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.
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.
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.