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Despite the Loss of "YES" in the Colombian Referendum, Women Continue to Resist and Promote Peace in Colombia

5 October 2016
WILPF Colombia attending the historic peace agreement signing ceremony in Cartagena, Colombia, on 26 September at which Colombia’s government and the FARC-EP signed the peace accord to end the bloody armed conflict that began in 1964.
WILPF Colombia and other women’s organisations attending the agreement signing ceremony between Colombia’s government and the FARC-EP, on 26 September, few days prior the referendum in Cartagena, Colombia.

As a feminist and pacifist international organisation that has worked for peace and disarmament since 1915, WILPF continues to work to the end the longest armed conflict in the American continent.

Although an agreement was reached between Colombia’s government and the FARC-EP to end 52 years of fighting, which was celebrated in Cartagena, it was only until the referendum on Sunday October 2nd that the agreement was going to become real and its implementation phase to start the following day. But reality hit the Colombian people; voters for “NO”, which were against the agreement, won the referendum. “For women victims, this was a slap in the face and we missed an important opportunity for peace and reconciliation, because for the first time, a gender perspective was included in the text of the final agreement. For the first time, women’s rights were recognised,” remarks Katherine Ronderos, Director of WILPF Colombia (Liga Internacional de Mujeres por la Paz y la Libertad, LIMPAL Colombia).

She continues, “Most importantly, sexual violence was included as crime against humanity. There will not be amnesty for sexual violence.” These achievements are credit to the great momentum built by women’s organisations, the support of the international community, legal instruments such as the UNSCR 1325 and the work of many women peace builders who have dedicated their lives to women and peace in Colombia.

After the official news of the results of the referendum, there is uncertainty on the future of the process, if the agreement will be revised and updated, if there will be another referendum or if there is any timeline to finish this off. WILPF Colombia fears that the time runs out and therefore misses the momentum for a peace agreement.

Even more worrying were the public statements by the “NO” Campaign leader, the ex-president Uribe, few hours after the official announcement of the wining of “NO”, mentioning their reiteration to “the need to stimulate family values without putting them at risk. Those family values defended by religious leaders and moral pastors”.

WILPF Colombia is seriously concerned about this statement and the alliances this political party has with conservative religious leaders in order to backlash the advancements on women’s rights and the rights of LGBTI victims so far achieved in this agreement. Nevertheless, Colombian women will continue, as always, resisting and working for peace with women’s participation, making sure that women’s rights are at the center of the final version of the agreement.

“It is now important that the results we have achieved to date in terms of gender equality and women’s rights in the agreement stay. Although we succeeded in incorporating the language of women’s rights, it will be a great challenge for us to follow and drive implementation. Women’s participation in decisions on the implementation of the peace agreement is crucial for a sustainable and lasting peace in Colombia,” says Katherine Ronderos.

This is a historic time for Colombia. WILPF around the world stands in solidarity with our sisters in Colombia. We thank them for their work, dedication and pursuit of feminist peace!

Learn more about WILPF Colombia.

Revisit our webinar Pacifist Feminism: The Case of Colombia

In the midst of the Colombian conflict negotiation process, the role of women in civil society has been fundamental, not only in demanding the participation of women on both sides of the table but also in the inclusion of proposals from women in the same agreements.

On 10 June 2016, WILPF held a webinar on the gains made by women in the negotiating process and, at the same time, creating a space for reflections on what the peace process brings to Colombia and the rest of the Latin American region, and even more importantly to the work of women and WILPF in general.

The webinar is in Spanish. Find it here: Pacifist Feminism: The Case of Colombia


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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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