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#4FeministUNSG: What Does A Progressive Feminist Leader Look Like To You?

3 August 2016

With the upcoming election of the next United Nations Secretary-General, WILPF has recently released a position calling for a feminist leader who can deliver a feminist agenda for peace, global diplomacy and conflict prevention.

In 70 years of UN’s activity, the world’s population has been represented by eight male figures. We believe, as many voices are currently claiming (Equality Now or Womansg among others), it is high time for a female leader.

WILPF has already engaged in several advocacy campaigns for a transparent and inclusive election of the next UN Secretary-General – such as 1 for 7 Billion. However we want to go one step further and with our campaign called ‘UN Secretary General for Peace and the People’ we demand not only a leader with a feminist eye but a woman to represent us all.


Following up the public debate around it, former director of communications for Kofi Annan, Edward Mortimer, in a declaration that appeared in The Guardian states that the best candidate for the next UN Secretary-General must be independent, with strong ethical values and the embodiment of the principles of the UN Charter, based on peace, security, human rights and development. Whereas UK Ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, cited on this article, states “it is high time for a woman” but he makes clear hereafter that Britain would not opt to use its veto to bar a man from becoming the next Secretary-General.

More skeptical is the opinion of columnist and writer Nicholas Kristof on “how much it would matter at the grassroots level around the world” the fact of having a woman leading the UN.

Although WILPF will not endorse any particular candidate, we want to gather a broad base of support for this campaign #4FeministUNSG while also providing a space for starting a conversation on key questions like what does a progressive feminist leader look like? What commitments will she have to display? What urgent work will she have to tackle? What shall the priorities be for her first year as Secretary-General?

We invite you to take part in the ongoing discussion by posting on our social media channels or sharing further with your network. Bringing your insightful thoughts and reflections on the topic, you can contribute to enriching the public debate.

We’d love you to weight in. Share your response in the comment below or post it on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #4FeministUNSG.

You can also sign this petition on and share online if you want a woman to lead the UN in 2017.

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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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