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Honduran Indigenous Leader Berta Cáceres Murdered

4 March 2016
Berta Cáceres was a prominent human rights defender, activist and environmentalist. Photo credit: Goldman Environmental Prize.

Early on 3 March, WILPF was shocked by the news that Berta Cáceres, one of the leaders and founders of the National Council of Peoples and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), had been murdered. She was an active member of the women’s resistance against the coup d’etat in Honduras a few years ago, and a very known human rights defender. She denounced the repression against human rights defenders and their criminalisation, and the killing of more than 110 human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and environmentalists.

In more recent years, Berta Cáceres joined the struggle of indigenous peoples and her activism focused on the defense of indigenous land resources, their rivers and forests, their lives and survival. She fought for women’s human rights, for democracy and social justice in her country. Because of all the death threats she received, Berta Cáceres had protective measures requested by the Inter American Human Rights Commission. In 2015, she received the Environment Goldman Prize for her defense of the Lenka people affected by the hydroelectric dam in Agua Zarca and her fight against the privatisation of the River Río Gualcarqueque.

The leadership of indigenous women in many places around the world is notorious. In Canada and in Latin America women are becoming more and more visible and they are speaking up about the protection of their lands and the survival of their peoples. Many years of forced silent in Guatemala have been broken and some justice has been done recently, after years of consistent work by many human rights defenders and significant international support.

Killing a leader like Berta Cáceres is a cowardly but brutal message to intimidate those leaders that attempt other ways of development. The rights to consultation of indigenous peoples when development plans affect their land is guaranteed in international law, yet, there is little or no accountability for international companies with the complicity of local governments who allow for weak enforcement of laws. The funding of many such large and aggressive projects come from developed countries, where pressure should focus to stop them, amongst other measures, to ensure respect of international law, including the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the ILO 169 Convention, which emphasise their right to consultation.

WILPF condemns the repression of women who exercise their right to participate in public affairs of their communities, that exercise democracy and are willing to lead their causes. Today we grieve with the people of Berta Cáceres and demand a full investigation by the government of Honduras into her killing, a government which was aware of her death threats and had the obligation to protect her.

Her memory, her achievements and her courage will not be forgotten.

Read the open letter to Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Trade, regarding the murder of Berta Cáceres.

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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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