Women’s rights – the fabric that makes a defender

Monday, March 2, 2015
The Human Rights Defenders tapestry is part of the Museum’s “Rights Today” gallery. It features several stories about remarkable women.

Gender inequality and violence against girls and women remain key issues in the struggle for human rights in Canada and around the world. Dozens of powerful stories about the past, present and future of women’s rights can be found throughout the Museum. In the Rights Today gallery where I act as lead researcher-curator, you’ll find a human rights defender tapestry made of fabric, video screens and artifacts running all along one wall. It includes the stories of some truly amazing women who are confronting gender inequality, violence and discrimination on a daily basis. The following are five of the 19 stories you’ll find there.



A museum exhibit with video screen, artifacts and fabric panels.
An exhibit about Huberte Gautreau (in video screen) is one of eight interactive multimedia productions in the rights defenders tapestry.


“When people ask me why I campaign for the rights of women, I tell them that it is because women as a group suffer the most from discrimination.”

Huberte Gautreau is a Francophone Acadian from New Brunswick who has spent her life fighting for the rights of women and communities at home and around the world as a nurse, educator and activist. She tackles issues such as poverty, violence, health and gender equality. 


A glass case featuring an African sculpture of a woman, passports and a medal.
Artifacts loaned to the Museum by Gautreau, including her Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case. The African sculpture inspires her to keep fighting for women’s rights.



“We dream of a society where women can enjoy their dignity.” 

Justine Masika Bihamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo leads a group called “Synergie des Femmes pour les victimes de violences sexuelles” which supports women who have been victimized by sexual violence and works for equality between women and men.


A group of women talking
This photo of Bihamba and a group of women is featured in the Museum’s exhibit. Photo by Pierre-Yves Ginet



“There are still mainstream voices telling girls to be compliant.... But we are also witnessing tremendous change led by individual girls who are creating their own revolution.”

Lydia Cacho Ribeiro is an investigative journalist in Mexico who has become a passionate advocate for girls and women who have survived violence and abuse. Despite frequent death threats, she has worked to expose human trafficking and other crimes against girls and women.


“We are in grave need of Indigenous leaders, especially female leaders, who know how to defend the rights of their people.” 

Hilaria Supa Huamán is an Indigenous leader in Peru who overcame poverty and abuse to become a powerful voice for her people, speaking for the rights of women and rural communities. 


“I am here to speak out for the right of education of every child.”

Malala Yousafzai is a young Pakistani woman who defends children’s right to education, particularly girls who still face many obstacles today. Her campaign for education for all girls has been embraced worldwide and she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. She has persisted despite harsh opposition and an attempt on her life.


A woman at a microphone
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

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