Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

Mobilising for a Gender-Sensitive Treaty on Business and Human Rights

2 November 2017

Last week, from 23 to 27 October, WILPF participated in the third session of the UN Open- ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIWG) on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. During the session, we raised the need to integrate a gender perspective into the Draft Elements for the binding instrument presented by the OEIWG Chair and in cooperation with 13 NGOs partners we submitted a joint written contribution focusing on three key areas.  

Since the first OEIWG’s session, WILPF has consistently been advocating for the integration of a gender perspective into the legally binding instrument that the OEIWG is mandated to elaborate. In order to draw the attention of States to this issue, we developed a written submission jointly with 13 other NGOs, which focuses on three key areas: mandatory gender impact assessments of the impacts on human rights of business operations; gender sensitive justice and remedy mechanisms for business-related violations; and ensuring respect, protection and an enabling environment for women human rights defenders.

WILPF further emphasised the importance of integrating a gender perspective into the treaty through a side event organised with partner organisations entitled: “Mind the gap: A feminist approach to the binding treaty”. The event was live streamed, has been recorded and is available to watch 

During this side event, women human rights defenders working on corporate accountability in Indonesia, South Africa, Myanmar, and Burkina Faso shared their struggles and experiences in challenging business-related human rights abuse. They explained the specific harmful impacts of corporate abuse on women, as well as the gendered risks faced by women human rights defenders, including in cases involving mining activities in Burkina Faso, and the privatisation of social grants services in South Africa that has disproportionately negatively impacted black women. Barriers that women face in seeking justice against corporate abuse were exemplified with the experience of Indonesian women fighting against the privatisation of water. WILPF presented the above-mentioned joint written submission.   

 WILPF also co-sponsored a side event on “The Cost of Impunity: The Cross-regional Fight of Affected Communities and Human Rights Defenders for Effective Remedies” 

This event brought together experiences of human rights defenders from different regions. Their interventions demonstrated the need for specific language in the international instrument that addresses the risks and challenges faced by defenders on the ground, including the specific ones faced by women human rights defenders. The event was live streamed, has been recorded and is available to watch. 

We also reiterated and elaborated on the importance of a gender perspective in the treaty and on our recommendations in joint oral statements with partner NGOs. The general statement read by AWID urged States committed to women’s rights and gender equality to recognise corporate human rights abuse as deeply gendered, and as a women’s rights issue and to engage constructively in the process.  A  joint statement by FIDH focused on the specific protection needs of human rights defenders working on corporate accountability, including those of women human rights defenders. The statement read by WILPF called for mandatory and independent gender impact assessments of corporate activities. Finally, the last joint statement delivered by APWLD highlighted the need for gender-sensitive access to justice and remedies to be taken into account in the treaty.

Sanam Amin from APWLD in the joint statement by WILPF, AWID, APWLD, CIEL, and FIAN on the need for gender-sensitive access to justice and remedies

WILPF will continue to work with partners to ensure that a gender perspective is reflected fully into the next steps on the legally binding instrument.

Learn more about our feminist mobilisation for this treaty by following us on Twitter at #Feminists4BindingTreaty.

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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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