Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

Press Release

#poweronpatrol

Power on Patrol, the New Documentary, Is Out

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.

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
1 July 2022

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, concludesWe’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

Press Contacts

  • Dean Peacock | dean.peacock@wilpf.org | 27 72 461 7751
  • Rebecca Ladbury | rebecca@ladburypr.com | 447941 224 975
  • Danya Agababian | danya@ladburypr.com | 447779 635 147
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WILPF International Secretariat

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is the oldest and longest standing women’s peacebuilding organization in the world with secretariat offices in Geneva and New York and with constituted membership organisations in nearly fifty countries. WILPF is one of the originators of the Women, Peace and Security agenda and played a key role in the passage of Security Council Resolution 1325. WILPF plays a leadership role in feminist movements across the world, especially those working to address conflict and promote peace. Over the last few years, WILPF has strengthened its focus on mobilizing men for feminist peace in collaboration with the MenEngage Alliance.

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Thank you!

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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