Three exceptional women nominated for the 2020 Martin Ennals Award

Three exceptional women –  Huda Al-Sarari, Norma Ledezma and Sizani Ngubaneare the finalists for the 2020 Martin Ennals Award, a demonstration of the leading position now occupied by women in the defence of human rights. The ICJ is member of the MEA Jury.

In Yemen, Huda Al-Sarari has exposed and challenged the existence of secret prisons and many cases of torture.

In Mexico, Norma Ledezma is fighting against femicides and disappearances.

In South Africa, Sizani Ngubane is fighting for access for women to education and to land.

Three women nominated: a first

Each year, the Martin Ennals Award rewards human rights defenders from around the world who distinguish themselves by their strong commitment to promoting human rights – often at the risk of their own lives.

In 2020, for the first time the Jury nominated three women who defend the fundamental rights of their communities in sensitive contexts.

“The Martin Ennals Foundation is proud to recognize the courageous work of three women. For the 2020 edition, our Jury’s choice reflects the ever-greater global impetus of individuals – whatever their gender – who are committed to respect for human rights and women’s rights in particular,” said Isabel de Sola, Director of the Martin Ennals Foundation.

“The finalists for the 2020 Martin Ennals Award work on different continents, but all three have in common their resilience, determination, a tremendous rigour and, finally, the positive and concrete impact of their work,” added Hans Thoolen, Chairman of the Jury.

In Yemen, where the conflict has been ongoing since 2005, Huda Al-Sarari, a Yemeni lawyer, unveiled the existence of several secret detention centres where the worst violations of human rights were committed: torture, disappearances or even extrajudicial executions.

In South Africa, women face discrimination, the worst expression of which is widespread gender violence. In rural communities, they frequently have their land expropriated and are deprived of access to education and justice. Sizani Ngubane founded an organization of more than 50,000 women from rural areas in her country and has fought successfully for over 40 years for the recognition of their rights.

In Mexico, the civil population is paying a high price for the weakness of the rule of law which is underpins widespread violence and impunity. Women are the primary victims, with more than 3,500 femicides committed each year. Norma Ledezma, who is the mother of one of the victims, puts all her energy into supporting families seeking access to justice in the state of Chihuahua.

The finalists were selected by a jury made up of representatives of ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations: the ICJ, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line Defenders, EWDE Germany, International Service for Human Rights and HURIDOCS.

The 2020 Martin Ennals Award will be given to one of the three finalists on 19 February 2020 at a livestreamed public ceremony. The event is hosted by the City of Geneva which, as part of its commitment to human rights, is a longstanding supporter of the Award.


Olivier van Bogaert, Director Media & Communications, ICJ representative in the MEA Jury, t: +41 22 979 38 08 ; e: olivier.vanbogaert(a)

Chloé Bitton, Communications Manager, Martin Ennals Foundation, t +41 22 809 49 25 e: cbitton(a)

Universal-MEA2020bios-News-2019-ENG (full bios of finalists, in PDF)

Universal-MEA2020bios-News-2019-ARA (full story and bios of finalists in Arabic, PDF)

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