Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

New Report: Women and Explosive Weapons

26 March 2014

“The area that we lived in was being bombed and they had snipers on all the high buildings, so anybody who moved would be shot. There were no schools, no hospitals, no electricity, no water, nothing at all. Everything was broken, ruined.” – Um Ali, Syrian border, Lebanon (Source: Save the Children)

Women and Explosive Weapons

“Many pregnant women are losing their children during this war, they are bleeding out because they cannot reach help.” – Maha, Syrian border, Lebanon (Source: Save the Children)

Women and Explosive weapons

Today, we’re releasing a new report examining the unique impact on women of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. We wrote the “Women and Explosive Weapons” report in order to ensure that women affected by the use of explosive weapons receive the same attention, recognition, and treatment as men.

What do we mean by explosive weapons?

Explosive weapons in populated areas have devastating effects on lives of civilians. These types of weapons are today used in most armed conflicts and result in 80–90% of civilian casualties when use in populated areas.

The survivors of explosive weapons continue to suffer from many kinds of long-term challenges such as disabilities, psychological harm, and social and economic exclusion.

The use of these weapons also has an overwhelming negative impact on infrastructure such as housing, schools, hospitals, and water and sanitation systems, resulting in devastating long-term effects on people’s lives far beyond the conflict itself.

Where and how are they used?

On of the most urgent ongoing situations where explosive weapons are being used is in Syria. It’s been three years since the war in Syria started, and according to UN data, 93 000 people were killed between March 2011 and April 2013. Today, the numbers are much higher than that.

It’s estimated that a third of these deaths are likely to have been due to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. While it is clear that consequences of the use of these weapons are devastating for whole communities, WILPF knows that women’s experiences in conflict tend to be overlooked or ignored.

Shelling in Homs, Syria. Credit: UN Photo/David Manyua
Shelling in Homs, Syria. Credit: UN Photo/David Manyua

What kind of impact do explosive weapons have on women?

The methods and nature of armed conflict can transform the perception of women as active members of a community or a household into passive victims requiring protection. This tends to result in considering women, often grouped with children and the elderly, as passive and helpless.

Research done on landmines shows that women tend to face a higher risk of stigmatisation and marginalisation due to their injuries and also have more limited access to emergency care and longer-term rehabilitation assistance. Major destruction of health care structures has been identified as having a particular devastating effect on women, in particular in relation to accessing maternity care.

What is WILPF doing to address this issue?

Our belief is that there is great potential for further concrete work in the area of gender and disarmament. Gender is a crosscutting issue, relevant to everything that the disarmament community works on. Gender considerations range from who participates in disarmament negotiations to the specific gendered impact of weapons.

The Women and Explosive Weapons report is a part of the broader work of WILPF focusing on enhancing the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda through achieving disarmament and respecting human rights.

Read more about our work on gender and disarmament on the Reaching Critical Will website

Download the report Women and Explosive Weapons and visit the International Network on Explosive Weapons.

If you have read our report, then please let us know what you think of it. Just use the comments below. We would love to hear from you. female wrestling

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Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

PRESIDENT

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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Demilitarisation

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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