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Postcard from the World Social Forum in Tunis

30 April 2013

Few days ago, we received from WILPFer Heidi Meinzolt from the German Section an interesting “postcard from the World Social Forum”, which took place in Tunis between 26th and 30th March 2013.

Five WILPFers meet there by chance and… Read her letter to WILPF to learn more.

Women's Assembly at the 2013 World Social Forum
Women’s Assembly at the 2013 World Social Forum

Dear WILPFers,

The World Social Forum (WSF), under the motto of ‘dignity’, is a great kitchen for a world in transition. In a mostly peaceful, friendly and open atmosphere, cooks from all over the world presented their receipts, the variety of their ingredients, and opened space for common ‘cooking’ sessions.

The first WSF in an Arabic country was a meeting point for creative ideas and revolutionary traditions. It was also an opportunity to network between existing global and regional networks and groups looking for new partners to exchange, campaign, inform and show solidarity with the most vulnerable, excluded and oppressed.

Old globetrotters, political tourists and open-minded youngsters shared their enthusiasm with ‘experts’ and overcame so easily all organisational problems.

Big auditoriums for a few plenary sessions, self-organised debates in small classrooms, open discussion rounds in tents and in the gardens of the university campus: that was the WSF in Tunis.

We also saw a lot of (spontaneous) manifestations against injustice, oppression, occupation, war and imprisoned individuals and peoples, such as the Palestinians and the Sahrawis. We also witnessed protests against the murder of the Tunisian opposition leader, against refugee camps in the Sahara and against the death of thousands of refugees in the Mediterranean see.

An incredible number of volunteers helped in each situation. Music, dance, exhibitions, food supply: the WSF was really an event to get inspired and to re-think the world.

Another world is possible!

The presence and visibility of Tunisians, the whole Middle East and the Arab World was impressing: probably more than 1/3 of the 30,000 – 50,000 people attending the Forum.

The focus on the Arab Spring brought in a spirit of new beginnings, hope in a new opening through international contacts and exchanges. At the same time, it expressed frustration and impatience due to the stagnation of the revolutionary dynamic into a democratic future.

The great and justified fear, especially of the many women who were active through the revolution, is to get marginalised and deprived again of their fundamental rights and freedoms. They are also afraid of losing equality and autonomy.

This is why the women attending the WSF used the great media attention to tell the world what they need and to remind everybody that they are willing to resist.

The programme of the WSF presented hundreds of workshops, forums and sessions – all relevant for WILPF:

  • Rethinking the economy: the economic crisis, sustainable development, anti-austerity movements, mobilisation against multinationals, post 2015 agenda, de-growth and anti-capitalism.
  • Building democracy: the constitutional processes in the MENA region, citizenship and social justice.
  • Women and capitalism: women’s resistance to debt, women in the Arab world and women’s rights.
  • Right to food, landgrabbing, trade agreements, rural development and buen vivir.
  • Disarmament: anti-war, drones, NATO, peaceful solution of conflicts.
  • Migration and refugees, political prisoners and Frontex
  • Climat Space
  • Laicism
Seminar at the 2013 World Social Forum
Seminar at the 2013 World Social Forum

However, I noticed some drawbacks: there was no mentioning of UNSCR 1325 and no reference to the UN, human security, human rights, conflict prevention and transitional justice.

The link between economic/social justice and war (you get what you pay for) was absent and there was no mentioning of WILPF and the MENA 1325 Agenda (we could not identify any participant of our project).

5 WILPFers met there by chance. We all arrived on our own not knowing that other members of WILPF were attending the event. That was a pity: I believe that a stronger and explicit WILPF voice strategically involved in debates on women could have made a difference and would have attracted both young and older (women) activists.

I met there Annalisa Milani (WILPF Italy), Ingela Martensson (WILPF Sweden), Robin Lloydt (WILPF US), Marlène Tuininga (WILPF France), Marta Benavides (ex-WILPF El Salvador). We decided that we want to convince all WILPFers individually, section wide, in the world regions, from the ExCom and the International Secretariat, not to abstain anymore in the future from such great manifestations.

We want to get involved in the WSF both strategically and personally, on the basis of our ‘Power To Stop War’.”

Interested in learning more about the WSF and other interesting events?

Good dates to check out:

Read also: Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt and 3rd Conference on Degrowth, Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity

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Thank you!

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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