We are back where it all started – The Hague, the Netherlands – where 1,136 women gathered in 1915 to protest the atrocities of World War I. The event came to be the birth of our organisation – the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Today, exactly 100 years later, over 280 WILPF members from all over the world are coming together here in The Hague once again, at the historic Peace Palace, to set the agenda for women’s peacebuilding. This is the first day of our highly anticipated 100th Anniversary, and the first day of our 32nd International Congress.
Delegates gather at the Peace Palace in The Hague
The air was filled with expectation today as people were defying the chilly wind to gather for Congress, which is constituted by WILPF members from all National Sections and is the highest decision-making body of the organisation. We are looking forward to three hectic days here at the Peace Palace, where Congress will review the work of the Secretariat in the past three years, elect a new Executive Committee, vote on budget, the 2015 WILPF Manifesto and the International Programme, and much more. Their decisions will set the direction for the organisation to take in the coming years.
The formal opening of Congress started with former Secretary General Susi Snyder welcoming everyone, saying “You are all part of the WILPF journey.” This was followed by warm welcoming speeches by our International President Adilia Caravaca, the President of WILPF Netherlands Aynur Tekin, and Steven van Hoogstraten, Director of the Carnegie Foundation, who wished us welcome to the Peace Palace.
WILPF welcomes new Sections and continues to grow
Today, one of the first tasks for Congress has been to formally accept new National Sections. We can therefore happily announce that WILPF as of today has three new Sections: Cameroon, Ghana and Israel. “We are glad to be back,” Aliyah Strauss from Israel said as the Section, which has in fact been recreated, was once again accepted as a part of WILPF.
The Ghana Section started as a small group in 2011, and today they were represented by their President Ayo Ayoola-Amale. “The absence of war does not mean there is peace,” she said as she took the stage to present her Section’s work. “We need to keep Ghana as peaceful as it is and set an example for other African countries.”
Sylvie Ndongmo, President of the new Cameroon Section, addressed Congress on how she and her fellow Section members had recognised the importance of questioning military spending and protecting human rights, especially in the light of the growing crisis in Cameroon. “We don’t need war to start working for peace. That is why it is so important for us to join this movement.”
“It really is a dream come true,” she said afterwards, as all the delegates were mingling over a cup of coffee outside the meeting room. “This day has been a testimony of the influence WILPF has had over the last 100 years, and that it is a vital organisation that continues to grow.”