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IWD Spotlight: WILPF US Organises for Peace at 33rd Congress

27 February 2018

Leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8, WILPF will be publishing a series of articles spotlighting some of the efforts of our member groups to create a more sustainable, peaceful future for women around the world. Follow these publications and support International Women’s Day by sharing with the hashtag #IWD2018.

“When you look at history, the arc bends towards justice,” announced the Institute for Policy Studies’ Phyllis Bennis, invoking the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “but it doesn’t do it by itself. That’s our job.”

Bennis addressed a crowd of peace-builders who had flocked to Chicago in July 2017 for WILPF US’s 33rd Triennial Congress. The assembly of mostly women hailed from all corners of the US and touted colorful and varied histories, but all were linked by their shared goal of global feminist peace. As International Women’s Day approaches, the lessons imparted by this congress are especially relevant.

Phyllis Bennis & Leah Bolger

The congress convened under the friendly shadow of the WILPF Founder Jane Addams’ Hull House, the first settlement house for immigrants in the US. Addams, a leading feminist of her time, was referenced frequently and with high regard by the speakers at the WILPF US Congress, who 100 years later demonstrate the same commitment to feminist peace in their work.

For three days the women at the congress would participate in workshops, panels and dinner conversations, deliberate on high-level conflict resolution, and analyse humanitarian crisis response programmes, covering topics from regenerative agriculture to gerrymandering. WILPF invite you to be inspired by the full line-up of inspirational speakers and their speeches.

Activists argued for peaceful resistance, one vividly relating her experience planting corn over missile silo fields in Missouri, another matter-of-factly explaining her decision to fight BP and the Koch brothers for covering her hometown in tar sands dust from their oil rigs.

From one lecturer to the next, from each attendee to another, the foundational message of peaceful conflict resolution was reinforced. A pillar of International Women’s Day is the power of female collaboration, which attendees at the WILPF US Congress demonstrated through calm debate and discussion. The women exhibited the effectiveness of diplomatic resolution in their brainstorming sessions, during which they engaged in the exchange of ideas and planned initiatives for establishing peace.

WILPF US members walk to Hull House.

The weekend of “women speaking truth to power,” says WILPF US President Mary Hansen, exemplified a strong feminist ecology. Lectures were punctuated with performances by social justice folk singers and a community building gospel choir. Ultimately the weekend was a show of force, solidarity and innovation from women engaged in and promoting peaceful reform.

Jane Addams, explained Hansen in her closing remarks to the congress, “thought that part of [the] healing of the world was a gendered solidarity. Does that sound familiar? The familiarity is because we’re dealing with the same issues, the same need to join together in solidarity.”

Even though the Congress is over, the missions remain. The establishment of global feminist peace is the basis of all WILPF programmes, and in 2018 WILPF US will continue in this pursuit by demanding reform on wage inequality, fracking, water quality, immigration, refugee services, climate justice and more.

Please join the movement! Women’s International Day is about welcoming women to create a more equitable world. We welcome you to be part of the movement. Visit the WILPF US site for news and upcoming events.

In the meantime, happy International Women’s Day!

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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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