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#CSW63 Wrap-Up: Social Protection as Key to #MoveTheMoney from War to Gender Equality and Peace

The 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women has officially ended: WILPF International, alongside peace activists from all over the world, explored and defined how social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure can foster gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

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WILPF International Secretariat
26 March 2019

After a lively and productive two weeks, the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women has officially ended.

WILPF International, alongside peace activists from all over the world, joined thousands of representatives civil society, UN Staff, and Member States, among others, at hundreds of events and informal discussions. Together, we explored and defined how social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure can foster gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Building on this energy and looking forward to the milestone year of 2020, we reflect on the good practices, challenges, and opportunities shared at CSW63.


WILPF amplified the experiences and work of our partners and Sections on investing in social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure, to #MoveTheMoney from war to gender equality and peace. We ensured that the rights and participation of local women are the core of peace and development priorities.

On 12 March 2019, we co-hosted a workshop with the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights. It brought together women civil society leaders and scholars to show how a feminist analysis during the reconstruction process in post-war can empower women.  Activists from Cameroon and Ukraine underscored the importance of redesigning and funding the political and economic systems that shape our daily lives. These systems are founded on militarism and are designed to prioritise trade interests. A sustainable contribution to regional peacebuilding is required to respond to the needs of local women’s groups and to adequately assess and address environmental impact.

Group of women holding the sign "Korea Peace Now!"

On 13 March 2019, WILPF, together with leaders from the Korean Women’s Movement for Peace, Women Cross DMZ, and the Nobel Women’s Initiative, launched in New York our global campaign #KoreaPeaceNow. The campaign mobilises for the negotiation and ratification of a peace treaty between the Koreas by 2020 and a disarmed Korean peninsula. Highlighting the timeliness of this campaign, one activist emphasised that “… in the current context of the peace process between the United States and the DPRK, it is crucially important to build a solid foundation [for peace] through women’s participation,” as it is women’s inclusion in peace talks “that brings peace to reality.”

We also worked with our partners, MenEngage Alliance and ABAAD, to understand the role of masculinities and militarism for realising the transformative intent of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. During a parallel event on 20 March 2019, we identified good practices for engaging men to transform received narratives surrounding masculinity and power. Anthony Keedi, of ABAAD, emphasised this need to change our framework of from “power over” to “power with.” He underlined the importance of changing men’s individual behaviours and the masculine institutional structures that entrench toxic masculinities and ensure women’s exclusion. Emphasising that women’s exclusion is built into the design of peace and security, Abigail Ruane, WILPF’s Women, Peace and Security Programme Director, said that “… Security Council Resolution 1325 was not about adding women to the war system, but about ending the war. Engaging men as allies on WPS requires that individual men support and be held accountable for women’s leadership, but that they also are allies in shifting political systems away from militarism and war, and towards nonviolence and justice.

WILPF partners from Yemen, Palestine and WILPF Sections from Lebanon, Colombia, Nigeria and Cameroon have also organised and joined discussions to strengthen a feminist movement for peace and to #MoveTheMoney from war to peace.

Together, we brought to light the importance of addressing root causes of violence, advancing women’s equal access to resources, and ensuring their participation in decision-making as the key principles of successful implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda ahead of 2020.


Banner "CSW63: Commission on the Status of Women: Social Protection - Public Servises - Infrastructure, 11-22 March 2019"
Credit: UN Women

In addition to hosting events, WILPF monitored 40 events. These events focused on women’s lived experiences and the recognition of the need for an integrated approach founded on these experiences (particularly those of women in conflict).

The Agreed Conclusions represent a step forward in identifying and removing barriers to women’s and girls’ access to public services. The Conclusions contain notably stronger language on the need for increased investment in social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure to support the productivity of women’s work, including in the informal economy.

Though discussions varied widely, the civil society movement and Member States joined together in their call for:

  • acknowledgement of the synergies between and among sectors;
  • a holistic, intersectional, and intersectoral approach to peace-building and security;
  • and a recognition of the implementation of such approaches as a precondition of sustainable peace.

Member States highlighted concrete initiatives as clear and concise frameworks for the implementation of an integrated approach to economic and social development at both national and international levels. Examples of these initiatives include: the National Social Protection Policy in Zambia, the Social Cohesion Fund in Morocco, feminist international agendas, like France’s Feminist Foreign Policy and the 100% ODA Plan of the UAE.

There was strong recognition that policies, projects, and initiatives must grow from local culture and reflect the diversity of women’s experiences. Under these conditions, they will have a lasting impact. There was widespread agreement amongst grassroots feminist leaders that this cannot be accomplished through the ad-hoc, short-term, siloed projects that remain the typical silos of international funding. A cohesive strategy incorporating initiatives should be conceived by those on the ground. For example, the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission is one of many civil society organisations advancing a national and global strategy by effecting meaningful and lasting change at a local level.  This community-wide movement is dedicated to fostering behaviours and institutions that encourage social harmony. Building capacity for movements and civil society organisations like the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission — and ensuring that their expertise is integrated into decision-making at all levels of action– are critical for bringing about a sustainable peace.

Woman raising an hand among the crowd

Ensuring women’s participation was the top priority for civil society organisations and Member States. Some, including the Secretary-General, suggest that women’s meaningful participation will flow naturally from gender parity and equal representation. Civil society organisations qualified this assertion, adding that women’s presence alone will not change the outcome of decision-making unless they are empowered to effect meaningful change. Civil society leaders also stressed the related need to incorporate gender expertise at all levels of decision making, including in such controversial areas as financing, justice and disarmament.  

We also identified the challenges (some new, most persistent) that we must overcome to achieve our collective vision of a durable and sustainable #FeministPeace. As Anthony Keedi, of ABAAD, noted, “Men’s sense of power is linked to violence.” This relationship –between militarism, violent masculinities, patriarchy and arms trade, and outsize corporate influence– impacts access to resources. Tax injustices remain an undeniable and persistent challenge for achieving sustainable peace. At CSW63, many participants honed in on corporate power, including corporate human rights abuses, as key drivers of conflict and called on governments and activists to arrest the steady shift of our social contract from state-citizen to state-corporation.

One of the most effective means of decreasing corporate influence and solidifying our political systems is through developing responsive and accountable governments and the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Ahead of 2020, this implementation remains a challenge due to significant under-prioritisation (reflected in underfunding) of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, along with other relevant peace and development initiatives at both the national and international levels. Though some regions showed signs of progress, without commitment, financing and frameworks for accountability, transformative change may prove elusive.

Visa denials and the growing backlash against women human rights defenders represent significant and persistent barriers to opportunities for strengthening women’s rights and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Specifically, WILPFers from Uganda, Sudan and Syria were barred from joining the WILPF Delegation. The International Service for Human Rights sent a communication to the Commission on the Status of Women,  stating that visa denials run contrary to the obligations of the U.S. as host country of the United Nations, violate the right to access and communicate with international bodies, and limit the participation of women in the human rights system. Coupled with our current context, in which women human rights defenders face increasing attacks and operate in increasingly precarious situations, CSW63 failed in one of its primary objectives: the creation a safe space for all to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality.


In line with our commitment to advancing political economies of peace and redefining how the international community operates in regards to disarmament, funding, taxation, and women’s participation,  WILPF recommends that the international community reviews existing priorities and, ahead of 2020, commits to:

As we head back to our communities, we have the opportunity to translate what we have learned and experienced into concrete action. Now, the real work begins. Join us, and make your voices heard!

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WILPF International Secretariat

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. 

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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