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Syrian Women “Speak Truth to Power” at a Historic Security Council Meeting

17 January 2014

Friday the 17th of January was a historic day for Syrian women. Three Syrian women civil society leaders briefing the UN Security Council in a special closed Arria Formula meeting demanding women’s meaningful inclusion in upcoming Geneva II peace talks and ongoing transitional peace processes.“We want peace and we want to part of it. This is the bottom-line,” said a representative of the Syrian Women’s League to the highest body on international peace and security.

“As Syrian women, we believe that the negotiations cannot be successful without our participation,” said Sabah Alhallak, emphasizing their key role as leaders in the Syrian revolution and in ongoing community peace efforts. “Participation is not merely an end but a means to ensure that women’s rights are included in all outcomes and agreements, and that those outcomes are effective for sustainable peace,” stated WILPF PeaceWomen Director, Maria Butler.

The women demanded:

1) and independent women civil society presence at Geneva II talks scheduled to start this week,

2) 30% women on all negotiating bodies, and

3) strong and effective gender expertise to ensure gender is mainstreamed throughout all outcome documents and processes.

While brutal violence continues in Syria, the male-led regime and opposition have delayed again and again getting to the table to negotiate a ceasefire or peace. This week, they have both finally agreed to begin discussions, but the outcome remains  uncertain. Meanwhile, the ongoing situation in Syria continues to worsen with at least 130,000 killed, and a civilian population continues to be killed, tortured, and their rights violated.

While men with guns have been unable to meaningfully move peace processes forward, women have shown that they can make it happen. Just a week ago, 50 women from diverse backgrounds met  in Geneva convened by UNWomen and developed a concrete set of goals. They presented these demands to the Security Council Friday.

“Do not leave your resolutions in a drawer,” said one delegate. “They do not deserve only lip service but implementation.”

The Council has adopted seven resolutions on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, from 1325 (2000) to 2122 (2013). However, translating these rhetorical commitments into action has faced challenges. Special Envoy on Syria Brahimi only this week has announced that he will have a gender advisor, and expectations for women’s participation in proposed Syrian regime and opposition delegations is token.

“No peace agreement can be implemented if it is just the two sides,” said Cora Weiss, President of the Hague Appeal for Peace, highlighting the need to support the voices of independent women in Geneva II peace talks.

This week, there will be a women’s peace summit in Geneva January 20th to 22nd.  Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and women from Syria as well as Bosnia, Colombia, Ireland, Liberia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Uganda will gather to model what peace processes should look like and demand women’s meaningful inclusion in Syrian peace processes, Geneva II and beyond.

Women leaders will be in Switzerland during the Geneva II peace talks this week. They have already shown – indeed, more than the men involved – a creative process and plan for peace.

Now it is up to the governments to stop being gatekeepers and let these brave and creative women dedicated to peace and human rights be a real part of the process.

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.

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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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