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Statement: CSW57, Ending Discrimination and Enhancing Women's Security in the MENA Region

8 March 2013

“Alaan walaysa gadan” – “Now not tomorrow”

We, women human rights defenders from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen, met at the 57th Commission on the Status of Women in New York after a twenty-month process of national consultations and strategic planning.

The biggest threats in our region are poverty, unregulated weapons trade and a lack of democratic oversight of the armed forces. Therefore, achieving full accountability and transparency in military spending and decision-making is essential. We reaffirm our belief that promoting women’s equal rights throughout the Arab world is an essential first step to safeguard women from gender-based violence and promote peace and security in our homes and our nations. We stand firm in our call for both CEDAW and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 be implemented in our region today.

Women of Middle East North Africa (MENA) re-state our demand for peace, dignity and human rights for all citizens in our region. We make our call from our position at the front line of peaceful protests. We strongly object to the daily violence to which we are subjected, which not only threatens our safety and security but, is clearly designed to prevent us from fully participating in every aspect of state-building.

We condemn the ongoing assaults on women and men, and the growing use of sexual violence; we oppose the arbitrary detention and military trials of civilian protestors and human rights defenders in our region. We refuse to be manipulated by religious extremists whose opposition to women’s rights threatens to undo the work of decades of activists.

We also remain steadfast in condemning the impunity of human rights violators. We remain appraised of the legal case of Azza Helal Soliman (Egypt), and renew our call for her military assailants to be brought to justice in fair trials. We renew our call for justice for other women and men attacked as they peacefully exercise their rights.

We observe with concern that militarization is increasing in our region. Defense spending, fed by the global arms trade, is taking away vital resources from social and economic justice. The results of this reckless flooding in of weapons are inevitably an increase in violations of human rights and dignity, further human insecurity, and a spillover of arms into neighboring countries. We do not want more uncontrollable weapons systems in our region: the deadly effects of the dispersal of Libya’s arsenal have already been seen in Mali.

We continue to stand in solidarity with women and men struggling against occupation and oppression in Palestine. We express our concern that the daily injustice of Israeli violence towards Palestinians remains unaddressed by the global community.

We express our solidarity with women and men in Syria who are victims of the global community’s political divisiveness and their resulting failure to protect civilians.

We call on the international community to honour commitments made at the United Nations, specifically the Secretary-General’s Seven-Point Action Plan on gender-inclusive peace-building. We note with concern that these commitments have not been honoured in the case of Libya. No women were present in the last two high-level discussions on security sector reform in that country even though they were hosted by the international community, including the UK and France, and supported by the United Nations.

We also remind the international community that our sisters in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen and Syria, in which conflicts are on-going, stand ready and able to shape inclusive security – if only they are asked.

We conclude with a strong call to our Governments, all States and international actors of obligations ratified in international human rights law, the Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW and SC Resolutions on women, peace and security, to honour their obligations and actualise promises made in the Security Council.

We urge the following:

1)    Fulfil promises already made at the international level to fully engage women in all aspects of peace and security.

2)    Prioritise women’s economic inclusion and public participation as key vectors of human security.

3)    Stop sales of all arms, including so-called ‘non-lethal crowd control’ systems such as teargas and rubber bullets, to any country that violates human rights. In this regard, support a criterion on preventing gender-based violence in the upcoming March 2013 Arms Trade Treaty negotiation. Insist on accountability in all arms trade, both on the supply and the demand side.

4)    In preparation for peace negotiations, ensure that a broad gender analysis is undertaken; and then, that it is endorsed by committed male and female negotiators, political representatives and stakeholders around the table.

1)    Increase the numbers of women in all security reform processes, peacekeeping operations and disarmament initiatives including national and UN efforts.

2)    Harmonize national constitutions and legislation with international law (including CEDAW) to guarantee non-discrimination and promote women’s rights and gender equality.

3)    Support the development of 1325 National Action Plans, in partnership with civil society, with accountability mechanisms and ensure adequate and sustained funding for women’s organisations.

“Alaan walaysa gadan” – “Now not tomorrow”

Download the statement in PDF here.

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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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