Resourcing The Feminist Movement

For Change

Human rights violations and gender-based discrimination in Syria date long before the 2011 revolution. They have been associated with discriminatory laws, the country’s entrenched patriarchal culture, and exclusionary politics that oppress marginalised groups or individuals.  

While the 2011 uprising brought hope for change, the persistent armed violence and repressive tactics used to suppress it, and the armed conflict that followed, have had grave and disproportionate gendered impacts. Syrian women have steadily lost their security, homes, livelihoods, family members, and social status. Moreover, in a clear absence of gender justice, the country is seeing growing rates of domestic violence and sexual harassment, and the use of sexual violence as a systemic tool of war against women and human rights defenders. The crisis is further compounded by the absence of institutionalised mechanisms to ensure the protection of women and vulnerable groups, as well as very limited representation of women in Syrian institutions and media.

Within this challenging setting, WILPF is working closely with Syrian partners towards a feminist, peaceful, and just solution to the ongoing conflict. Together, we support the non-violent grassroots movement for equality, freedom, and justice, promote the inclusion and security of women peace builders and their fair portrayal in the media, and leverage feminist perspectives on peace and security.

Maria Alabdeh - “[Syrian] women created opportunities by looking for new ways in which they could be financially independent, and by deciding to be leaders in their own communities.”

“[Syrian] women created opportunities by looking for new ways in which they could be financially independent, and by deciding to be leaders in their own communities.”

Maria Alabdeh 
Executive Director of Women Now for Development 

Feminist Movement for Change in Syria

Launched in 2017, the “Feminist Movement for Change in Syria” project supports the work of Syrian organisations with feminist values and agendas through three main pillars: flexible funding, tailored technical support, and strengthened coordination and networking. This approach has been designed and developed through a locally-informed participatory process and operates at the grassroots, national, regional, and international levels.

Following the successful implementation of the project between 2018 and 2021, a new cycle has been launched in 2021-2022.

This year, WILPF is partnering with 24 Syrian organisations who adopt a feminist lens to their work in diverse fields from feminist journalism, to accountability, transitional justice, peacebuilding, women’s economic, social, and political participation, and more. 

WILPF believes that at the heart of powerful feminist movements are strong and sustainable organisations. When organisations have the space and freedom to further their own feminist agendas, build their capacities, and coordinate and network with like-minded organisations, movements can grow, strengthen, and work more effectively towards achieving feminist peace. 

Take a look at the impact WILPF is helping to create through the power of partnership in Syria.

A total of 93 Syrian women-led and/or feminist organisations in and outside Syria applied to the project’s call for proposals in June 2021, out of which 24 were selected based on the project’s criteria and goals.

Between some old partners who have been with us in this journey for change for years and new ones who add even more diversity and depth to the project, all organisations participating in the new round are inspirational examples of the ongoing efforts and accomplishments of feminist civil society organisations in Syria.

Syrian Women’s Political Movement (SWPM)

Syrian Women Political Movement Booklet

In order to ensure an active and constructive presence in the political process, challenging the militarised male-dominated top-down approach currently in place, a group of women political activists came together in October 2017 to form the Syrian Women Political Movement (SWPM), an emerging feminist political initiative demanding fair representation of women. 

A year after they had met at a WILPF convening, WILPF supported SWPM founding members in funding and organising their first conference in Paris in October 2017. 

In their founding document, SWPM envisioned establishing a democratic and pluralistic state and ensuring women’s participation in peace processes, and in all levels of decision-making, with a goal to create an inclusive future for Syria where human rights are protected for all its citizens.  

WILPF has continued supporting the growth and development of SWPM by providing technical support, expertise, advocacy and networking opportunities since its inception. By providing technical support to SWPM, WILPF is helping SWPM develop its structure and organisational capacity, as well as improve coordination among members.
WILPF is also supporting SWPM in expanding its connections with grassroots activists and organisations and enhancing their ability to provide comprehensive feminist analysis in the transitional peace process.

Through its work, WILPF believes SWPM will be able to increase buy-in from stakeholders, influence the political processes, and bring Syrian women’s experiences and concerns to the transitional period and beyond.

Gender-Sensitive Transitional Justice

Two women protestors hold papers

The discourse and work around justice and accountability in Syria has been mainly dominated by men, with women’s engagement being merely tokenistic. As a result, the impacts of the conflict on women are often under-analysed and, when discussed, primarily focus on gender-based and sexual violence. At the same time, examinations of justice-related issues typically represent women as victims while engaging men as experts. While many women-led groups engage with women and communities on issues of justice, their knowledge and expertise are often undervalued and underrepresented in these discussions.

WILPF seeks to provide an alternative look at a justice process that is gender-sensitive and specifically tailored to the needs and priorities of Syrian women – one that involves women as active agents, thus breaking the narrative that reduces them to mere victims.

In collaboration with Dawlaty, a Syrian civil society organisation, WILPF designed a project to amplify the voices of women and ensure they are included as an integral part of transitional justice processes.

Through this project, WILPF and Dawlaty have been supporting women-led and feminist civil society organisations working with women in Syria and in neighbouring countries to meaningfully participate in designing, implementing, and monitoring processes and decisions, at both the policy-making and community levels.

To learn more about gender sensitive transitional justice in Syria, read our policy briefs: Sexual Violence by Force of Arms Against Women in SyriaThe Human Rights of Women in SyriaReclaiming Public Spaces: Syrian Feminist Narratives and Approaches to Political Participation

Political Is Personal Podcast: Personal and political experiences of women’s meaningful political participation in Syria

Political is personal podcast - episode 1

Marking 10 years since the Syrian revolution, during which feminist activists were always at the forefront of resistance, this first episode of WILPF MENA’s Political Is Personal Podcast hosted four remarkable Syrian feminists. They share an exciting and inspirational discussion on women’s meaningful participation before and after the uprisings of 2011. 

Empowering Women Media Workers

SFJN cover photo: "Feminist Media for Social Change"

WILPF supports the Syrian Female Journalists Network (SFJN) in its efforts to build and strengthen a regional alliance between women media workers, women-led media organisations, and feminist groups in the MENA region.

Through this partnership, WILPF and the SFJN are also developing  and promoting capacity building tools to integrate the Women, Peace and Security Agenda into Syrian media.

SFJN held their first regional meeting with eleven women feminist journalists from the MENA region in November 2019, to discuss long-term regional collaboration between women journalists and to work jointly on common challenges that female journalists face in conflict areas. 

The meeting culminated in a solidarity statement with women journalists and human rights defenders in MENA, which was oublished during 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign in 2019.

Read the press release about the meeting and a statement following the events.

Political Is Personal Podcast: “The Crisis of Statelessness in the Syrian Context — My nationality is a right for me and my children”

Syria has been witnessing a remarkable increase in the number of unregistered and stateless children of Syrian mothers, as well as a great diversity of cases and reasons. 

In this episode of Political Is personal, feminist activists and experts engage in a discussion about the root causes of the crisis (legally and socially), its implications on women and children; as well as the role of civil society organisations, and some recommendations to combat this growing phenomenon.

Political Is personal — The crisis of statelessness in Syrian Context

Latest Updates

Latest Publications

Organisational Safeguarding
Best Practices and Procedures

Policy Brief Cover - Reclaiming Politics

Reclaiming Public Spaces: Syrian Feminist Narratives and Approaches to Political Participation

The Human Rights of Women in Syria

Policy brief: Sexual Violence by Force of Arms Against Women in Syria

Advocacy Documents

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

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 WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations. She holds a PhD in Social Work and currently works at the University of Texas as the Director of Human Trafficking Research at one of the university’s think tanks. Of Mexican descent, born on the US and Mexican border, and raised between the two countries, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. She is also involved with the American Red Cross as a volunteer, trainer, and researcher focused on post-disaster aid distribution and work with undocumented Latinxs. 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

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

PRESIDENT

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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Demilitarisation

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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