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Urgent Action Fund

Mission and history


Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights is a global women’s fund that protects, strengthens and sustains women’s human rights activists at critical moments. We intervene quickly when activists are poised to make great gains or face serious threats to their lives and work. Urgent Action Fund’s strategy paves the road for a new type of philanthropy.

   Urgent Action Fund operates two programs:

  • Rapid Response Grantmaking: Activists apply for grants of up to $5,000 USD in any language on any day of the year and are guaranteed a response within 72 hours.
  • Advocacy & Alliance-Building: We leverage the power we have as a funder to advocate for women’s human rights activists.

   Our Mission

What are “women’s human rights defenders”?

Urgent Action Fund supports women’s human rights defenders (or WHRDs) throughout the world. This term “human rights defender” is used by the United Nations and many international organizations to recognize and protect activists who take on some of the most challenging issues in their communities and countries.

According to the United Nations, a human rights defender is someone who acts “to address any human right (or rights) on behalf of individuals or groups. Human rights defenders seek the promotion and protection of civil and political rights as well as the promotion, protection and realization of economic, social and cultural rights.”

The United Nations provided human rights defenders with international recognition and protection through the passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (commonly known as theDeclaration on Human Rights Defenders). The UN General Assembly adopted this document in December 1998 after 14 years of negotiation.

While the United States projects a pro-human rights image to the world, the U.S. often fails to advocate for human rights defenders when they are working in countries with substantial energy resources or that are of geopolitical or military importance to the U.S.

In addition to the challenges human rights defenders face, women’s human rights defenders often face serious backlash not only from government authorities, but also from within their own communities, because they are transgressing traditional gender norms. Furthermore, funding is not prioritized for women’s human rights defenders. Both Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, and theWomen Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC), were founded to provide support and advocacy for women’s human rights defenders. WHRDIC writes: “Those advocating for women’s human rights – no matter what gender or sexual orientation they claim – are in fact human rights defenders. Their gender or the nature of their work has made them the subject of attacks, requiring gender-sensitive mechanisms for their protection and support.”

Urgent Action Fund, as part of women’s rights movements worldwide, supports women’s rights defenders striving to create cultures of justice, equality and peace. We provide Rapid Response Grants that enable strategic interventions, and participate in collaborative advocacy and research. We are led by activists, rooted in feminism, and strengthened through solidarity.