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Rebels Against War

29 September 2017

In the weekend of 22-24 September, WILPF Germany gathered peace activists and young feminists to the “Rebels Against War – Anita Augspurg Award” ceremony in Verden, Germany. The weekend featured insightful talks and discussions, as well as the screening of the movie “Syria’s Rebellious Women.”

This weekend marked the 160th birthday of women’s rights activist Anita Augspurg, one of the founders of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She was born in the German city Verden, and WILPF Germany had therefore arranged an award ceremony to honour her memory and to honour the new generation of feminist activists. It was about connecting the past to the present to the future.

The participants in the event was welcomed by the mayor of Verden, who warmly acknowledged the importance of remembering the great women of history and to give them the space in our collective memory they deserve. He was followed by Barbara Lochbihler, who told the story of the life of Augspurg as well as gave a presentation of the winner of the Anita Augspurg prize, Zaina Erhaim.

Acknowledging great activist work

Erhaim was awarded the prize for her brilliant activist and feminist work, and for her film “Syria‘s Rebellious Women,” where she shows a different side of Syrian women’s lives than what is normally portrayed in mainstream media. In her ‘thank you’-speech, Erhaim highlighted the importance of challenging the idea that Syrian women are only victims, and in her work, she strives to show the variety of strength, determination and activism amongst Syrian women. As she said: “We should also tell the stories of all the strong women who oppose the regime, who speak up about rape and humiliation, who fight for justice and equality, and who don’t give up despite of the dangers imposed by the regime.”

Journalist and activist Zaina Erheim is awarded the Anita Augspurg “Rebels Against War” Prize

The film “Syria’s Rebellious Women” thus portraits some of the different effects the crisis in Syria has on the country’s women and has been made in collaboration with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. The film was shown in the cinema in Verden on Saturday, and afterwards the audience had the opportunity to ask questions and some amongst the audience shared their own experiences as refugees from the war-torn country.

Feminist engagement of the young generation for peace and human rights

The weekend was also an opportunity for networking and knowledge-sharing among young feminist activists from various countries. On Saturday, nine young women from Germany, Tunisia Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, Denmark, Syria and Finland presented their work and their perspectives on the challenges faced by the feminist movement today. This gave the audience an insight into the many different types of activist work being conducted around the world, and it was a reminder of the importance of working together, sharing experiences and always striving to strengthen the feminist movement.

The main point of the discussion was on what challenges the women face in their work and how it is possible to engage more young women in the feminist movement and in activist work for peace, gender equality and human rights.

The importance of movement building

The Anita Augspurg award ceremony and the discussions about a feminist future that followed, are examples of the importance of movement building. In a world where we constantly experience backlash on women’s rights and freedom of expression, it becomes more and more important to strengthen the ties between women from different countries, cultures and social backgrounds. By gathering different activists as well as creating dialogue between the older and younger generations of feminists, WILPF Germany worked to strengthen the global feminist movement and the solidarity between women.

Young WILPF’ers from around the world met and discussed feminist issues

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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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