Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

It's Time to Stand up for Pakistani Women's Rights

24 October 2012

Malala Yousafzai has become a symbol for women’s human rights in Pakistan. Shot in the head and neck by the Taliban whilst on her way to school, her story has touched and revolted Pakistani society. But why was she targeted?

Malala initially received public attention at the age of 11 for exerting her right to freedom of speech. The diary she wrote, under the pen name Gul Makai, laid bare the suffering of those living under Taliban rule and resonated throughout Pakistan,

Importantly, however, the recent shocking attack on the 14-year-old is as much an attack on women as it is on Pakistani freedom of expression. Indeed, the Taliban has become notorious for its oppressive attitude towards women and its enforcement of what has often been described as gender apartheid.

Malala was prompted to start her diary after the Taliban ordered the closure of all girls’ schools in the Swat Valley, where she was living. The young girl used her writing to champion the rights of women to education, and highlight on a wider scale the brutality of the Taliban towards women.

Photo of woman in burka
Under Taliban rule, women are forced to cover up completely when in public.

In areas under Taliban control, women are not allowed to be educated past the age of eight. They are forbidden from leaving the house without a male member of the family. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have decreed that women must not speak loudly in public to prevent strangers from hearing a woman’s voice. These are just a few of the Taliban’s policies against women that strip them of any sense of personal freedom or autonomy.

The shooting of Malala has united Pakistanis not only in a common disgust at the Taliban’s actions but also in a tacit acknowledgement that the unequal conditions of women living there must be addressed. Her attack has given great strength to women throughout Pakistan and has prompted them to engage in rallies and marches – some of which our own WILPF Pakistan members have taken part – to fight against the oppression that women have endured for too long

Next week the Human Rights Council of the United Nations will review the compliance of Pakistan with human rights, in its Universal Periodic Review. It is crucial that the UN consider the basic rights of women who are violated on a daily basis.

Want to get more involved?

WILPF International will hold a side event entitled, ‘Women’s Rights in Pakistan: Status, Challenges and Possible Solutions’. We are happy to include on our panel Fauzia Viqar from Shirkat Gah, and Taslim Akhtar from WILPF Pakistan. The public event will be held at the UN Palais in room XXII on 31 October from 13:00 to 15:00, with refreshments being served beforehand.

You can find WILPF’s recommendations for the UPR Pakistan here .

If you are in Geneva and are interested in coming to the event please contact us at rights (a) wilpf.ch

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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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