It has been only a few weeks since I joined the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, but I have already had the privilege of listening to and learning from dozens of inspiring people from around the world. Community members impacted by development projects, women’s rights and environmental activists, representatives of civil society organizations and grassroots movements: people from all walks of life, but who are sharing the same commitment and values. We all believe in social justice, we all care about our planet, we all fight for human rights. These people – and what they stand up for – are the reason I joined the Coalition.
Through my role as the Coalition’s Communications Lead, I am hoping to help amplify our members’ and partners’ voices, to further strengthen the connections and collaboration between them, and for us to explore together new communications strategies to advocate for a human rights approach to development.
Before I took up this position, I worked for over four years with Front Line Defenders, a non-governmental organization that provides support to human rights defenders at risk, and which is a member of the Coalition and partner in the Defenders in Development campaign. In 2017, I helped set up “In Difesa Di”, a network in Italy, my home country, that brings together over 40 organizations and advocates for the protection of human rights defenders. Throughout these years, I also worked as a freelance journalist and last year I published the book “Non Chiamatemi Eroe” (Altreconomia), a collection of 15 stories of defenders and communities who struggle for human rights around the world.
The activists and community leaders I met during these years have shared with me their fears, their worries, their harrowing accounts about the risks they face as retaliation for their work. But most of all, they have shared with me their hopes, their dreams, their incredible stories of courage and victories despite the odds. They have been – and they continue to be – an endless source of inspiration, and they have changed my way of thinking, living and looking at the world.
What has always struck me the most in meeting defenders from different parts of the world is that even though the contexts where they live might be completely different, their stories also have many commonalities. When an indigenous woman defender from the Ecuadorian Amazon met a community in southern Italy that is protesting against a gas pipeline, during a visit I helped organise, there was no need – from either side – to explain why they were defending their land, what they were standing for, or why they were being criminalized and accused of being “anti-development”. Different contexts, but same issues. And the same determination to fight and to make their voices heard.
This is why the work that the Coalition does – bringing people together, offering a platform to share strategies and resources, help build relationships among our members, partners and beyond – is absolutely crucial. A lone voice may get lost in this noisy world or silenced by those who don’t accept any criticism or dissent. But the collective voices of all the communities, movements, defenders and organizations that make up the Coalition are loud and strong, and impossible to silence.
This is why I joined the Coalition. We would love to learn from our members and partners why you joined and work with the Coalition! Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact Lorena Cotza – Communications Lead for the Coalition for Human Rights in Development – you can write her at: email@example.com