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IPB 2016: Inclusion of the Youth in the Peacebuilding Movement

17 October 2016

If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in your room.
– Dalai Lama

Mobilisation is not useless, and it is important. We can change the world, we can build peace, we can build a better future.

by Marie Cucurella, coordinator of the Young WILPF Network

At the end of September 2016, the 4-day long conference “Disarm! For a Climate of Peace”, organised by the International Peace Bureau (IPB) and co-sponsored by WILPF, was held in Berlin. Speakers and participants came from all around the world to discuss how to build a world without violence, arms, inequality and discrimination. Many enlightened and enlightening people had chosen to travel to Berlin. The conference was inclusive, in terms of origins as much as in terms of gender. Although, one category was still missing. Guess who? The young activists.

The importance of youth inclusion and participation

Youth inclusion and participation are important. Education is also crucial, and more specifically, non-formal education. How can you pave the way for peace without including and educating young people? It seems hard to do so.

Therefore, prior to and parallel with the Congress, a youth gathering was organised. The aim was to bring a youth perspective to the Congress, but mainly to establish a network of committed young persons working for peace.

The structure of the encounter focused on team building and non-formal education activities: games that actually fostered discussion and debate, but also intercultural learning. While the official Congress was quite formal – built on a classic structure – the youth gathering fostered exchange and communication, and helped to find the tools to take practical steps in our day-to-day life. It also provided a safe space for everyone to express their views and share their experiences.

Participants of the youth gathering wrote a declaration, stating their claims, and the next steps to be taken by and for the youth. They are now willing to spread it as widely as possible, in order to facilitate more international exchange, action and discussion.

Young WILPF at the youth gathering
Photo of a group of participants
Credit: Lucas Wirl

A few members of Young WILPF were present and contributed to the meeting. They also seized this opportunity to meet and brainstorm on Young WILPF future activities, how to get new members and have a really dynamic network. The answers they came up with included: personal communication, development of a webpage on youth and peace activism, hosting of webinars … All of this to come soon!

Most of all, the aim of this youth gathering was to build a platform of communication among young people. It is about building peace and solidarity at one’s own level, by tiny steps and moves.

Now that the youth platform has been created, some of the members of the youth gathering that met in Berlin have decided to continue working together. Young WILPF, together with other organisations, have big projects to come, starting with a World Youth Congress to take place in 2018. The main theme would still be peacebuilding, but this time, the youth would be perfectly included – both in the organisation of and participation in the Congress – so that no external youth gathering would be needed.

After all, inclusion of the youth is a critical aim that all spheres of society should aspire to, from civil society to employment.

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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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