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 “Power on Patrol” at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) 

This year’s CSW provided a unique platform for exploring the construction and deconstruction of militarised masculinities in Afghanistan through a thought-provoking documentary screening followed by an engaging panel discussion.

Afghan man and woman seated on a hill over a village.
Image credit: Sohaib Ghyasi
WILPF International Secretariat
15 April 2023

As part of their ongoing mission to mobilise men for feminist peace, WILPF and the MenEngage Alliance, in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations, co-hosted a  screening of the documentary “Power on Patrol: the Making and Unmaking of Militarised Masculinities in Afghanistan” at the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), followed by a panel discussion.  The film explores the intersection of masculinity and the ‘war system’ in Afghanistan and how Afghan men, in particular male ulemas, are working with WILPF women activists for gender equality and sustainable feminist peace. 

Below are the main takeaways from  the panel discussion:

  1. A feminist systems approach is crucial in challenging militarised masculinities 

In his opening remarks Laxman Belbase outlined the importance of a “feminist systems approach” in transforming patriarchal systems and challenging militarised masculinities around the world.  Working with men and boys, so often viewed as part of the problem, is vital, he added, as they are a crucial part of the solution to the crisis we are facing and should play a meaningful and accountable role in advancing a feminist agenda for equality and justice.  

  1. Establishing the WILPF Afghanistan male alliances network – 6,000 imams trained in 22 provinces 

Asked for her reflections on the film, Jamila Afghani , the President of WILPF Afghanistan, revealed it was “really emotional for me” and explained how her personal experience of growing up in a very conservative family in Afghanistan taught her that for women to see real change they must “have the support of male members of our families and male colleagues in our offices and also the support of influential males in any context – in political, social and economic spheres of life.” It is for this reason she has long sought support from influential religious scholars and leaders in her mission to work for feminist peace .

“I was able to train 6000 imams from 22 Provinces in Afghanistan and through the Mobilising Men for Feminist Peace programme , I have established a network of male allies and many wonderful men inside and outside of Afghanistan are supporting us.”

Jamila Afghani

  1. We will not surrender to the will of the Taliban…because we are not alone

Under the current Taliban regime, which “does not believe in humanity, women’s rights or human rights,” the situation has deteriorated dramatically, Jamila continued, with Afghan women and girls once again “imprisoned in their homes and not allowed to go to school or work outside” and many have no male breadwinners to support them.

“We are not going to surrender to the will of the Taliban , we will continue our struggle from different platforms, different areas, from inside Afghanistan, from outside Afghanistan because we are not alone. We have wonderful friends, international friends, our Afghan sisters and Afghan brothers who are standing with us in solidarity.” 

Jamila Afghani

  1. It is our responsibility to continue amplifying women’s? voices in Afghanistan

Hareer Hashim, who tells both her own story and reveals the social and structural impact of militarised masculinities on Afghanistan in the documentary, said she was “ blessed” to have a father who always supported her education. Fleeing the country in the wake of the Taliban takeover in 2021, she faced many challenges accepting her “new reality”. 

Hareer Hashim

“Being Afghan has taught me that you have to persevere. Those of us that are fortunate enough to flee alive, I think it is our responsibility to continue amplifying the voices of those that are inside of Afghanistan and are still dealing directly with this militarised regime.” 

Hareer Hashim

  1. Afghanistan was sold 

Visibly moved after watching the documentary, Dr Faramarz Jahanbeen shared his personal experience of being attacked and shot by two gunmen in Afghanistan, and of the trauma he and his family experienced at having to flee the country with just four hours notice after the Taliban takeover in 2021. 

“We really didn’t have the intention to leave our homeland, it was like the situation where a person puts a gun on your forehead and tells you to leave.” 

Dr. Faramarz Jahanbeen

Having left everything behind, they spent almost seven months in a camp in Abu Dhabi, despite being assured they would spend just 15 days there before being flown to the USA.

Afghanistan was “sold intentionally based on a contract or a deal,” he said. “We had a strong government, strong army, and were fully equipped. We had everything, but they didn’t use those resources to defend. So that’s why I say, I still believe that Afghanistan was sold.”

  1. Sharia – As feminists, how can we utilise the tool always used against us? 

Stressing the importance of both heighenting women’s awareness about their rights and changing the “mentality and male mindset that has occupied the society,” Jamila shared insights into her approach.  “I was thinking as a feminist, how can we utilise the tool which is always used against us? Sharia has been used against women’s rights in Afghanistan.”  

She explained how, when facing strong resistance from a local imam, she challenged him at a community meeting. When she began reciting verses from the Hadith, “the imam realised that my knowledge of Islam may be a bit higher than his knowledge and he found himself in a difficult situation.” As a result, the imam began supporting her work. As others followed, Jamila  gradually  began utilising the power of those imams to convince other imams still in opposition.

  1. The international community is damaging the existence of Afghan girls and women 

With international sanctions and “donors restraining themselves from helping and supporting Afghan people inside the country,” Jamila continued, “the way the Taliban is damaging Afghan girls and women,  in the same way international communities, especially NATO, especially the USA are also damaging the existence of Afghan girls and women and I hope that we practically show our solidarity by standing beside the women of Afghanistan, not only by tweets, not only by some messages. Practically there is a need of extending hands of help and support for them. “

Answering a question from the audience, Jamila said she thought the international community should change their mindset from thinking about the Taliban to thinking about the people of Afghanistan. She stated funding could be used as leverage to ensure a greater share is guaranteed to go to women’s organisations and initiatives.

“We always tend to find excuses or some sort of reasons as to why we cannot contribute enough. And with each new crisis Afghanistan is going lower in the interest of the international community. My only request as an Afghan would be to continue talking about this. Not only talking about this but doing something about it.”

Hareer Hashim

Watch ‘Power on Patrol: The Making and Unmaking of Militarised Masculinities in Afghanistan’ 

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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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. 

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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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