State actors are main perpetrators of women’s human rights violations in Asia and the Pacific

28 August 2018


Different actors are involved in human rights violations committed against human rights defenders, but based on Urgent Action Fund - Asia & Pacific’s (UAF A&P) recent bi-annual data analysis, state actors are the main perpetrators of violations against women and non-binary human rights activists in the Asia and Pacific regions.

UAF A&P initiated its Rapid Response Grant-making (RRG) programme from within the regions in January of this year. Approximately eighty (80) women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and organisations in the two regions have accessed UAF A&P grants. This was for the period of January to June of 2018, with analysis further revealing that other parties infringing on women’s rightsdefence work are non state actors including extreme fundamentalists.

Members of the Urgent Action Fund, Asia & Pacific team at their mid-year retreat in the Philippines in July this year.

“Our region continues to be a harsh and cruel place to live in, if you are a woman or non-binaryhuman rights defender. What’s worse is, that the very people or institutions that have anobligation under the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, to ensure protection and safety, areperpetrators of human rights abuse,” remarked Virisila Buadromo, one of UAF A&P’s two Co-Leads.

UAF A&P’s Rapid Response Grants provide urgent and immediate protection and support towomen and non-binary human rights defenders or, organisations that face risk in their advocacy to uphold human rights. At the end of six months of grant making in the regions, UAF A&P’s reporthighlighted that South East Asia continues to have the largest number of grant recipients. These grants were specifically disbursed to activists in Indonesia and the Philippines, largely reflective of the authoritarian policies that are shrinking civil society spaces within these two countries duringthis period and, the push back on women’s human rights activism within this sub-region. In the Pacific, Papua New Guinean activists whose work on the intersect of violence against women and land rights, top the list of Pacific applications. Other countries from which grant applications are being sent, include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Samoa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and, Timor Leste.

There are currently two types of grants. The Security and Well-being Grant is available to women and non-binary human rights defenders and organisations in order to respond to their urgent needs for security and well-being. This grant is intended for a person or organisation experiencinga threat or in case of emergency, crisis or risk due to their defence of women’s rights and humanrights. It is also available for counselling, treatment for trauma or medical assistance. The Resourcing Resilience Grant is available to defenders and organisations, who, on their own or in collaboration with others, seek to implement an initiative, including an unanticipated opportunity, that would contribute towards resourcing resilience for women’s human rights activism. So far,eighty (80) percent of grant applications to UAF A&P have been requested for security and well-being while the other twenty (20) percent for WHRDs seeking to implement strategies for resilience.

The main crises identified by grantees, according to data gathered between January and June, 2018, are gender-based violence; attacks on life, bodily and mental integrity; physical and psychological deprivation of liberty; attacks against personhood and reputations as well as; legal provisions and practices restricting social, political and economic justice for women and non-binary WHRDs.

Activists in Asia and Pacific countries, become more and more vulnerable to the escalatingopposition against women’s human rights defenders and it grows increasingly evident that global trends have had both positive and debilitating effects on human rights activism, with UAF A&P specifically focussing on the latter concern. Recent civil society reports1 show that funding towomen’s rights organisations has fallen by more than half over the past five years, despite studiessuggesting that the work of such groups brings the greatest long-term improvement to women’slives, which, in turn, has greater impacts on families and communities.

“It is with this in mind, that UAF A&P endeavours to exist in the spaces and within the critical moments that regional WHRDs need urgent response – when their lives are at risk or their activism hindered by circumstances that affect their defence of women’s human rights. We aim to providesome ‘breathing room’ or place of respite, where WHRDs in pressing times, can retreat, rejuvenate, heal and return to their activism,” Ms Buadromo added.

UAF A&P applies an intersectional and multigenerational approach to our RRG Programme whilstapplying feminist principles of care in grants disbursement. “The approach of feminist care to theRRG Programme allows UAF A&P to pay attention to WHRDs holistic experiences from daily struggles in their communities to economic instabilities, political and military upheavals and alsoextreme fundamentalism. The proponent of feminist care we hope is itself remedial,” clarified MsBuadomo. Current grantees of UAF A&P are WHRDs from countries in both Asia and, the Pacific, with various socio-economic backgrounds, representing diverse communities in both rural andurban settings and who are also working with women’s rights activists of all ages on practicalmodels and strategies for security, well-being and resilience.



For more information about Urgent Action Fund - Asia & Pacific or, to make a donation and help fund these courageous women and non binary activists, please contact

To read about our Grants Criteria and access our Rapid Response Grants, please visit

1 Source: A review of financial support given by major donor countries, conducted by Gendernet, a subsidiary body of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights Asia and Pacific (UAF A&P)