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Reflections on the CSW

11 March 2013

Following the end of the first week of Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), there is much to reflect upon. Inside the UN, member states have been negotiating the agreed conclusions; a document intended to provide the next practical steps to realizing gender equality, and implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. 

But as the negotiations progress, it is clear that the obstructive states, including Russia, Iran the Holy See and others, remain committed to derailing the process. Not only do these actors seek to undermine new progressive language, but also to regress long established international commitments on women’s rights and gender equality. 

Banner from the CSW57 2013Along side this we are also seeing the failure of progressive states to present language on militarization, military spending and arms proliferation. Though there are pushes for the inclusion of the women peace and security resolutions, to date there is no connection being made between gender inequality, violence against women, and militarization. We are moving backwards from the progress made at Beijing in 1995. Especially given this years CSW is immediately followed by the new round of negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty, it is difficult not to be entirely cynical about the failure and hypocrisy of the international system to be any real force for positive change.

Yet outside of the UN, more than six thousand women, from civil society are organizing around these very issues. This is a new record for CSW, and really speaks the commitment and power of the global women’s movement. Over the past week, I have attended numerous side events, and spoken with women from all over the world who want to see a new global agenda for change. They are speaking to the need to drastically reform the economic, political, security and social structures that not only support, but depend upon the perpetuation of gender inequality for their survival.  

Women here are sharing their stories, and relating the intimate connections between violence against women and militarism they experience in their societies.  The stories vary, but the manifestations are the same, across cultures and contexts. I have been physically shaken listening to so many of these stories, and overwhelmed by the powerful voices of the women relaying them. 

So then, with this great divide between the talk of member states within the UN building, and the radical voice of the women (and some men) organizing around the UN, I ask myself – how can we remain hopeful? How can we use the power of our voice to influence real change? 

I do not have the answers, but I do have some cause for hope. Last year a study was published, which showed the single most effective means to achieving gains in women’s rights and gender equality is solidarity and organized women’s movements. Six thousand women are here in solidarity, speaking across a range of issues, but with united voice. It seems likely that we will leave CSW with no agreed conclusions – but the solidarity of the women’s movement will only be strengthened – and we will continue to work, and to speak with united voice until we have the radical change we seek.

By Sharna de Lacy, YWILPF Australia

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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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