New documentary spotlights the men working with female activists in conflict societies around the world to challenge notions of militarised masculinities and advance feminist peace.
“When we are talking about militarised masculinity, I want to refer to it as the violent power of men…You have power. How do you use your power?” Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo, President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Cameroon
As news reports remind us on a daily basis, violence and war are having a devastating effect on countries, communities, and individuals across the world. A new hour-long documentary Power on Patrol from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) sheds light on the concept of militarised masculinities as a key driver of this conflict and aggression, the ways it manifests itself in conflict societies, how it is sustained and spotlights the stories of the male allies doing vital work alongside female activists to achieve equitable peace.
Through powerful personal testimony, the film reveals the motivations of the women and men living in deeply militaristic, patriarchal societies – Afghanistan, Cameroon, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – who are figuring out how to work together to challenge men’s privileges, as well as the larger power structures which perpetuate militarised masculinities: the state, its military and the neoliberal politics that exploit traditional ideas of masculinity, reinforcing hierarchies and disempowerment for those outside this gender norm.
These local voices are intertwined with those of global leaders in the field, Ray Acheson, Director of WILPF’s disarmament programme Reaching Critical Will, and Oswaldo Montoya from the MenEngage Alliance.
In Colombia, currently engaged in one of the longest armed conflicts in the world, we meet Alejandro Parra Maćias from ACOOC, the Colombian Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors who use community education and strategic litigation to actively challenge the dominant narrative about militarised masculinities marketed by the government. Working in tandem with Diana Salcedo López, President of feminist peace organisation LIMPAL, the WILPF section in Colombia, they reveal the enormous challenges they face to diminish the attraction of the military for young men, and in resisting the enforced conscription which has become common place, viewed as part of the country’s largest army recruitment drive in the last 200 years.
“In Colombia, institutionally men are militarised from a very early age. All the war propaganda we see on television in prime time…an army that invests millions of pesos a year so that the child becomes a man in the army,” says Alejandro “..they are not seeing male caretakers, they are not seeing male teachers, they are not seeing male nurses, what they are seeing is soldiers.”
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Annie Matundu Mbambi, President of WILPF DRC and her male colleague Paty Siwala from the National Democratic Institute reveal how the combined effect of a turbulent political history – which under Laurent Kabila’s regime actively armed children – easy availability of guns, and a highly visible and militarised police force, has been devastating.
“It’s a generation that was armed,” says Paty, “so the use of children, it’s really the first element to be able to trivialise the weapon.” Despite the lack of state support Annie and Paty are working hard to change perceptions, and their work is having an impact, with men, Annie once “considered as our executioners” starting to come forward and advocate for women’s rights.
In Cameroon, Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo, President of WILPF in the country reveals, “Inequality is at the root of the conflicts in Cameroon. People feel excluded, they feel discriminated against and all of those frustrations over the years have piled up.” We follow Sylvie as she travels to Melong to meet a local Chief who is a committed peace builder and receptive to understanding more about women’s rights.
Whilst Sylvie feels hopeful that with his support she can influence other Chiefs in the region, it is clear he is still a guarantor of a patriarchal society and its institutions. The Chief is sympathetic to Sylvie’s arguments, but there is still a long way to go in a system where men ultimately hold all power and privilege and believe that it is through male patronage that any advancements can be made.
Hareer Hashim, a WILPF project manager in Afghanistan, has been devastated by the war and oppression in her beloved homeland. A culmination of conflict, societal change and cultural issues alongside poverty and a powerful economic crisis has loaded ever more pressure on men to provide. “When they can’t provide they go and take other opportunities,” says Hareer. “If that’s taking arms for one extremist group or for another warlord, they will do it…it’s that simple a decision. So that’s militarised masculinities in Afghanistan.”
Now living as a refugee in Norway, having fled the country in the wake of the Taliban takeover, Hareer continues to work with male allies at all levels of Afghan society from parliamentarians to teachers and students, in her struggle to defend hard-won rights for peace and freedom, especially for women. Rights that are now brutally oppressed by the current de-facto regime.
Amongst her most powerful male allies are a group of Ulemas, religious scholars who hold enormous influence. Though at first resistant, Hareer now credits them as “the force that actually is helping us propel society even in the current circumstances when women cannot go out, when women cannot have their education. It is these male Ulemas who will be the face of the conversation.”
As Ray Acheson, Director of WILPF’s disarmament programme Reaching Critical Will, concludes “We’re taught that this is the way the world is..but it’s not actually in reality, the dominant scene. So what we need to do is dig in, find the examples of countries, societies, communities, and households that live differently, and build those up as the norm. What is it that we could actually create instead of the system that we have today?”
Power on Patrol is available to view on the WILPF website.
Dir: Tay Blyth-Kubota
Prod: Joanna Maxwell-Scott
Exec Prod: Dean Peacock
- Dean Peacock | firstname.lastname@example.org | 27 72 461 7751
- Rebecca Ladbury | email@example.com | 447941 224 975
- Danya Agababian | firstname.lastname@example.org | 447779 635 147