There is no doubt that 2016 has had its share of emotionally charged and nerve-racking moments. However, reflecting back on this year is bringing a strong sense of déjà vu. I do not remember a year in the recent past where we did not sigh with relief at its approaching end. Nor do I remember a year that ended without a number of key defining moments for women’s human rights movements around the world—good moments and bad ones.
Two thoughts in particular come to mind when reflecting back on what 2016 has made clear to us for women’s human rights worldwide.
First, the power of the collective, which was so strongly demonstrated every time feminists came together to practice solidarity with targeted women human rights defenders. We have experienced this strength numerous times, such as in the case of Nepalese WHRDs and domestic workers Rose Limbu and Sujana Rana; Egyptian WHRDs Mozn Hassan, Azza Soliman, and Aida Seif el Dawla; Maria Chin Abdullah from Malaysia; Ghada Jamsheer from Bahrain; Ruth Mumbi in Kenya and many, many others. While the urgency of these different situations has meant a need to focus on the defenders under attack, it is crucial to acknowledge and be grateful to all those whose names remain outside of the public realm, and without whose voices, courage, presence, and efforts, the collective would not have been one.
Second, how we have witnessed over and over again that there simply is no such thing as rock bottom. How many times have we said that this is it, that we have hit rock bottom, only to realize that there was more to the story that lay ahead? We have come to realize that what was ahead of these difficult moments were many uplifting moments that served as proof of our resilience. The truth is not that we are sinking deeper into new lows, but rather that the realities in which women human rights activists around the world are working are in fact changing. As the movements grow in strength, so do their opponents.
And so, may we learn to grow in strength, resilience, and collectiveness in the year ahead.
With all good wishes for a Happy New Year 2017,
Freedom from Violence