Skip to content

Women on the front line - fighting for human rights

International human rights defenders hosted by the University of York will perform narratives, poems and conversations inspired by the women who have shaped their lives and human rights work.

Part of York International Women’s Week, ‘Women on the Front Line: Voices of Dissent’, at York Theatre Royal on Saturday 15 March 2014, will involve five human rights defenders from Iran, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Somalia.

  • Jestina Mukoko from Zimbabwe is at the helm of the Zimbabwe Peace Project which uses a unique model to monitor and document politically motivated human rights abuses. 
  • Dilushika Manori Kalugampitiya is a Sri Lankan women human rights defender and journalist, an activist in the civil rights movement Platform for Freedom, as well as the editor of the monthly journal Samabima on human rights and democracy.
  • Yass (not her real name) from Iran is an activist for women’s rights. She has been involved in the One Million Signatures Campaign, a grassroots women's movement in Iran aimed at gathering signatures calling for an end to unequal gender legal rights.
  • Stephen Chukwumah from Nigeria is the Executive Director of the Improved Youth Health Initiative, the only youth led organisation working on sexual health and rights for young people in Eastern Nigeria and led by young people.
  • Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim from Somalia is a journalist who hasreported and documented on a range of rights issues, including abuses against women and children in Mogadishu.

The performances were developed in collaboration with Juliana Mensah, Artist in Residence at the University’s Centre for Applied Human Rights, and will be followed by a question and answer session about the defenders’ work.

The human rights defenders are taking part in the Centre for Applied Human Rights’ Protective Fellowship Scheme for Human Rights Defenders at Risk. This gives activists time away from a difficult environment, as well as educational resources designed to increase their effectiveness and their ability to influence policy and practice when they return home.

As part of York International Women’s Week, Jestina Mukoko and Stephen Chukwumah will also take part in an event at the Mansion House on Friday 14 March.

Hosted by the Lord Mayor of York, Councillor Julie Gunnell, the event ‘Holding Half the Sky’ - which also involves International Service and the University’s Centre for Applied Human Rights - will look at women’s empowerment at home and abroad, and the issue of domestic abuse.

‘Holding Half the Sky: A Celebration of Women’s Work Internationally and in the UK’ will take place at the Mansion House on Friday, 14 March from 5-7.30pm. The event is free but places are limited. Phone 01904 647799 or email for further information.

‘Women on the Front Line: Voices of Dissent’ will take place at York Theatre Royal, St Leonard’s Place on Saturday 15 March from 10.30am to 12.30pm. Tickets cost £5/£2.50 concessions. More information at  or from Sanna Eriksson on 01904 325830. Tickets are available at York Theatre Royal. To book online visit the York Theatre Royal website.

Further information