Today marks the first anniversary of activist Sylvie Ndongmo’s as the President of WILPF and the election of the new International Board (IB) members. As dedicated feminists peace activists, Sylvie Ndongmo and our IB members have brought a renewed sense of purpose to the feminist peace movement. In this special conversation, Sylvie Ndongmo shares her reflections on the highlights of her tenure so far, the valuable lessons she learned, the proudest moments she has experienced, and her ambitious objectives for the coming years.
WILPF: What have been the most significant highlights of your first year as President of WILPF?
Sylvie Ndongmo: As I reflect on my first year as President, I am filled with a profound sense of accomplishment and gratitude. It has been a transformative journey, marked by significant highlights that have furthered WILPF’s mission of advocating for peace, gender equality, and environmental sustainability on a global scale.
One of the major achievements during this period was the induction and team building for the International Board The induction played a crucial role in strengthening the bond among board members, fostering a sense of trust and camaraderie.
Another highlight was the revival of the Young WILPF Coordination Group. Since Young WILPF was one of the commitments I made upon being elected as President, seeing it come to fruition has been immensely satisfying. Making space forthe youth to take an active role in advocating for peace and gender equality ensures the continuity and sustainability of our organisation’s efforts.
Environmental sustainability has been a key focus for WILPF, and we have achieved notable developments in this area. On Earth Day, the Environment Working Group (EWG) collaborated on developing key messages. Additionally, the Working Group has launched a working group on demilitarisation within the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). This important step positions WILPF to advance demilitarisation during COP28, the largest global climate summit.
WILPF: Throughout this year, what were some of the most important lessons you learned in your role as President?
Sylvie Ndongmo: This year, I have gained invaluable insights and learned several important lessons that have deepened my understanding of leadership and organisational development.
I have come to appreciate the significance of investing in self and collective care. Members of WILPF often work in demanding contexts and environments, increasing the risk of burnout. As such, prioritising the mental health and well-being of staff and members, particularly those in leadership positions, is essential to sustaining a healthy and productive organisation. By establishing a comprehensive care and well-being structure, we can better support our team’s capacity and overall effectiveness.
An essential aspect of effective leadership is embodying the values and principles of WILPF in all our actions. To foster a peaceful and feminist approach to working together, it is imperative to care about each other and consider how our actions impact one another. By leading by example and reflecting WILPF’s values in our conduct, we can create a more inclusive and supportive working environment.
Additionally, I have learned the importance of peer learning and collaboration. Through the support of Peace Nexus, we have engaged in peer learning initiatives, which have proven instrumental in sharing knowledge and experiences among diverse peace organisations. Learning from others and embracing a culture of continuous improvement enables us to navigate challenges more effectively and remain steadfast in our commitment to our values.
WILPF: As you look back on the past year, what would you say has been your proudest moment as WILPF’s President?
Sylvie Ndongmo: Several moments stand out as sources of immense pride and accomplishment during this insightful year.
One of the most meaningful highlights was the induction of the International Board (IB). Bringing together nearly all the IB members, this event played a pivotal role in creating a strong bond among us. It provided a safe space to share stories, express emotions, and foster a deep sense of connection and mutual respect. Strengthening this group dynamic was crucial in laying the foundation for effective teamwork and collaboration as we work towards WILPF’s mission of promoting peace and justice worldwide.
Moreover, personal experiences, such as connecting with Edith Ballantyne, have reaffirmed my commitment to advancing peace and justice. Meeting individuals who have dedicated their lives to advocating for a better world and working alongside them has been truly inspiring and motivating.
WILPF: What are your primary objectives and priorities for WILPF in the coming years?
Sylvie Ndongmo: As I look ahead to the coming years as President of WILPF, my primary objectives and priorities revolve around strengthening the organisation and advancing our mission of promoting peace, gender equality, and justice.
I am committed to valuing and empowering young WILPF members’ contributions. Involving the youth in decision-making processes and providing them with meaningful opportunities for engagement is essential for the organisation’s future sustainability and relevance.
Recognising the demanding contexts and environments in which we work, addressing well-being and self-care is crucial. I aim to introduce a Care and Well Being component into the accountability framework to support our staff and members’ mental health and prevent burnout.
Addressing conflicts and wars is a top priority. I plan to build an appropriate portfolio of approaches to tackle conflicts worldwide, starting with establishing WILPF as an organisation that takes concrete actions. I also seek to broaden the peace discussion beyond specific regions like Ukraine and focus on a holistic support system for addressing major crises worldwide.
In collaboration with the International Board members, I remain dedicated to fostering a thriving, impactful, and inclusive organisation, and I am committed to leading WILPF towards achieving our shared vision for a more peaceful and just world.
In addition to our conversation with Sylvie Ndongmo, we also heard from other International Board Members, who are collaborating closely with her throughout her tenure at WILPF.
WILPF: What have been the notable achievements over the past year under the leadership of the current International Board led by President Sylvie Ndongmo?
Ludmilla Kwitko (Asia-Pacific Regional Representative): The collective highlights of the past year include openness, thoughtful, and respectful leadership. There have been discussions that allowed everyone to be heard and listened to, fostering a space of genuine collaboration. Significant progress has been made in addressing critical concerns around global conflicts and building peace.
Laila Alodaat (WILPF Deputy Secretary-General): Under the guidance of Sylvie Ndongmo in the past year, significant accomplishments have been done, including exemplary proactive leadership, successful facilitation of hung processes, and special efforts to tackle issues of accountability with utmost importance.
WILPF: How do you envision WILPF’s mission evolving in the future under the leadership of the current International Board led by President Sylvie Ndongmo?
Ludmilla Kwitko (Asia-Pacific Regional Representative): In the future, we envision an inclusive approach to leadership that welcomes all stakeholders to the table, even in the presence of disagreements and challenging issues. The focus will be on promoting positive, thoughtful, and caring ways of work that value the contributions of everyone involved.
Rosa Logar (Europe Alternate Regional Representative): Considering the current global challenges, such as escalating armed conflicts, the threat of nuclear war, the use of prohibited weapons like cluster bombs, climate disasters, and backlash on human rights, it is of great importance for WILPF to continue and strengthen its intersectional work for universal peace. The organisation should intensify its alliances with other networks, including those focused on peace, women’s and human rights, economic and social justice, as well as climate justice.
Laila Alodaat (WILPF Deputy Secretary-General): Sylvie Ndongmo guided the board to identify a clear and conducive mechanism to make WILPF more transparent and accountable, as this materialises, WILPF will have a more functional and fairer system that is more in line with our values and aims.