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Exclusive Interview: New WILPF International President Elected

Every three years, during WILPF’s International Triennial Congress, WILPF’ers meet, learn, share their expertise and decide together the next WILPF action steps. The Congress is also the place where WILPF’ers elect the next International President, who will be in charge for the following three years.

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
22 August 2018

Every three years, during WILPF’s International Triennial Congress, WILPF’ers meet, learn, share their expertise and decide together the next WILPF action steps. The Congress is also the place where WILPF’ers elect the next International President, who will be in charge for the following three years.

WILPFers have celebrated together the election.

Today, during the 32nd Triennial International Congress, Joy Ada Onyesoh from Nigeria has been elected as the new International President.

Onyesoh has been an active member of WILPF since 2007. Her commitment to Peace is an inspiration to us all. She has led peaceful demonstrations in Nigeria, advocated for women’s meaningful participation in peace processes, done workshops to challenge masculinities and violence and much more in the pursuit of sustainable peace.

Since 2015, she has been WILPF international Vice President and Africa Liaison and we are proud to see her in this new role.

We got the chance to speak with Joy just after her election. Read below her first impressions.

Interview with Joy Ada Onyesoh

It’s been an exciting Congress, the first to be hosted in the African continent, what have been some of your best moments? 

It has really been an exciting process. From the validation to host the congress in Accra, having a skilled convener steer the process of the planning committee, witnessing the excitement of my African Sisters planning towards the congress and to have 14 delegates from the Nigerian section plan to attend this historic congress, have all been some of my best moments. 

What are you most looking forward to as the new international president?

When we marked our 100 years anniversary in The Hague in 2015, our movement, as sisters bonded in a quest for peace and social justice, deepened into a new phase. We have witnessed our political engagements and commitment on the ground expand significantly across many sections. We have also witnessed an unprecedented growth of WILPF presence in Africa and other continents. This attests to the impact of our work across many fronts. As the new International President, I am looking forward to continuing with the section exchange seasons, where we share our experiences of working on the ground, and connecting our diverse realities to enriching our advocacy and programmatic interventions on feminist peace. I am also looking forward to a diversified and strengthened WILPF governance structure that speaks to our current reality as a movement, and to the current global context.

What are your priorities for the next three years?

My primary priorities for the next three years will be shaped by our International Programme.

My primary objective will be to ensure that our priorities as an organisation are defined by our sections and members, and coordinated through our International Programme, in an inclusive implementation process.

Joy Ada Onyesoh and the International Board.

When did you join WILPF and what inspired you to become an active member?

I joined WILPF in 2007. I attended my first WILPF international meeting in 2008. I had the opportunity of meeting a number of active and committed WILPF’ers, who made the vision of our founding mothers come alive in my heart. The desire to be part of a peace-building movement, especially coming from a clime saddled with different types of conflict, makes me take my responsibility as a WILPF’er seriously. WILPF presents opportunities for members to build and enhance their capacity to serve humanity in a way that resonates with individual beliefs within a common understanding and commitment to peace.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and biggest opportunities for WILPF in the years ahead?

The biggest opportunity I see for WILPF is our diversity and our commitment to a common vision of world peace, but that (diversity) becomes a challenge if not properly managed. We need to collaboratively work towards ensuring an inclusive space that takes cognisance of the different realities of members. As times and current realities change, WILPF needs to be open to evaluating structures, processes and commitments to ensure an accountable movement. We need to live by the words and actions we advocate for. This requires both individual and collective actions. Sections and individuals need to reflect and acknowledge their biases and take positive steps towards ensuring that they are responsible and accountable for their actions. We must always remember that we are a peace organisation and that understanding should drive all our engagements.

The theme of the 2018 Congress is ‘Building a Feminist Peace Movement’. What does “Feminist Peace” mean to you?

My understanding of “Feminist Peace” is a reflective and inclusive process that speaks to the needs of women in the process of conflict resolution and the creation of sustainable peace. This takes into cognisance root cause analysis of violent conflicts and wars, examines and provides innovative options from a feminist perspective to many issues including education, health, economics, the environment and peacebuilding.

Follow up: How is Feminist Peace important to creating sustainable peace and international peace-building?

In my opinion, the inclusive and reflective process of Feminist Peace in building sustainable peace is a bottom top approach that recognises the different realities of women. It acknowledges that women are not a homogenous group and therefore gives room for multiple translations of actions and expressions. This is within a universal framework of addressing the needs and rights of women and ensuring that beyond an enabling environment women can enforce their agency in both private and public spheres.

What would you say to young people who are feeling demotivated about peacebuilding because of what they see and hear on the news?  

Peacebuilding is a transformative process that has ripple effects and sometimes it takes an extended period to witness the impacts. Just for one moment imagine the work being done on the ground and within multilateral systems stops, the impact would be a state of anarchy and global chaos. So, even though you may not readily see the result or the ripple effect of the peacebuilding work done at multiple levels, take consolation in the fact that we are making a difference in communities and giving hope to humanity. For every negative news you read or hear, be reassured that we have a lot of success stories and lots of lives are being saved.

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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.

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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Demilitarisation

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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