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Mary Lawlor, Front Line Defenders Posted on November 19, 2023 by planirl

Mary Lawlor, Front Line Defenders

Mary Lawlor has a background of  over 35 years experience in human rights. She set up Front Line Defenders - the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders - in 2001. Front Line Defenders concentrates all its activities on human rights defenders at risk who work non-violently for the rights of others as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The aim is to protect defenders of human rights and provide them with “round the clock” practical support so that they can continue their work to build civil and just societies.

As Director she represents the organisation and has a key role in its development.  She has led Front Line missions to the field, managed and evaluated programs, raised funds and has been invited as guest speaker to many international and intergovernmental meetings.     

Prior to Front Line, Mary was Director of the Irish Section of Amnesty International from 1988-2000. She became a Board member in 1975 and  was elected Chair from 1983 - 1987.  She has wide experience of developing and sustaining a human rights organisation.

Mary Lawlor has a BA in Psychology and Philosophy and post graduate degrees in Montessori Teaching and Personnel Management. In 2007, Front Line Defenders was awarded the King Baudouin International Development Prize. The following year, Mary Lawlor was awarded the Irish Life Women Mean Business Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2008. Most recently, Mary received with the Irish Tatler Woman of the Year Special Recognition Award 2011.

Because I am a Girl I ask…for equality, dignity and respect between women, men and transgender people globally.

Because I am a Girl I believe…that women have the power to change the world. Women have played a transformational role in the struggle for human rights and equality for centuries. The courage of individuals like Rosa Parks, and groups such as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, the Liberian Women’s Peace Movement and the Ladies in White in Cuba demonstrate the power of women’s voices.   

Because I am a Girl I hope…that one day no girls shall be denied access to education or be subject to violence, sexual abuse, forced marriage or any other form of inequality or degrading treatment. I hope that women will act together in solidarity to fight injustice and oppression worldwide.

Because I am a Girl I wonder…why it is still acceptable in Ireland for some women to be more discriminated against than others. Minority groups, including traveller women, women with disabilities, refugee women and lesbians and bisexuals do not enjoy the same level of equality that I do in this country. This is wrong and fundamentally at odds with the human rights principles on which this state was founded.
Because I am a Girl I dream…of these powerful words from Arundhati Roy; “Another world is not only possible, she’s on her way.  Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.

Because I am a Girl I remember…the wisdom and strength gifted to me by my own mother who taught all the seven girls in our family to be independent. I remember the many courageous women human rights defenders who work around the world,at great personal risk, for the rights of others, including Soukainajed Ahlou, President of the Forum for Sahrawi women, whom I saw bloodied and bruised in Western Sahara, after she was beaten up by the police for peacefully demonstrating.

Because I am a Girl I like…to see my own two daughters enjoying life and living with strength and passion. They teach me many things.

Because I am a Girl I dislike…the fact that governments around the world routinely deny the imprisonment, torture and harassment of women human rights defenders for political gain.

Because I am a Girl I feel…invigorated by the companionship and love of my close female friends, as well as my husband.

Because I am a Girl I celebrate…all women.

- Mary Lawlor

Comments: 2 Responses to Mary Lawlor, Front Line Defenders

  • dinabaidildayevaD on November 19th, 2012

    Because I am a Girl I think all women should be treated equal with men

    Reply to dinabaidildayevaD
  • chloe walsh on November 19th, 2012


    Reply to chloe walsh

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  • Because I am a Girl...

    I can vote and be myself and be successful. If you educate a man you educate a man if you educate a woman you educate a generation.

  • Because I am a Girl...

    all boys and men appear to be more important, know more, and have to have needs sorted, first- food, washing, the basics - loo cleaning, etc. We must stop doing it, full stop. I bet Orla Leyden still does all her family housework (no offence at all - just making a point) x

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