Front Line Defenders Welcomes Deon Haywood to the Dublin Platform in October

This October, WWAV Executive Director, Deon Haywood, will be joining more than 100 human rights defenders from over 80 countries around the world for the Seventh Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders.

In August, the WWAV team had a chance to meet with Caitriona Rice, a protection coordinator for Front Line Defenders. We are grateful to her for this passionate report on the Big Easy and her warm welcome for our upcoming trip to Ireland.

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USA: The Big Easy

Deon Haywood

When we think of cities in the United States we often think of a fast paced life, with lots of people, traffic, noise etc. Not so for NOLA, or New Orleans, Louisiana. The Big Easy comes with a laid back attitude and a quietness that I wasn’t expecting (which could in part be explained by my visiting in August, a traditionally low point of the season for tourism).

While here I have met with human rights defenders and activists working on various different issues, but a common thread throughout all meetings has been that out of view of all the tourists who make it one of the top ten visited cities in the US, there are still incredibly high levels of poverty, unemployment, and police violence. To be young, black and male, or a member of the LGBTQ community increases your chances of falling within each of those demographics.

8 years on from Hurricane Katrina, the storm that caused the failure in the federal levee system and devastated the city, organisations are working with those marginalised communities who were displaced as a result of losing their homes, homes which many were never able to recover. Over 100,000 people remain displaced and the storm has been used as an excuse to eliminate a lot of public housing areas which were seen as ghettos, and to gentrify the city.

Whilst the human rights defenders framework is not used as widely in the US as it is in other regions, many of those working to promote and protect the rights of others are targeted and face many restrictions in carrying out their legitimate work defending human rights. In one such case in New Orleans, in May 2012 the offices of Women With a Vision, Inc. (WWAV) were broken into and set on fire. The worst damage was concentrated in the community organising and outreach office where they stored all the resources used to educate women and communities of colour within Louisiana and elsewhere.

In particular WWAV works with women and communities affected by sex workers rights, drug policy reforms, HIV-AIDS and reproductive justice issues. Despite evidence to suggest that it was an intentional and targeted attack the police closed the file, without informing the organisation, and nobody was ever brought to justice. Front Line Defenders looks forward to welcoming Deon Haywood, Executive Director of Women With a Vision to the Dublin Platform in October.

Caitriona Rice is a protection coordinator for Front Line Defenders

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