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Syrian Women Readying for Tomorrow’s High Level UN Meeting

18 December 2013

The WILPF International Secretariat in Geneva is in a flurry of activity: the women from Syria have arrived! Tomorrow they will cross the street from our office to the UN and speak before Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, as well as Ms. Navanethem Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights at a high level UN side event organised by WILPF and  Human Rights Watch and sponsored by France, UK, Canada, Norway and the Netherlands. Once there, these women will lobby for the right of Syrian women to be heard in the upcoming Geneva II peace negotiations in January 2014.

This meeting represents a crucial juncture in whether Brahimi and Member States will concede and decide to finally uphold their legal and moral obligation to satisfy and reaffirm UN Security Council resolutions 1325 and 2122, which state the importance of real inclusion of women in the peace process.

These women risk harsh repercussions by the State, including ostracization and persecution, to say what shouldn’t need to be said: women must be included in the Geneva II peace talks. Women have a right to be included in the talks that will help determine both the fate of their country and the resolution of the longstanding Syrian conflict.
Syrian delegation preparing for high-level meeting
WILPF and Syrian delegates preparing for tomorrow’s high level UN meeting. Credits: Rowan Farrell.

Today WILPF supports these women to plan and prepare their interventions and demands. But, make no mistake, these women already possess experience, skills, strategies, analysis and clear demands, and what is most important: courage.

They possess the courage to stand up for the women that can’t be present, courage to represent those without the guns, and courage to say what no one is saying.

Why give a voice to only those individuals and parties that are armed, when the entire Syrian population will rebuild their country?

Stand with the Syrian women tomorrow, for women and for their right to be heard.

How to Contribute  

If you would like to support these women and their right to speak, join the campaign Women Lead to Peace and sign the petition to include Syrian women at the table. This campaign is led by a coalition of women’s organisations including WILPF that are working to ensure that Syrian women play a vital role at the Geneva II peace talks as a third formal party to the current two parties led by the opposition and Syrian government.

To read more about the semi-private UN side event tomorrow, check out the official announcement by the Permanent Mission of France to the UN in Geneva. As this event unfolds, we will keep you updated via articles on our website and announcements on social media, so stay tuned!

The side event is tomorrow Thursday December 19th 2013 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. It will be held in room XXIII from 12:00 to 14:00. The event is semi-private; a UN badge is required to attend the event. 

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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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