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Solidarity and Strategy: Reflections on 1325+14

7 November 2014

The bustling busyness of last week has changed back to a quiet hum, our small office feeling roomy after a week of discussions on gender, security, and political strategy going on in Arabic, Spanish, French, and Swedish; the office printer purring through reams of statements, event flyers, agendas, and handouts; women playing musical chairs with office furniture and email stations.

The women leaders who joined us from around the world last week to raise their voices, share their experiences, and demand action for peace are gone. But their presence still rings loud in our heads, and in our hearts.

WILPF’s 1325+14 delegation came to New York last week from Cameroon, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jordan, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Syria. At the 14th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and the Women Peace and Security Agenda, we joined together to demand not just commitments but accomplishments for gender equality, disarmament and peace.

Throughout the week, we tried to find a balance in advocacy, outreach and political action on one hand, with solidarity and relationship building, sharing of experience, and cultivation of shared ties on the other. In the end, I found both powerful.

Women Leading to Peace

For political advocacy, I never cease to be blown away by the power of WILPF’s women peace leaders. To me, they are an ongoing testament to the message of why it is so critical to invest in women’s leadership for peace and build capacity for women’s power to stop war.

At the Security Council Open Debate on Women Peace and Security on Tuesday, Civil Society Speaker Suaad Allami from our own NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security brought critical attention to the elephant in the room. “Conflict prevention lies at the core of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, and all solutions must address the root causes of conflict and displacement,” she stated. “This includes addressing disarmament and demilitarisation.”

At our closed Iraq/Syria briefing Wednesday, participants put out a powerful call for the international community to put their weight behind a political solution. They pointed out that action is possible: the international community has mobilised around a military response to DAESH/ISIL. However, violence only creates violence. We cannot look aside while this violence continues unabated. Instead, we must use our power for active nonviolence and peace.

At our Boko Haram event Thursday, WILPF Nigeria and WILPF Cameroon brought attention to how militarisation and state violence creates a conducive environment for non state extremism and violence, and how critical it is to address the range of militarised violence and invest in gender equality, violence prevention, and peace. “It is critical to draw the link between the global arms trade and Boko Haram,” said WILPF Nigeria President Joy Onyesoh. “This is why the Arms Trade Treaty is key.”

At Friday’s civil society consultation with UN Women’s lead author on the 2015 Women, Peace and Security Global Study, WILPF Sections and partners reiterated the importance of strengthening the prevention pillar of the Women, Peace and Security agenda through demilitarisation, disarmament, and ensuring women’s full and equal participation and socio economic empowerment and rights.

Sharing Humanity, Building Solidarity

For solidarity and relationship building, I feel blessed by the time that all participants took in the blur of last week to foster connections, recognise each other’s humanity, and support and build relationships with each other.

At our WILPF workshop on “Leveraging Women’s Action for Peace” Monday, we developed a shared vision of WILPF and actions based in principles of solidarity, diversity, connection, disarmament, gender justice, and peace.  As Joy Onyesoh stated, “We need a Global Action Plan for complete feminist conflict transformation.”

At our WILPF dinner on Wednesday, we shared pizza and pasta, experiences in building women’s capacity for political participation and economic empowerment for peace, as well as laughter and some dancing (I’ll never forget Annie and Joy’s “Banana Poo”!).

At our WILPF debrief Friday, when we reviewed what worked and what didn’t work, and what could be done better, it was clear that we did a huge amount of political advocacy and substantive work, while also strengthening our bonds of solidarity and friendship over the week. It was a beautiful balance between the two.

Strategy and Solidarity for Peace

Looking back over the week, I am glad we took the time to build both the political advocacy and the relationships between all of us. For me, being part of a feminist organisation is embodying feminist action in practice.

I thank the women who came to New York last week and to those around the world working for peace and justice for their work for their the vision, action, commitment and determination for peace and gender justice.

I continue to be inspired by your example and committed to working in solidarity with all of you to join our voices and craft a vision, strategy, and action for a better world.

Join the discussion! Share your thoughts!

Are you are peace women leader? Are you inspired by one? Share your experience about how to build effective advocacy and solidarity in the comments below.

Written by Abigail Ruane, PeaceWomen Programme Manager

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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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