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Day 3: A Small Piece of War by Your Ear

27 November 2012

DR Congo has a bloody history of colonisation and slavery, and its current situation is characterised by extremely grave violations of human rights. The liberation in the 1960s has been followed by political struggles, dictatorship, poor distribution of the country’s wealth, armed conflict between different fractions of the national army and guerilla groups, conflict related systematic rape and corruption.

Photo of conflict minerals
The trade of conflict minerals generates huge amounts of violence.

The war in the DR Congo is the deadliest conflict since World War II with more than 5.4 million deaths since 1996. The conflict ended officially in 2003, but the violence goes on as the government and armed rebel groups are competing for the country’s natural resources and thus control of the mines. Every day, women, men and children are raped in widespread and systematic attacks of sexual violence as a method to deter civilians.

But the sexual violence does not occur in a vacuum. Endless conflict has led to militarisation and twisted concepts of violence and masculinities. Even though the DR Congo has one of the world’s largest UN missions present in the country, the UN troops have not been able to stabilise the situation.Instead their presence might even have fuelled the conflict in the backwash of war and continued militarism. Evident is that the massive and uncontrolled spread of arms, the thriving culture of violence and along with foreign troops and actors has disastrous consequences for the socioeconomic structures in DR Congo.

The financial and human cost of militarisation in terms of rapes, sexual slavery, murders, internal and external displacement, migration and deaths are inestimable.  The heavy militarisation of DR Congo feeds off budget resources that could be used much more wisely.

The country has natural assets worth as much as the European and US gross domestic products together, yet almost none of the natural assets benefit the Congolese people. In short, the exploitation and looting of the country leaves DR Congo, one of Africa’s richest countries in natural resources, in the bottom performers of the Millennium Development Goals.It is the gains from trade in conflict minerals that finance the horrific violence against Congolese civilians and these minerals are used in the generation of various products, used by individuals and companies in Sweden as well as in many other countries. These products include jewellery, vehicles and industrial machinery, but above all these minerals are used to produce technology products such as mobile phones, computers and cameras.

Some companies such as HP, Apple and Intel have begun working for a responsible import of minerals by tracking all sources in their supply chains, reviewing smelters by a third-party industry-wide audit program, and assisting the certification of conflict-free mines by supporting these mines. But much remains to be done.

First and foremost, everyone needs to step up and acknowledge the true root cause of this conflict in order to find a way forward; we need to convince more companies to take responsibility and collectively mobilise against all those who are in business with the war.

By Patricia Grundberg, WILPF Sweden

WILPF Sweden’s campaign: 

WILPF Sweden 16 Days campaign

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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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