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Remembering Our Past and Rebuilding Our Future: Accounts of Pacifist and Antimilitary Women in Colombia

1 July 2015

In Bogotá, Colombia, on 22 May 2015, close to 300 academics, diplomats, journalists, women’s rights defenders, feminist activists and students attended the one-day event organised by WILPF Colombia to commemorate and celebrate WILPF´s 100-year anniversary. The event also served to mark the history of pacifist and antimilitary women in Colombia as part of a series of worldwide events organised by different WILPF Sections

By WILPF Colombia

17897427500_870af31992_mThe conference combined the academic research of important representatives on the analysis and historical review of the pioneers of pacifism internationally and in Colombia, together with examples of activism carried out by brave women who chose to transform the existing violent structures using initiatives involving women at the local level to promote peace. This conference allowed the voices and political views of the Afro-Colombian, indigenous, peasant and mestizo/urban women to come together. One of the main messages of the day was the need to strengthen partnerships between these groups of women, academics and activists, in order to strengthen our work and our voice in building peace in Colombia. The proceedings of the workshop will be available in the coming months along with some short videos of the panels presented.

The event was held in alliance with the Department of Gender Studies at the National University of Colombia. As part of this event, speakers were invited to reconstruct, honour and make visible the lives and work of pacifist and anti-military women who have struggled to build peace in Colombia throughout the 60-year armed conflict. Guest speakers included Carmen Magallon Portoles, President of WILPF Spain, Dora Isabel Díaz, professor of the Gender Studies Department at the National University, and Diana Espinosa from UN Women.

Celebrating 100 years of WILPF in Cartagena, Colombia

Since its inception in 1998, WILPF Colombia’s main work has been carried out in three regions: Bolivar, Meta and Bogota, supporting and empowering women victims of the armed conflict, forced displacement and sexual violence. As part of the 100 year celebrations in Colombia, the Cartagena office organised an afternoon event on 26 June 2015, to honour the work and lives of many women human rights defenders that have worked with WILPF Colombia throughout its history.

The event “Women’s Power to Build Peace” included speakers such as Marlene Barrios, one of the first women leaders to have worked with WILPF Colombia when projects began in various towns in the region of Bolivar including San Juan, Revivir, and San José de Los Campanos. The speakers shared their experiences working with WILPF Colombia and their challenges as women’s rights leaders in a possible post-conflict setting.

The event closed with an art exhibition of the participants’ understanding of what women’s power to build peace means to them.

A brief history of LIMPAL Colombia

WILPF Colombia has been in operation since 1998 and its projects are based on principles of dignity, freedom, peace, justice and solidarity. Our aim is to be part of a pacifist and social women’s movement committed to the reconstruction of a just, egalitarian and inclusive society.

WILPF Colombia seeks to become one of the leading women’s rights organisations committed to building a peaceful and just society where women and girls feel empowered to claim their rights. WILPF Colombia has offices in Bogotá and Cartagena, and aims to soon open a new office in Villavicencio.

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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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