Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

Global Study: Interview with Madeleine Rees

14 October 2015

Interviewer: Ghazal Rahmanpanah

On 14 October, findings and recommendations from the Independent Global Study on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 will be presented to UN leadership, Member States and civil society by lead author Radhika Coomaraswamy. We spoke with Madeleine Rees, WILPF Secretary General, about the Global Study, its recommendations, and what it all means for the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. 

Pictured: WILPF Secretary Genernal, Madeleine Rees; Photo credit: Rowan Farrell

1. October 2015 marks the 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Why is it important for you to be here and what are your goals?

Women have always organised on the issue of conflict and conflict prevention. WILPF has mobilised for women’s power to stop war for 100 years. But with Security Council Resolution 1325, women have been better able to globalise our activities and bring them more coherently into the international arena.

As we know only too well, it has not been easy. Obstacles are constantly thrown in the way, not least by the United Nations itself. But that is why it is important to keep engaging.

At our 100th, we said that the launch of the report would be the next opportunity for women to mobilise. That is happening in New York – despite the change of date and incredible difficulties that has caused. In this month of Women, Peace and Security events, we will build on the key messages from the study: participation, ending militarism, controlling arms, addressing gendered power structures and working for peace.

We must not forget that we promised to ourselves that we would not be restrained by what the UN does and say. They may invite us, consult with us, or not. But either way, we will organise and take action ourselves.

2. What has your role been in the development of the Global Study on UNSCR 1325? Why is civil society’s participation so important?

Without the participation of civil society, there would be no Global Study, at least not this one. The civil society consultations form the backbone of the report, which has consciously tried to ensure that it is the experiences of women that have dictated its content.

My role has been to provide input on areas where WILPF and I have particular expertise, including as part of the High Level Advisory Group on UNSCR 1325. The civil society consultations including before, during, and after WILPF’s 100th I think were very influential in framing much of the content. There is a great deal in the study as a result on human rights, militarisation and arms control, as well as conduct of peacekeepers.

3. What have we learned from the Global Study? What are critical priorities for peace and gender justice moving forward?

The most obvious message is that more must be done to work on conflict prevention and to move away from the militarised default position on crises. Support for feminist foreign policy feeds into this and we, as civil society, should organise to promote and demand it from our governments. Integral to all of this is how funding works not just for civil society organisations but more broadly in terms of how to address root causes.

4. What can people do to take action?

The Global Study is just another beginning; we must use it as we did with UNSCR 1325, to build on our movement for fundamental change and peace. We must engage, from the grassroots to the multilateral system, with governments and international systems in order to build on the Global Study and ensure commitments transform into concrete action that increases our coherence and confidence within our own ability to force sustainable change.


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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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