“The drop of water breaks the earth not because of its strength but because of its persistence.”
The Right to Defend: Portraits of Resilience, Hope and Solidarity is a story-telling project celebrating the work of human rights defenders. This project was born in September 2018 when PBI UK Director Susi Bascon and independent photographer and filmmaker Manu Valcarce travelled to Colombia to meet human rights defenders and record their stories. Inspired by their wisdom, they realised the importance of sharing their work with the world. Since then, they have travelled to Mexico, Honduras and Kenya and gather over 100 interviews with human rights defenders from all walks of life.

Hear the stories of ordinary people taking a stand against injustice: community leaders fighting to protect collective land rights against mining companies; women struggling for gender equality; human rights lawyers risking their own safety to defend the rights of activists. All too often, governments and the media portray human rights defenders as criminals or obstacles to development. Stigmatisation undermines the credibility of their work, leaving them vulnerable to attacks and internment in countries where impunity remains a norm.

This project will challenge these depictions by honouring the resilience, hope and solidarity of human rights defenders. It aims to counter narratives that put them in danger by publicly celebrating their work. The project will validate their essential and often invisible contribution to the defence of human rights, and will galvanise much-needed profile, support and solidarity for the important work they do in support of vulnerable members of their communities.​​​​​​​
Human rights are upheld through solidarity. Defenders of these rights stand shoulder to shoulder with one another and their communities to give them the support they need to survive. We are constantly inspired by stories of mutual aid and unity from Nicaragua to Nepal, and want to share them with the rest of the world. In moments of crises, we would do well to reach out to one another in the same way.

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The resilience of the people we work with never ceases to amaze us. As community representatives, defenders are constantly amplifying the voices of those denied a platform. They exude relentless optimism in their struggle for a better world, channelling their suffering and frustration into the passion that fuels their work. We could all learn from these beacons of resilience; individuals, communities and organisations proving time and again that their commitment to social change will outlast any setbacks they encounter.

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Pervading their struggle is a sense that things can get better. They envisage a world where human rights norms are respected, peace is a given, and people of all backgrounds are treated equally. Everyone has their own idea about what a truly just world would look like, and human rights defenders are fighting to make it a reality. Their work is laying the groundwork for fairer societies based on respect, tolerance and the inclusion of all voices.

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Check out all human rights defenders

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