Human Rights First Lauds Three Exceptional Women Nominated for the 2020 Martin Ennals Award

For Immediate Release: November 26, 2019
Contact: Chloé Bitton, Communications Manager, Martin Ennals Foundation
[email protected]

New York –  Human Rights First welcomed the announcement today that three exceptional women are the finalists for the 2020 Martin Ennals Award, evidence that women around the world are leading the way on defending and protecting human rights.

  • In Yemen, Huda Al-Sarari has exposed and challenged the existence of secret prisons and many cases of torture.
  • In Mexico, Norma Ledezma is fighting against femicides and disappearances.
  • In South Africa, Sizani Ngubane is fighting for access for women to education and to land.

“Huda, Norma, and Sizani are exceptional in the courage they have taken to fight human rights abuses and at the same time they are not exceptions at all – in three very different parts of the world there are women who stand up for rights and work to create accountability for abuse,” said Brian Dooley of Human Rights First. “We welcome their nomination and are glad that their selfless work is being recognized on an international level.”

Each year, the Martin Ennals Award rewards human rights defenders from around the world who distinguish themselves by their strong commitment to promoting human rights – often at the risk of their own lives. In 2020, for the first time the Jury nominated three women who defend the fundamental rights of their communities in sensitive contexts.

In Yemen, where the conflict has been ongoing since 2005, Huda Al-Sarari, a Yemeni lawyer, unveiled the existence of several secret detention centers where the worst violations of human rights were committed: torture, disappearances or even extrajudicial executions.

In South Africa, women face discrimination, the worst expression of which is widespread gender violence. In rural communities, they frequently have their land expropriated and are deprived of access to education and justice. Sizani Ngubane founded an organization of more than 50,000 women from rural areas in her country and has fought successfully for over 40 years for the recognition of their rights.

In Mexico, the civil population is paying a high price for the weakness of the rule of law which underpins widespread violence and impunity. Women are the primary victims, with more than 3,500 femicides committed each year. Norma Ledezma, who is the mother of one of the victims, puts all her energy into supporting families seeking access to justice in the state of Chihuahua.

The 2020 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders will be presented to one of the finalists on 19 February during a ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva which, as part of its commitment to human rights, has for many years supported the award.

Human Rights First is an independent advocacy and action organization that challenges America to live up to its ideals. For 40 years the organization has worked to press the U.S. government and private companies to respect human rights and the rule of law. When they fail, Human Rights First steps in to demand reform, accountability and justice. Human Rights First is based in New York, Washington D.C., Houston, and Los Angeles.


Published on November 26, 2019


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