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New Report From a Feminist Solidarity Conference by Women Organising for Change in Syria and Bosnia

4 June 2014

Report-Cover_300As part of WILPF’s initiative “Women Organising for Change in Syria and Bosnia” a feminist solidarity conference between women activists from Syria and Bosnia was held from 10-14th of February 2014 in Sarajevo, Bosnia. 20 representatives and activists from women groups and human rights organisations in Syria attended the conference along with 42 activists and representatives of women’s rights groups and civil society organisations from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The intention was to provide a space where Bosnian experiences could interact with Syrian experiences – to learn and draw lessons from each other – but also to put these different experiences together in a coherent picture on what female activism looks like in conflict and post-conflict settings, and the different spaces that need to be created for their participation.

At this conference, which turned into an amazing feminist solidarity meeting between the women of Syria and Bosnia, three different segments were addressed. These being; peace negotiations and women’s participation in peace making and peace-building, Gender Based Violence, and justice. We focused on the different ways women have organised during war, and the lack of space in formal arenas for women’s active and meaningful participation in peace negotiations.

The women also shared their experiences of working with survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and the different forms and shapes it takes both during and after conflicts. The women discussed the notion and different dimensions of justice from women’s perspective and what justice is in light of massive human rights violations that have taken place in Bosnia, and are still occurring in Syria.

Below are few conclusions from the discussions that took place. To ensure that you get the full understanding make sure to download the full report from the conference.

  • Peace negotiations are more then just about negotiating ceasefire, they are about creating a democratic society inclusive for all, and that women’s active participation in creating that society is an imperative;
  • Wartime rape should not be seen only through ethnic or religious lenses, nor only understood as weapon of war, or during its prosecution be merged with other crimes. There must also be an understanding that sexual violence and other types of GBV happen to women because they are women; this is necessary for better and more adequate understanding of power relations in the militarised society.
  • Justice is not only about prosecution; it is also about the whole environment of justice that needs to be created. In order to achieve peace for everyone, truth, justice and accountability for gender-based and human rights violations also need to be achieved through mechanisms of social, economic, and cultural justice.

The discussion during the four days the conference was truly insightful and in the words of the participants themselves, it was a space where they felt safe to share their experiences, to practice true solidarity and to create a joint vision of where they want to be and how to get there.

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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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