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Bringing Syrian Women’s Voices to the Table

In advance of the first General Assembly in Frankfurt, WILPF had the honour to interview Mariam Jalabi from the  ‘Syrian Women’s Political Movement’ (SWPM), a movement that aspires to drive change, not only on the Syrian political scene but also for the global feminist peace movement.

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
8 April 2019
Mariam Jalabi, co-founder of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement speaking at the first General Assembly in Frankfurt, Germany.
Mariam Jalabi, co-founder of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement speaking at the first General Assembly in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo credit: Charlotte Hooij

The date is 12 January 2019. It is a windy Saturday morning in the fifth-largest city of Germany, Frankfurt. Inside the far more warm conference room, 45 Syrian women have arranged to meet. Together, they are the ‘Syrian Women’s Political Movement’ (SWPM). In their founding document, the movement envisions “establishing a democratic and pluralistic state, based on the principles of equal citizenship for all citizens regardless of their gender, race, religion, sect, geographic region or identity,” and they aim to achieve a state that is “based on the rule of law” and affords “equal rights to women and men without discrimination.”

One of its inspiring co-founders is Mariam Jalabi, Syrian political activist, who is supporting the rise of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement as part of their work for peace in Syria.

In advance of the first General Assembly in Frankfurt, WILPF had the honour to interview Mariam Jalabi, we have asked about her inspirations, goals, and dreams for the emerging women’s movement: a movement that aspires to drive change, not only on the Syrian political scene but also for the global feminist peace movement.

A vision becomes reality

Already in the early days of the revolution, Mariam Jalabi and other Syrian women asked themselves: “How do we Syrian women get to sit at the table? How do we make an impact? How do we ensure change? How can we guarantee women’s rights? How can we change the power balance between men and women?”

"The women I'm working with are amazing. A few of them that are on the General Secretariat of the movement are previous political detainees of the government. Thay have such high spirits; such high energy and they want to keep it going"
Mariam Jalabi, co-founder of the Syrian Women's Political Movement

Together with six other women activists that shared the same concerns and also had a vision of creating a better and more equal future for Syria, they decided to turn thoughts into action and start a women’s movement.

“It was important for the co-founders and me to highlight the power of collaboration. I know that I by myself can’t create a democratic Syria, I by myself can’t lead a nation. I by myself can’t change the world, but together we have a chance,” says Mariam Jalabi.

The SWPM organised their first conference in Paris, from 22-24 October 2017. Hosted with the support of the WILPF, Independent Diplomat and Kvinna till Kvinna, it gathered 27 individuals from different backgrounds and walks of life. Determined to turn the dreams of a better future for Syria into reality, the group discussed and set the vision, principles, and work plan of a new movement leading to freedom, justice, and dignity for all Syrians. They had founded the Syrian Women’s Political Movement.

A vision for the future

Asking Mariam Jalabi how she envisions the future, she emphasizes that she would like to see at least 50% of the high official positions in Syria filled by women who can bring the interests and experiences of women across society. She would like to see feminists in those positions so that there is always someone making sure that the rights of women and girls are actually being protected when there is a treaty, or when laws are being changed.

“Our movement will advocate for women’s rights to be fulfilled; it will give them their rights. It will change, push, and work in a way that makes it easier for women to get an education, to have access to health, to have access to their legal rights, to have access to assets, land, and inheritance, so that women are able to live in dignity and with justice, ” says Mariam Jalabi. Together with the Syrian Women’s Political Movement, she wants to create a “democratic state where there is no longer a solution with violence or with guns, where people are treated equally, and where presidents come and go through fair and open voting.”

“You would know that this movement is a place of leadership and an oasis of belonging when someone like me – who is thought of as an imaginary tale – can be so real, so vocal and so inspired by everyone in the movement and share her place in the new Syria. A home for all,” says Ziva Gorani, a Syrian Kurdish trans queer feminist and LGBT activist attending the first General Assembly.

The Syrian Women's Political Movement is inclusive, with Syrians from various backgrounds, ethnicities, and about 10% to 15% men among its members working towards the same goal of creating a better future for Syria.

WILPF has been funding and supporting the co-founders of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement to come together and strengthen their movement. The movement can bring the voices and experiences of Syrian women to the political process, with the ultimate aim of strengthening women’s participation of at least 30% feminist women present at all levels in the peace-building process in Syria.

The movement is working towards a state based on a democratic, gender-sensitive constitution. This kind of constitution, driven by a feminist agenda, forms the basis for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. WILPF believes that this unique and inspiring movement has already created history by putting in place the roots of a brighter future not only for the Syrian society but for meaningful women’s participation worldwide.

To become a member you have to be recommended by two members of the movement and not vetoed by anyone of the SWPM. All members sign on a declaration of principles that adhere to the ideals of democracy, justice and equality for all regardless of race, gender, orientation, sect, religion and background, women’s empowerment, and active participation in all aspects of life and decision-making in Syria. Join the movement!

Follow the events, development, and progress of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement with us. Follow the #SWPM on social media and share the work they do:


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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.

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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. 

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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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