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Scotland: Towards a Global Nuclear Weapons Ban

2 October 2015

To mark the International Day of Peace and the UN International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, the WILPF UK Scottish branch, with the support of Scottish CND, ICAN UK and other members of the Scrap Trident Coalition, organised an event at the Scottish parliament on 23 September. It was hosted by MSP Bill Kidd, co-chair of the Nuclear Disarmament Cross Party Group. The event followed a debate on the Marshall Islands lawsuit against the nine nuclear-armed states in the Scottish parliament.

The event highlighted the many negative impacts of nuclear weapons policies on women, regardless of their use, and to identify the ways in which gender structures stand in the way of disarmament. WILPF Scotland’s nuclear disarmament campaigners see a special relevance for Scotland because there has been a significant increase in political activism by women across the political spectrum during and since the referendum for Scottish independence.

Credit Helen Kay - WILPF UK Scottish Branch
Credit Helen Kay – WILPF UK Scottish Branch

After some words of welcome by Bill Kidd, Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs contributed introductory remarks.

Filling gaps

Ambassador Alexander Kmentt of Austria highlighted the most recent developments on nuclear disarmament, in particular on the humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons that challenges existing paradigms and structures of the international disarmament framework. Ambassador Kmentt had been instrumental in convening the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons and the resulting Humanitarian Pledge, which now has 117 supporters. The pledge highlights the lessons learned from the series of conferences and calls on states to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Nuclear-armed states must listen to voices from the majority of countries in the world calling for this, he said.

Challenging dichotomies

Credit Helen Kay – WILPF UK Scottish Branch

Dr. Claire Duncanson, Lecturer in International Relations University of Edinburgh, gave an introduction to nuclear weapons and gender theory. Gender refers to socially constructed ideas that attribute meaning to and differentiate between the sexes. Building on Carol Cohn’s work on the subject, she highlighted how in international security debates certain dichotomies prevail, with the masculine associated side of terms usually being valued higher. Questioning these dichotomies and changing the attributions of value for certain means of problem solving will be crucial for progress on nuclear disarmament. As an example, she challenged the UK’s use of gendered language in its self-portrayal as a ‘responsible’ (=not irrational or emotional) nuclear-armed state.

Smart spending

Credit Helen Kay – WILPF UK Scottish Branch

Building on Dr. Duncanson’s introduction to gender and nuclear weapons, Mia Gandenberger of WILPF’s disarmament programme Reaching Critical Will, highlighted the gendered aspects of the nuclear disarmament debate and military spending, with a special focus on the potential Trident renewal. Gender runs deep into our understanding of roles, values, and the structures that we live in. Often enough we can see how proponents of nuclear weapons accuse those advocating for nuclear disarmament of being naïve, weak, and emotional (all more attributed to feminine behaviour) in an attempt to discredit them. Another example of how deep gender stereotypes are entrenched in society is state spending and military spending in particular. Here, “national” security is prioritised over “human” security, which results in vast sums on projects like the Trident renewal, despite wide gaps in the social system. One way to address these issues would be to 1) have a gendered approach to disarmament and 2) practice gender budgeting that allows all members of society’s needs to be taken into consideration.

Engaging Scotland

Bringing the debate back to Scotland, Rebecca Sharkey of ICAN UK highlighted the various ways in which Scottish civil society and parliament are already engaging on nuclear disarmament, through various activities and awareness raising on the humanitarian consequences of UK nuclear weapons, including the risks of accident at a base or on a convoy. Among other thing she also highlighted the divestment campaign against nuclear weapons producers ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’, before stressing the need for a nuclear weapons ban treaty even if the UK and other nuclear armed states didn’t join.

Want to know more about what the WILPF UK Scottish Branch  is up to? Want know more about the humanitarian initiative? Or gender and disarmament? Be in touch!


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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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