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Day 13: Mapping Gender

7 December 2012

In every country, women from all walks of life experience violence, abuse and exploitation. But all women are not equally vulnerable to men’s violence as the phrase “violence against women” somehow implies.

Some women and girls are more vulnerable to violence especially those who are poor, indigenous, migrants, ethnic minorities, widows, and living with disabilities for instance.

They are less able to protect themselves from men’s violence precisely because they have lesser access to important social and economic resources such as land, property, credit, education, employment, food, health and social security. Individual men’s violence against women, threats to women’s rights by governments, political and religious groups, and the escalation of war and conflict all have material roots in the political economy of gender inequality.

No matter which way we cut into the socioeconomics of war it is connected to the socioeconomics of gender. So if we want to prevent violence against women, first and foremost, we need to challenge gendered inequalities and ensure that women and girls have a good economic and social status.

War is fought over competition for economic and political resources that are unequally distributed and this competition virtually never benefits women to the same extent as men. Societies engaged in armed conflict prioritise military spending on arms and armies over spending on education, health and the achievement of gender-equal development.

Photo of Amman activists from Jordan's Arab Women's Organisation
Amman activists hold signs saying, ‘No fuel price hikes. Yes to CEDAW.’ They are protesting against economic destitution and the regime under IMF duress.

The socioeconomics of war exacerbates the war on women. Soldiers take up arms to protect the nation and their manly honour as well as their privileged status as breadwinners and heads of households.

During war substantial economic value is extracted from women’s bodies to sustain the fighting, whether as “bush wives” servicing male militia in hiding as in Sierre Leone’s conflict 1992-2002, or as agricultural labour enabling the survival of households and societies such as in Colombia’s protracted armed conflict.

In fact, women were raped and mutilated in Uganda’s civil war precisely to cut the food supply of the enemy.

In armed conflicts in Palestine, Kashmir, and Bosnia violence against women and children has been used to force them from their homes in order to expropriate land, property and territory.

Margot Wallstrom recently suggested that calculating the monetary cost of sexual violence in armed conflict would reveal it as a losing rather than winning strategy and contribute to ending the violence.

But doing so – as well as costing the sex-related, trafficking and feminised service industry in post-conflict peace building missions would more likely show the tremendous exploitation of women and girls that keeps the war machine going in so-called ‘peace time’.

Eliminating sexual violence from armed conflict would not change this gendered political economy. Taking the rape out of war will not make the war economy safe for women.

After conflict, many women, including former combatants, lose their economic livelihoods and right to education, are displaced and stripped of assets, and may become sole heads of households due to the death of husbands and male relatives.

This precarious situation frequently makes women and girls even more vulnerable to violence than during war; the experience of post-conflict violence prevents them from going to school, getting a job, becoming economically independent and participating in peace-building decision making.

Moreover, the impact of war and political instability on the economy reflected in substantial decreases in national income is unequally felt. Men’s reactions to poverty and loss of employment as a result of conflict-related economic downturn include violent attacks on their female family members at home. At the same time, women and girls struggle to find work and other opportunities as post-conflict societies typically put male former combatants and ‘breadwinners’ first.

To uphold women’s human rights and end violence against women and girls it is clear, we must oppose all war and prepare for peace by creating gender-equal societies where women and girls are empowered economically, socially and politically.

By Jackie True

Jacqui True is Professor of Politics & International Relations at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia and author of “The Political Economy of Violence against Women”, Oxford University Press, 2012.

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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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