[CALL FOR ARTICLES] BUWA! 2019 theme: Women Human Rights Defenders

BUWA! a journal on African Women’s Experiences


2019 theme: Women Human Rights Defenders


The 2019 issue of BUWA! – our 10th – is focusing on Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs). Across the globe, continent and much more recently in southern Africa, there are increased reports of political violence, arbitrary detentions, systematic attacks on human rights and pro-democracy activists. We are alive to the fact that while all HRDS have increasingly faced tougher operating conditions in the past decade, WHRDs have faced even more multiple layers of the brunt in such a context – given the manner in which patriarchy often colludes with other oppressive systems that characterise the field in which HRDs work.

Buwa! 10, therefore, comes at an opportune time to look back on decades of promoting and defending women’s human rights in Africa. It unpacks the experiences of WHRDs on the continent, highlighting their struggles in a context where civic space is increasingly and systematically closing. The issue unpacks how WHRDs, in particular, have navigated this 70-year-old terrain and the 2 decades of dedicated ‘recognition’ of their commitment to stand in the gap for others. The issue shines the spotlight on WHRDs to understand their struggles, victories and lessons to further shape the terrain in which WHRDs operate.

We invite critical analyses and referenced articles (2000-2500 words); case studies (of around 2000 words), opinion pieces (1500-2000 words); poems; podcasts; vlogs; video stories; songs; photo essays; cartoons; art illustrations; drawings; short films and more! We pay a prorated honorarium of up to US$500 for accepted pieces only.

If you are interested in writing for our readers and being part of the great minds interrogating this topic, please send your work to: buwa@osisa.org as soon as possible. The deadline for submitting articles is Friday, 2 August 2019.

Article Briefs

  1. Conceptual/framing pieces
      1. Definitional and discourse-shaping tensions: Using a feminist lens to critically assess the concept of Women Human Rights Defenders. Who is a WHRD? Are there any minimum standards / requirements or criterion in place to identify WHRDs? Who qualifies and who doesn’t?
      2. The erosion of democracy globally, and implications for those on the frontlines of protecting women’s human rights. With the closing in of Civic spaces and the rampant clamp down in most states across Southern Africa and the continent
      3. The politics of space: safety, and security for Women Human Rights Defenders
      4. Defending Women’s Rights in an unrelenting Patriarchal context/ militarized states: experiences from WHRDs (case studies)
      5. Power, patriarchy and the politics of protection: a reality check– This piece can be a critical analysis of how power is shifting globally (e.g. in terms of states, corporates) global North and South etc. For instance, the state is no longer as powerful as we used to know, and corporates are increasingly wielding power, and there are differentials in experiences of this in the global North and South. Are the current human rights mechanisms and technicalities adequate to guarantee protection of WHRDs in such a context? How are WHRDs building ‘counter power’ and what strategies and tactics are they using in working on the continent and elsewhere on the globe.
      6. Globalisation of the human rights movement and the defence of women’s rights: an opportunity or have the cracks become too wide for WHRDs on the African continent?
        1. What is the state of women’s human rights movements on the African continent? Is there a case to be made about the need for a resurgence of local mobilisation and “bottom up” models? Where are the possibilities for this to take root?
        2. The Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network: A network for WHRDs?
      7. Mapping the terrain on the continent (where are WHRDs located, what are they speaking about, what issues are they making more traction on than others and why? This cluster of articles will track and map the key discourses, the major trends and emerging patterns and trajectory of defending women’s rights on the continent:
        1. Challenging corporate power and experiences (experiences of movements such as land rights; environmental rights; water rights and others in a context of increasing corporate power);
        2. the struggle to legitimise socio-economic rights in a fraternity that has privileged civic and political rights;
        3. the struggle to get the so-called ‘3rd generation’ rights accepted as part of the core agenda of human rights;
        4. youth collectives and defending the rights of youth and unpacking youth movements in the context
        5. Community strategies and models of engagement and harnessing their voice and agency (case studies)
  2. Funding and resourcing for WHRDs: the patterns.
    1. There seems to be a very systematic disempowerment of human rights institutions as well as WHRDs through deprivation of financial resources. This piece focuses on identifying the resources available to WHRD in Southern Africa, the key donors and challenges in accessing funding. How much of the funding meant for human rights defenders has landed in the hands of women human rights defenders on the African continent? This question is against the back drop that research has shown us that funding for women’s rights has been declining (AWID research) especially in the global South
    2. A closer look at the human rights institutions, how they are funded, by who and for what kind of causes? Who is funding what, which issues attract what resources and implications for the various movements defending rights) (e.g. disability rights, LGBTI, environmental rights, indigenous people’s rights etc.)
  3. Laws and legal frameworks: what is the architecture of the global human rights system (i.e. the institutions, instruments, frameworks, power levers etc.) and its adequacy in protecting WHRDs. How are states and other institutions respecting (or not) these national & international instruments & frameworks and the broader global human rights system for the protection of women’s rights. This section calls for case studies with both a national, continental and regional level focus. Key developments to feed into the development of thought pieces could be the African Union’s (AU) decision requiring the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) to revise its criteria for granting and withdrawing observer status for NGOs which mirrors similar attacks on the global human rights system. At national level thought pieces could tap into the closing civic spaces and the enactment of more and more restrictive legislations related to public order, terrorism, online media etc. in countries such as Zimbabwe, Swaziland, DR Congo, Angola, Lesotho, Madagascar and Malawi to control freedoms of expression, association and Assembly.
  4. Support mechanisms: who defends the defenders? What mechanisms are in place globally and continentally to protect HRDs, especially WHRDs in an increasingly repressive environment? How adequate are they and what else can be done to defend the defenders? What mechanisms are in place globally and continentally to protect HRDs, especially WHRDs in an increasingly repressive environment? How adequate are they and what else can be done to defend the defenders?
    1. What is the role of National Human Rights Commissions? How independent are they and are the ones in Southern Africa effectively carrying out their mandate? What measures are they taking to protect and promote WHRDs in the region?
    2. Do created safe houses take into account the needs of WHRDs?
  5. The culture of impunity and implications for apathy, fear and compromise: an analytical piece that sheds light on how the culture of impunity has systematically compromised the nature and vibrancy of WHRDs on the continent.
  6. The politics of self-care and collective wellbeing, and recognizing that what care and wellbeing mean for WHRDs.
  7. Countering the anti-rights propaganda and the dismantling of the global and African human rights mechanisms especially states: strategies and challenges for WHRDs (Case studies).
  8. Technologies for WHRDs? Where is the innovation and with what effect?

Only authors/creators of accepted work will receive a response.