The Bertha Justice Initiative facilitates a global network
of public interest law centers that unites for protection
and support of its lawyers.
In a global context of increasing threats to
human rights defenders, and with disproportionate
levels of risk to women, one way that the Bertha
Justice Network has united in solidarity is for
the protection of its female members.
Specifically, the network responded to security
threats in Mexico against Alejandra Ancheita,
the founder of el Proyecto de Derechos Económicos,
Sociales y Culturales, A.C (PRODESC),
a Bertha Justice partner organization.

In Mexico, where ProDESC is based,
violence against women has increased
by over 400 percent since 2008.

An average of 7 women are violently killed every
day, but police routinely refuse to investigate
and prosecute crimes against women committed
by armed groups.
Indigenous and environmental rights are also
routinely violated by international corporations,
often with support of the government.
Human rights defenders and lawyers who
investigate murders, disappearances,
and abuses against indigenous communities
and workers are seen as threats to the state.
Mexico ranks among the most dangerous
countries in the world to defend human rights.
Mexican rights activists and lawyers face
death threats, intimidation, detention,
violent attacks, judicial harassment,
and murder.
In particular, land rights campaigners and
women who advocate for the rights of others
face incredibly severe, life-threatening risks.
Alejandra Ancheita is both.

Alejandra Ancheita founded ProDESC
to unite the strategies of the labor
movement and the human rights movement.

She is a Mexican lawyer and activist fighting
for the rights of Mexico's most marginalized
and victimized groups.
ProDESC fights for the prioritization of
human rights in a severe climate
of impunity and violence.
The organization investigates crimes against
and advocates on behalf of migrants, workers,
women, and indigenous communities in Mexico.
ProDESC integrates community education
and organizing, human rights litigation,
corporate research, and policy advocacy,
fighting for justice and structural change.

ProDESC's work includes:


to defend their territory and their right to free, prior,
and informed consent in relation to the construction
of wind farms by transnational companies.


who travel to the United States on temporary visas
and who are regularly the victims of recruitment fraud and
conditions of forced labor.


whose rights are being infringed upon by a
Canadian mining company in Durango, among

The Martin Ennals Award for Human
Rights Defenders is considered
“the Nobel Prize for human rights.”

The award was created in 1993 to honor and
protect individuals around the world who
demonstrate exceptional courage in defending
and promoting human rights.
Representatives of ten human rights
organizations select the award winner
each year.

Members of the Jury include:











The leaders of the Bertha Justice Initiative
and the European Center for Constitutional
and Human Rights (ECCHR), with endorsement
from other members of the Bertha Justice Network,
nominated Alejandra for the Martin Ennals Award
for Human Rights Defenders, which she
received in 2014.
The award is recognition of both the
importance of her work and the incredible
risks ProDESC faces.
Since receiving the award, Alejandra says
there has been a marked decrease in the
number of threats and surveillance she and
other ProDESC staff face.

Together, we discussed what we, as her international colleagues, could do to support her work and protect her: Alejandra has suffered death threats and a concerted campaign of vilification because of the work she has been doing with ProDESC, a Bertha Justice Initiative partner organization, with migrants, workers, and indigenous communities in Mexico.”

Wolfgang Kaleck, Founder and Executive Director of ECCHR
on his decision to support the nomination of Alejandra for the award

She is also one of the pioneers in seeking accountability for transnational companies in Mexican courts when local communities' rights are not taken into account.”

Alejandra Ancheita claims 2014 Martin
Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders
Amnesty International Website News
Section - 7 October 2014

Alejandra Ancheita, a human rights attorney from Mexico, has been living with threats against her life and her family's life in recent years. And while the threats have been transformative, they have also been empowering.”

Mexican attorney receives top
human rights defender award
from UN Human Rights Website News
Section - May 30, 2014

The Bertha Justice Initiative facilitates
a global network of human rights
and movement lawyers.

The Bertha Justice Network's member
organizations unite for protection and
support of their lawyers - particularly
women, who face disproportionate threats
to their security.

As it did for Alejandra, the network submits joint
award nominations for lawyers at risk and issues
collective statements of solidarity.
Bertha Justice Fellows and lawyers at Bertha
Justice partner organizations have also
responded to unique gender-based challenges
faced by women human rights defenders by
organizing and initiating the
Women's Working Group.
The working group was initiated in 2014 and
serves as a forum for women human rights
defenders to share their gender related
struggles and strategies, as well as
their visions for the future.
The Women's Working Group published a collection
of letters and poems that convey how women in
the network understand feminism, apply it in
their legal work, align it with their political
vision, and live it in their personal lives.
Coordinated by a Bertha Justice Fellow Alumna
at the Center for International Law in the
Philippines, and with funding from Bertha
Foundation, the Women's Working Group continues
to be a support mechanism for women in the
Bertha Justice Network.

It is too easy when working in the field of human rights, dealing with cases of torture or rape or with clients unjustly detained, to ignore our own experience of discrimination as being relatively unimportant.”

From: Unbowed – A collection of
letters and poems by women of
the Bertha Justice Initiative

It is ok to be different.

It is ok to be strong.

It is ok to be soft-spoken.

It is ok to be loud.

It is ok to be you.”

From: Unbowed – A collection of
letters and poems by women of
the Bertha Justice Initiative

You know as well as I that defending human rights is not a job, but a choice of life. But how to do it without sacrificing other aspects of our lives: our families, our personal growth, our health? This is not an easy exercise, we are amongst many women who fail to find this balance. We obtain legal victories and protect others, but are unable to secure our own physical and spiritual wellbeing.”

From: Unbowed – A collection of
letters and poems by women of
the Bertha Justice Initiative

You want me low.
I am high

You want me gone.
I am everywhere

You want me alone.
I am multiplying

You want me quiet.
I am telling the world

You want me scared.
I am looking for you ”

From: Unbowed – A collection of
letters and poems by women of
the Bertha Justice Initiative

Inasmuch as we work together to bring positive change in society, it is never a bad thing to examine ourselves to see if change needs to happen within our ranks. Inasmuch as we want to change the world, we ourselves must change. We are all products of the societies we grew up in - as much as I am a victim of the patriarchal structure of our culture, you are too.”

From: Unbowed – A collection of
letters and poems by women of
the Bertha Justice Initiative

The Women's Working Group continues to
be a support mechanism for women in the
Bertha Justice Network.

The solidarity that came out of this initiative is so genuine that it has not only empowered us as professionals, but it has also inspired our respective personal paths. This has been a very cherished experience for me. I can only hope that the group extends its reach to more and more individuals.”

Claire Tixeire, Director of Education Program
at European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights

The Women's Working Group is a reflection of the desire of women lawyers from all around the world to continue to create safe spaces for themselves and for more women who wish to work in the field of human rights. The WWG was a fellow driven initiative. It is wonderful that Bertha continues to support it.”

Ethel Avisado, Be Just Fellow Alumna at Center
for International Law and 2016-17 Coordinator
at Women's Working Group

International solidarity is so very important, not just to show the government we have support abroad, but to counteract the campaigns aimed at defaming us, and at separating human rights defenders from the communities we work with.”

Alejandra Ancheita, founder and Executive Director
at The Project of Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights