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Open Letter to President Obama

7 November 2012

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to congratulate you on your re-election as President of the United States of America. As the election results are being tallied, it has become clear that the majority of your support came from women of all classes and races, and men of marginalized ethnic groups. Members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom US chapters are among those who campaigned vigorously for your return to office.

Photo of women waiting to meet Barack Obama
Barack Obama in Columbus — August 21st

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom will make history during your second term in office, Mr President. In 2015, we will mark our centenary: a hundred years of organized women actively working to reduce militarization and stop warfare. The League began in the USA in 1915 as a women’s peace movement to end the First World War and soon spread to Europe. In its decades of activism it has become a global movement working to reduce all forms of armed violence and military conflict. Our work continues today in capitals and in conflict zones, and our members number in the thousands.

Your own successful election campaigns, Mr President, have taught you that mobilised women are a significant political force. Women are much more likely than men to vote for moderate political leaders and, as less powerful members of society, anticipate the negative consequences of extremist political positions with great acuity.

What you have learned in your own country is also true elsewhere. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is working with politically involved women all over the Middle East and North Africa who are claiming their right to full engagement in every aspect of decision-making as their countries strive for greater and more inclusive governance. Yet the international community persists in overlooking these women and ignores the moderate, reconciliatory and peace-based policies they endorse. This indifference to women’s opinions only serves to amplify the voices of those who endorse religious extremism, oppose democratic inclusion and misuse ‘culture’ to justify the continued oppression of half the population. The impacts on peace and development are devastating, not just in the region but for all nations on earth.

One hundred years of women’s leadership in promoting peace gives a mandate to all political leaders to take women’s opinions and decision-making seriously. For one hundred years, women have persistently argued that the world does not need to be torn apart by militarised violence. Our unified voices are as clear now as they were in 1915.

Your second term of office, Mr President, gives you a magnificent opportunity to be on the side of history. We call on you to support women’s inclusion in all your foreign policy decision-making. We call on you to honour the mandate given to you by those millions of American women who returned you to office last night. We remind you that when women’s opinions are taken seriously, the world regains balance and the human family moves forward to greater prosperity for all.

Yours sincerely,

Madeleine Rees

Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

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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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