EU Foreign Affairs ministers meet Women Human Rights Defenders in Helsinki

EU: Foreign Affairs ministers meet Women Human Rights Defenders in Helsinki

To mark the start of the ‘Gymnich’ meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers in Helsinki, where ministers will meet Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) from around the world, Amnesty International has called on delegates to commit to greater protections for these inspirational women.

The meeting comes at a time when people defending rights, particularly women, are facing increasing threats around the world, including inside the European Union. Among those attending is Maria Teresa Rivera, a WHRD from El Salvador, who is campaigning for abortion rights after she spent four years in prison for suffering a miscarriage.

Eve Geddie, Director of the Amnesty International European Institutions Office, said:

“Women activists and campaigners from around the world risk their safety and even their lives every day to defend their bodies, their rights, their land and their communities. By meeting with Women Human Rights Defenders, EU Ministers are showing these women that the EU stands with them.
“Women who defend human rights are strong. But they face specific risks, including gender-based violence, threats, harassment and defamation campaigns on top of the other risks which rights defenders anyway face. Today ministers must commit to prioritizing all human rights defendersand in particular women, and the issues they work on, in all of their foreign policy discussions.”

Maria Teresa Rivera, from El Salvador, said: 

“I have a responsibility to defend the rights of the women and I must stand up to that commitment. The reason I speak out, is not so that people know who I am, but so they know what is happening. Our work as human rights defenders must be protected and the EU must stand up for us.”

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Amnesty International press office on [email protected] +32 2 548 27 73 or +32 483 680 812


Amnesty International will organize an event in Helsinki ahead of the Gymnich meeting which takes place from 09:30-14:30 on Thursday 29 August, at which four Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) from different regions will speak about their experiences.

Journalists can register for the event here.

On Friday 30 August, after the Ministerial meeting, Women Human Rights Defenders have been invited to a lunch with ministers.

June 2019 marked the 15th anniversary of the EU’s HRD guidelines. In September, Amnesty International will launch a report on the implementation of the EU HRD Guidelines in China, Russia, Burundi, Honduras and Saudi Arabia.