorable acts to stop communities and people who are standing up to protect our imperiled environment and the very ecosystems that support the lives and livelihoods of our people.”
She was murdered because she was doing her job. #JusticeForAttyMia ⚖️ pic.twitter.com/9v6IJWIkUB— Mael Orig (@origmael) February 18, 2017
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While some women died in direct connection with their work, others died as a result of gender-based violence.
A 21-year-old feminist named Micaela García was killed in April. According to Newsweek, the discovery of García’s body 140 miles outside of Buenos Aires prompted thousands to protest gender-based violence.
García herself had participated in the “Ni una menos” movement — meaning “not one less” as in not one less woman — against sexual violence and harassment that has been active in many Latin American countries in recent years, Newsweek reported.
In 2017, a number of human rights advocates lost their lives in Latin America and elsewhere in the world.
Read more: Hundreds Protest Femicide & Gender Violence at ‘Day of the Dead’ Celebration
Two LGBTQ advocates — Jennifer López from Mexico and Sherly Montoya from Honduras — were murdered this spring. According to the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), Montoya was the seventh member of the “Rainbow Association,” a Honduran LGBT right group, to be killed in the last two years.
Syrian activist Orouba Barakat and her daughter, Halla Barakat, tragically made international headlines in September. The two, both journalists, were stabbed to death by a family member in their apartment in Istanbul, Turkey, the New York Times reported. Barakat, who was 60 years old when she was murdered, was a vocal opponent of the Assad regime known for investigating and exposing corruption and injustice.
Halla & Orouba Barakat you’ll never be forgotten and we will keep fighting for your cause.— stephanie (@fridastephanie_) November 4, 2017
Thanks for everything you taught me. pic.twitter.com/v5IErsqq9G
In her notebook, García had written “#VivasNosQueremos” — roughly translating to “we want ourselves alive” or “we [women] want to stay alive” — Buzzfeed reported.
Though these advocates lost their lives, their struggle for the advancement of rights everywhere has not stopped. Their efforts will be continued by the people that survived them.