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2019: The Revolution of Women Is Coming

What if in twenty years we will look back and remember 2019 as the year that set the scene for the revolution of women?

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat,
19 December 2019

What if in twenty years we will look back and remember 2019 as the year that set the scene for the revolution of women? What if in twenty years we will teach children about the year of 2019 as the year of the uprising of women from all social backgrounds against patriarchal structures in the world, the year in which thousands of women in Switzerland took to the streets to march against inequalities, the year in which women in Lebanon led a national revolution and the year in which women in Chile composed a song that spread like a wildfire turning into a global feminist anthem against sexual violence

We could go on for hours naming women’s achievements and moments of collective action this year, but a blog post would not be a blog post if it were a book, so we will try to keep it short. 

Reflecting the Past – Planning the Future

Whether 2020 will be a revolutionary year is yet unwritten, but one thing is for certain: the revolution of women is coming. And while planning the revolution is a great move, it is always good to reflect on the previous 12-months to see what has left a mark, what worked and what did not … 

So as the year 2019 comes to an end (at least for the ones going by the Gregorian calendar), we want to take time to revive the moments in which we felt like nothing could stop us from turning our world into a peaceful and fair place for everyone. Because at a time when women and girls are still deprived of human rights, we tend to lose sight of our accomplishments. And in the end we have to remember social structures do not change overnight, it may take a decade for a revolution to take effect.

Women on a staircase holding each a letter forming the word Peace

105 years of radical feminist activism at WILPF are about to be celebrated in 2020. Still, every year bears its own challenges and successes. With more members and new groups in Sri Lanka, Togo, Somalia and Senegal, WILPF has continued to spread our peace message. All around the world, WILPFers marched, sang, demonstrated and demanded for the creation of an economic and social order that realises the needs of all people and not just of the privileged few. 

Here are some examples: On the Korean Peninsula WILPF has joined forces with allies to demand an end to the Korean War. Together with partners, we launched  the women-led Korea Peace Now! campaign,  supporting rallies and calling  on governments to include women in the peace process. On the African continent our sisters have reached new heights, participating in peacebuilding processes for national peace and stability and continuing to strengthen the Women, Peace and Security agenda by building inclusion and feminist peace. Sections across Africa and the MENA region worked hard to push towards a ban of fully autonomous weapons in the name of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Despite security threats and backlash in 2019, our members in South Asia have continued to raise awareness of women’s human rights issues such as domestic violence, child marriage, and sexual harassment, and calling for the demilitarisation of society and investment in education, health care and economic security. In the Americas our members have  supported women affected from conflict and took part in national movements to oppose militarisation. Our Sections in Europe took us on a journey through time, reminding us of the visionary women who gathered in Zurich in 1919 to make the world a more just and peaceful place and give our movement the name that we still carry 100 years later: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Women’s rights are human rights and that is a motto we live and work by. In the past twelve months we spent hundreds of hours at meetings to spread this and many other messages. Between pushing for the inclusion of a holistic gender analysis at the Fifth Conference of the States Parties (CSP5) to the Arms Trade Treaty, hosting and monitoring events at the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63), making interventions with the Women’s Major Group at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and UNSCR1325+19, participating in the CEDAW review, reading statements at the 40th, 41st and 42nd Human Rights Council, assisting COP25 and hosting events during the Women, Peace and Security week in New York, WILPF has been at all of these events to make sure our voices are being heard and our needs seen! With the help of incredible delegations, WILPF was able to engage with the UN processes, advocate for feminist peace and connect with other activists.

Growing the Movement – Moving forward

While a lot has changed in the last 100 years, our analysis has mostly stayed the same. Our ‘what-to-dismantle’ list still includes patriarchy, militarism and neoliberalism and just as our foremothers did 100 years ago, we still pursue the vision of economic and social justice for all. This is why in 2019 we preceded to advocate for the adoption of a treaty on corporations and human rights with the feminist coalition #Feminists4bindingtreaty. WILPF’s Disarmament Programme Reaching Critical Will advocated to reach a total and universal disarmament and the WILPF’s Women, Peace and Security Programme had the honour to welcome three fierce women from Syria for an event to bring light to the demands of Syrian women. Last but definitely not least, our MENA team supported our partners from the MENA region through creating safe feminist spaces for collaboration, facilitating access to international spaces and engaging with decision-makers.

Despite the fact that 2019 has been one of the worst years for women human rights defenders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, our partners continued their activism for equality, freedom and justice. With the help of feminist activists from Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, WILPF was able to influence discourses, facilitate spaces to meet with EU Member States and support women-led organisations in progressing towards their feminist agendas.

Group photo of women from Syria and Bosnia
Syria-Bosnia Feminist Solidary Dialogue 2.0

Planning for the Revolution

Thus, what can we do so that in twenty years we will remember the year 2019 as the year of the revolution of women all around the globe? Well, we do not know what you will do, but we can tell you what we at WILPF will do: we will continue to speak out against the root causes of war and harmful gender norms. We will continue to invest our energy in the smashing of patriarchal beliefs. We will continue to work closely together with our women peace activists all around the world to bring forward change from the ground up

We will march, sing, demonstrate and shout for the creation of the world we wish for. 

And we want you to be a part of it! Become a member of our diverse network or start a Section to join our revolution. Together is the only way to make it happen.

In peace,


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WILPF International Secretariat,

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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