With the Marianne Initiative, France is supporting human rights defenders


Launched by the President of the French Republic for Human Rights Day on 10 December 2021, each year the Marianne Initiative for human rights defenders supports the work of women and men working to further human rights all over the world.

Origins of the Marianne Initiative

The Marianne Initiative aims to increase the assistance provided to human rights defenders, both in France and abroad, in collaboration with associations, NGOs, foundations and local government. It is fully in line with the French “human rights and development” strategy and addresses the priorities advocated by France at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

More information on the Marianne Initiative

The Marianne Initiative was a unique and important opportunity for me, because in Turkey, it is not always possible to criticize or express our opinions.

Nurray Simsek, human rights activist

Increasing and optimizing capabilities to defend human rights

Defending human rights is a priority of France’s foreign policy. This commitment can be seen through political and diplomatic actions and is combined with cooperation and support actions on priority issues. Through this initiative, France and its partners aim to increase the capabilities implemented by working more together. That is the purpose of the programme, which has three ambitions.

Internationally, this initiative supports human rights defenders on the ground in their countries working to further fundamental rights and civil liberties. The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is working with civil society organizations and human rights defenders to increase their effectiveness, visibility and protection.

The Marianne Initiative also aims to strengthen France’s effectiveness and coherence by uniting the actors involved with the Marianne Association for Human Rights Defenders, initially supported by the ministerial delegation for the reception and integration of refugees (Diair).

Finally, the Marianne Initiative welcomes about fifteen human rights defenders to France. Each year, an independent selection committee chooses foreign laureates, representing a variety of global regions and types of combat: civil and political rights; the fight against violence; women’s, children’s and LGBTQI+ rights; economic, social and environmental rights. The laureates receive personalized support in a forum for discussions and training, which is open to all actors working for human rights.

Read details of the measures set out by the Élysée

Once back in my country, I would like to put the new skills I have learnt here into practice.

Rhobi Samwelly, founder and director of the Hope for Girls and Women association in Tanzania

The first group was comprised solely of women, highlighting their fundamental role all over the world in furthering human rights, and particularly women’s rights. In this regard, the Prix Marianne award is part of France’s feminist diplomacy.

I will return to Gaza and continue my work and my struggle.

Abier El Masri, research assistant for Human Rights Watch

Portraits of laureates of the 2024 Marianne Initiative

Illust: Enrica Duncan (Brazi, 191.8 kb, 640x959
Enrica Duncan (Brazil)
© Judith Litvine/MEAE

Enrica Duncan is a Brazilian campaigner for women’s rights who is working on the response to gender based violence and the prevention of femicides. She specializes in political science and is the cofounder of Mapa do Acolhimento, an organization that uses collective action to support victims of violence. Mapa do Acolhimento has enlisted over 10,000 volunteers to provide psychological and legal services to survivors of gender-based violence in 1,000 towns and cities across Brazil.

Illust: Vanja Pavlovic (...), 118.3 kb, 640x959
Vanja Pavlovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
© Judith Litvine/MEAE

Vanja Pavlović is a criminal defence lawyer and defender of human rights from Bosnia and Herzegovina. In her work, she focuses particularly on protecting women against domestic, sexual and gender-based violence as well as sexual harassment, defending the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and its members, and protecting journalists and the right to freedom of expression. Vanja works to protect these vulnerable groups by representing victims pro bono, filing legal action against discrimination, defending journalists in defamation cases and collaborating with non-governmental organizations that work to protect human rights.

Illust: Patricia Carolle, 147.3 kb, 640x959
Patricia Carolle Maneng’s Sunday (Cameroon)
© Judith Litvine/MEAE

Patricia Carolle Maneng’s Sunday is a PhD student in international relations and a feminist campaigner working to combat violence against women and girls in areas of conflict. Access to quality education is a central focus of Patricia’s activism, and she has received a number of honours and nominations in Africa for having helped many girls and young women from areas of conflict with educational and economic integration. Patricia founded Girls Empowerment for Leadership Association (GELA) in 2019 with the aim of promoting the empowerment of young women through education, gender equality, the social reintegration of women and female leadership. She organizes activities focusing on prevention, training, support and the discussion of gender-related social issues.

Illust: Elza Valieva (Russia, 127.2 kb, 640x959
Elza Valieva (Russia)
© Judith Litvine/MEAE

Elza Valieva is a Russian human rights lawyer. She works on cases involving subjects such as acts of torture, ill treatment, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions perpetrated by government officials. Elza also works on cases of harassment and assault against defenders of human rights and independent journalists.
Elza pleads cases before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and collaborates with the Special Procedures of the United Nations. She also prepares reports on the human rights situation in Russia for international processes, such as the Universal Periodic Review. After Russia’s exclusion from the Council of Europe, Elza took part in a number of round tables to discuss the means of implementing the ECHR’s judgements against Russia.

Illust: Eman Homaid (Yemen), 171.7 kb, 640x959
Eman Homaid (Yemen)
© Judith Litvine/MEAE

Eman Homaid is a Yemeni woman and the founder and president of the Insaf Centre for Rights and Development . She has a master’s degree in political science and wrote a dissertation on the political participation of minority groups in Yemen. She has been actively engaged in defending the rights of religious and ethnic minorities since 2017, and co-authored the book “Minorities in Yemen: Reality and Challenges”. Eman played an important role in the release of six Baha’is from detainment in 2020 by drawing attention to their situation. She also advocates for Yemeni journalists, particularly those detained by the Houthis. Eman is also committed to the preservation and promotion of Yemeni heritage. She is currently working to support women and fight for their participation in civic life and politics, as well as in peace negotiations.

Illust: Teodomira Rosales, 142.2 kb, 640x959
Teodomira Rosales Sierra (Mexico)
© Judith Litvine/MEAE

Teodomira Rosales Sierra is an Afro-Indigenous lawyer and has been the founder and president of the Centro Regional de Defensa de Derechos Humanos (the regional centre for the defence of human rights) since 1997. She is best known for her work to combat enforced disappearances and internal displacement in the state of Guerrero in Mexico. She assists the families of victims of enforced disappearances with administrative and legal procedures. Teodomira is the co-founder of Mexico’s national collective for enforced displacement and also supports victims of sexual violence by providing them with legal assistance. She also fights for access to drinking water for indigenous communities.

Illust: Daysheelyn Anne (...), 203.8 kb, 640x959
Daysheelyn Anne Brillo (the Philippines)
© Judith Litvine/MEAE

Daysheelyn Anne Brillo is a Filipina educator and lawyer who works for the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) and Friends of the Earth Philippines. The LRC promotes and protects the human rights of indigenous peoples. Daysheelyn Anne works to defend rural communities, training them to document and respond to human rights violations. She advocates for corporate environmental responsibility at the international level, having published a legal study titled “The Global Pursuit for Justice for DBCP-Exposed Banana Farmers”. Daysheelyn Anne also advocates for reforms to guarantee access to justice for victims of human rights violations and environmental disasters.