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Call for Syrian Applicants: Women Organising for Change in Bosnia and Syria

28 November 2013

Women Organising for Change in Bosnia and Syria

Joint Conference in Bosnia: February 10th – 14th 2014


Since 2012, WILPF International has been engaged in a program that seeks to:

  •  Strengthen support to Syrian women’s rights and civil society activists in order to strengthen the full and equal participation in all processes leading to peaceful transition in Syria
  •  Empower women’s rights groups and civil society organisations of Bosnia and Herzegovina to, based on their experience and knowledge, share valuable lessons with Syrian counterparts, and engage with international experts in developing their own strategies for demanding and accessing their rights in the context of post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina

The program seeks to minimise some of the risk that Syrian women will be excluded from decision-making in a post-conflict Syria (whenever that may occur). The project will build upon collaboration with Syrian women and civil society organisations and experiences in Bosnia and focuses on bring together women activists from Bosnia and Syria to discuss a number of themes/topics based on the specific conflict and post-conflict realities they have to face.

WILPF and our partner organisations have strong partnerships and trusted relationships with both Bosnian and Syrian women’s organisations, and will use the strength that lies in these relationships to build a process of mutual exchange and learning.

An important component of the program is an joint conference in Bosnia to be held in February 2014. The conference will bring together around 25 Syrian and 50 Bosnian women’s rights and civil society activists in a five-day program in Bosnia to reflect on women’s role in conflict and transition, the lessons learned from 20 year of post-conflict “recovery and transition” in Bosnia.

The aim is to bring about a strategy for increased mobilisation of women to ensure full and equal participation in any process related to conflict resolution and peace-building, including peace negotiations, transitional justice, human rights and constitutional development in accordance with the human rights framework and the UNSCR 1325 and its women, peace and security agenda.

WILPF International hereby invites Syrian activists who are affiliated with organisations to apply to attend the conference. We welcome participants that will have or seek the capacity to influence conflict resolution and peace-building in Syria. Below you will find the tentative program components and expectations, and requirements for the application and selection process.

Program and Content

The agenda of the conference seeks to empower women’s rights activists in Bosnia and Herzegovina to share valuable lessons with their Syrian counterparts and assist and support both Bosnian and Syrian women to engage with international experts in identifying need, developing strategies and build capacities to ensure they are able to claim their rights and meaningful participation in any democratic transition, and to formulate recommendations to strengthen women’s role in peace-building processes.

The focus of the conference will be divided into 5 major topics:

Topic 1: Access to Justice and Transitional Justice processes

Access to justice is a fundamental right. The capacity to make claims and to demand accountability is an important capacity for most people, specifically for the groups excluded from the post-conflict societies and societies in transition – such as women and victims.

Within topic 1 the participants will elaborate on what is justice from women’s perspective. It will include discussions on: provision of justice remedies, capacities to demand justice remedies, sexual violence in conflict, transitional justice mechanisms.

Topic 2: Peace negotiations and women in public life in the post-conflict society

During peace negotiations crucial decisions about post-conflict recovery and governance are made and the absence of women at these tables is apparent. Even though women were active agents during the Bosnian conflict, they were excluded from the entire peace process. Nonetheless the provision of the peace which provided for a new constitution, has far reaching effects on women’s lives.

Within topic 2 participants will discuss: women’s activism during conflict, peace process and peace agreements, ways of interventions by the international community, women in public life (including women’s political participation)

Topic 3: Refugees and the return process

During the war approximately 2.2 million of Bosnian’s were expelled from their homes – which accounts for half of the Bosnians pre-war population. 1.2 million fled outside the country while a million of them became internally displaced. Out of the 1.2 million of Bosnians that fled outside the country a large number of them first arrived to the neighboring countries in the Balkans. Throughout the region women NGOs started organizing help and showing solidarity with the refugees. Particularly notable were the stories of sexual violence and other traumas the women and children experienced. Psycho-social help, financial and other forms of material help for emergent medical needs and basic living needs as well as individual counseling were put up by different women NGOs.

Within topic 3, participants will further elaborate on regional aspects refugee crises and the immediate assistance and support that can be provided through different organizations. In addition, the participants will discuss the effects of other post-war processes, such as prosecution of war crimes, on the return process, and the meaning of “sustainable return”.

Topic 4: Economic and social rights

Socio-economic human rights including the right to education, right to housing, right to adequate standard of living, and the right to health. As such they are recognized and protected in international and regional human rights instruments. In the aftermath of the conflict few of these rights have been fulfilled.

Topic 4 will cover experiences of access to health care, economic empowerment programmes and educational programmes.

Topic 5:  Violence against Women

Can we differentiate between the violence directed towards women during the conflict and the violence that occurred prior to the conflict and that continues to occur after the conflict? Conflicts exacerbate existing gender inequalities, placing women at a heightened risk of various forms of sexual and gender-based violence by both State and non-State actors.

Topic 5 will cover issues related to violence against women and continuum of violence/structural violence. It will in particular focus on response mechanisms, documentation and the effects of failure to prevent, investigate, and punish gender-based violence, as well as other factors affecting violence such as ineffective disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) processes and inadequate legal and policy frameworks.

The conference will also include international and regional experience and expertise of working with the women, peace and security agenda, the human rights framework for women in conflict including the new General Recommendation 30 to CEDAW on women in conflict and transition, and women experience of peace processes and peace negotiations.

For practical information on the dates, place, eligibility criteria, selection process, and application form please download Joint Conference in Bosnia Practical Information.

للحصول على هذه الصفحة عن عمل المنظمة وبرنامج المؤتمر باللغة العربية ومعلومات عن المكان، معايير القبول، استمارة التقديم، يرجى تنزيل ملف المعلومات عن المؤتمر المشترك في البوسنة.

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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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