On 21 January 2020, ProtectDefenders.eu organised the conference "Women human rights defenders, at the forefront of environmental preservation", co-hosted by MEP and vice-chair of DROI Subcommittee Ms. Hannah Neumann and MEP and member of FEMM and ENVI Committees Ms. Soraya Rodríguez. This conference featured the testimonies of Cristina Palabay and Milena Florez, two environmental WHRD from the Philippines and Colombia, and high-level speakers from the European Commission, and it was chaired by Liliana De Marco, executive director of Protection International – a member of the Consortium of ProtectDefenders.eu.
Milena Florez and Cristina Palabay shared their testimony of resilience and their strategies to overcome the particular struggles they face as women defending rights in very oppressive contexts. "In Colombia, when megaprojects arrive in our territories, they find us there as women who are leading the struggle. Our goal is to defend life, and it concerns us all", Florez said.
As explained by MEP Hannah Neumann in her keynote, "the number of environmental defenders killed and under attack is ever-growing, but things get even worse when you are a woman and dare to speak up. We need to walk the extra mile to protect women human rights defenders". MEP Soraya Rodríguez noted that ·silence is the greatest accomplice of violence. That is why we need to give voice and power to women who defend human rights, also here in the European Parliament, and doing so with a gender perspective is essential."
Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) safeguarding environmental rights are a fundamental pillar in the protection of their communities and the environment and natural resources for future generations. However, they are confronted with an unprecedented scale of persecution and repression. It is time to strengthen the visibility on the situation and challenges faced by WHRDs and to act to offer better protection and create a more favorable environment for their work in the years to come.