This post was first published by DefendDefenders
The spread of the COVID-19 virus and subsequent lockdowns in many countries all over the world have created fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Normal life has been interrupted for most people, creating stress and exacerbating mental health issues. Human rights defenders (HRDs) are not spared, especially as we continue to witness and hear about human rights violations and abuses in the enforcement of health directives and guidelines in various countries. Self-care is often the last thing on the minds of frontline human rights defenders, making them particularly vulnerable to negative emotions and health complications. Especially pre-existing conditions like hypertension or depression, can easily intensify during periods of lockdown and/or quarantine, where coping mechanisms, such as going to work, social networking (clubs, places of worship), recreational places or sports, may not be possible. Self-care is a crucial element in making activism sustainable, therefore, DefendDefenders prioritizes the well-being of human rights defenders.
Part of DefendDefenders’ core mandate is to ensure the security, safety, and psychosocial wellbeing of human rights defenders in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region. Therefore, we have declared June 2020 as the month of HRD mental well-being. During this month, DefendDefenders will focus on highlighting the organisation’s work regarding well-being, and sharing the knowledge, skills, and experiences of HRDs. We will post profiles and testimonies of HRDs, videos and tips, and every Friday, DefendDefenders will host a Zoom session for specific groups of HRDs. We will end the month of mental well-being on Friday, 26 June, with a webinar open to the public on HRD well-being. More info on this will follow soon, but go ahead and save the date!