Programme Areas

Resilience and Capacity Building:

The network designs and implements interventions that strengthen resilience and capacities of HRDs to carry out their human rights work despite associated risks and threats. Interventions focus on a process of continuous and clear appreciation and analysis of the threats that HRDS face measured against the vulnerabilities and capacities that they have, with a clear plan to reduce vulnerabilities while increasing capacities. The resilience and capacity building programing strand aims at increasing HRD’s knowledge of protection tools and mechanisms available to them in Southern Africa. interventions under this programme area are also carried out at the national level to improve the capacity of local networks.  The SAHRDN’s Resilience and Capacity Building activities include trainings on a variety of human rights mechanisms, risk assessment and management for HRDs; cyber (digital) security, systematic human rights data collection and documentation, and other contemporary issues and capacity areas (including human rights and organizational development issues) relevant for HRDs. The SAHRDN also conducts organisational capacity and needs assessment of network members in Southern Africa on an ongoing basis with a dedicated function towards capacity and network building.

Prevention, Protection and Re-integration: 

The network designs and implements rapid, holistic, practical, comprehensive and inclusive 24hr emergency preventive and reactive protection mechanisms for HRDs at high and immediate risk. Its protection mechanisms are devolved, and designed to be effective and gender sensitive.

The Prevention, Protection and Re-integration programme area strengthens rapid response and alert systems at both national and regional levels including working hand in hand with the media, lawyers and doctors for human rights within the region.Activities include flexible and bespoke protection grants for HRDs facing persecution; Fact Finding Missions (FFM) to target countries to investigate threats, assaults, abductions, murders and enforced disappearances threatened or perpetrated against HRDs; Urgent appeals and advocacy alerts for HRDs facing persecution.

Trial Observations, targeting trials with significant impact on the work and protection of HRDs; The SAHRDN also provides emergency legal, medical and psycho-social support; 

Research, Advocacy and Visibility:  

The network systematically identifies and unpacks legal, policy and operational challenges, threats and opportunities for HRDs within the Southern Africa region vis-à-vis the existing AU and UN protection mechanisms to ascertain whether these mechanisms match with the patterns and types of attacks being experienced by HRDs.

The SAHRDN assists HRDs with counter narratives and capacitates them to articulate the positive impact of their work to counter propaganda while increasing the visibility and legitimacy of their work. Activities include: Commissioned researches on HRDs and civic space; mapping of the key HRDs active in Southern Africa; an annual human rights award to a most-at-risk HRD; regular symposia and HRDs meetings to discuss contemporary issues on the situation of human rights defenders across the sub-region.

Facilitating country visits by the AU and UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs and other relevant mechanisms; Facilitating ongoing dialogue and closer collaboration between HRDs and National Human Rights Commissions in Southern Africa; periodic shadow reports on the situation of HRDs to AU and UN mechanisms; Facilitating solidarity of HRDs with one another in Southern Africa.

Through this work, the SAHRDN is continually looking at other collaborators and solidarity partners to increase civic space and make HRD defense more effective and expansive in Southern Africa.