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Secretary-General Madeleine Rees to speak at HRC39 panel on gender

The 39th session of the Human Rights Council is currently ongoing and, as part of its programme of work, it will hold today its annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Council and of its mechanisms.

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WILPF International Secretariat
24 September 2018

The 39th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC39) is currently ongoing and, as part of its programme of work, it will hold today (24 September 2018)  its annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Council and of its mechanisms. “Gender integration and human rights investigations: strengthening a victim-centred approach” is the theme for this year.

Madeleine Rees, WILPF Secretary-General, will be one of the panellists, together with Shuvai Nyoni, Director of the African Leadership Centre, and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria. The discussion will be moderated by Emily Kenney, Policy Specialist, Transitional Justice at UN Women, and opened with a statement by Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.     

The Human Rights Council established this annual discussion in 2007 with the objective of evaluating progress made and challenges experienced in ensuring that a gender perspective is integrated in the thematic and country work of the Council and its mechanisms e.g. commissions of inquiry, fact-finding missions and special rapporteurs. Topics covered in previous annual discussions include “Promoting gender equality as institutions practice: from policy to action (2011),” “Economic, social and cultural rights of women (2012),” and the “Gender integration in the resolutions and recommendations of the HRC (2016).”

This year, the panel will explore how to expand the focus on gender-based violence, away from solely sexual violence, including by looking at root causes and at how pre-existing discrimination is exacerbated by conflict.

International commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions have worked to provide a strengthened victim-centred approach to their investigations. The acknowledgment of the differences in experience of women, men, girls, boys and other gender identities, and marginalised populations has paved the way to subverting the damaging stereotypical narratives, instead highlights their specific needs. However, it needs to remain a continuous effort.  

The discussions this year will revolve around the need to include gender analysis in all aspects of C.o.I reports and not to narrowly focus on sexual violence. How to create recommendations that are action-oriented, protect victims’ rights and work to prevent the re-occurrence and ensure the follow-up to gender specific recommendations.

Follow along with the two hour discussion to be broadcast live on at 16:00-18:00 GMT+2  and on Twitter with the hashtag #HRC39.

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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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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