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The Film on WILPFer Lois Snow Prompts a New Focus on Human Rights Abuses

27 February 2013

On Monday night, WILPF International attended the premiere in Geneva of A Home Far Away, a documentary film about WILPFer Lois Snow.

It is no surprise that the extraordinary life of Lois Snow now is immortalised in a film: she was a Broadway actress when she married Ed Snow, the first Western journalist who interviewed Mao Tse-tung. At the end of the 1950s, the couple were blacklisted by the McCarthy government and had to go into exile in Switzerland. Here Lois Snow kept a close relation with China, which did not prevent her from denouncing human rights violations in the country.

During the screening in Geneva on Monday evening, three aspects of the film and of the following discussion with the director, Peter Entell, stroke us: its poetic nuance, its historical context and its relevance to current human rights issues.


Traditional Chinese painting The demolition of Lois Snow’s house is used as a metaphore to introduce flashbacks: she remembers her past and in doing so, present and past time melt away in an array of old photos, shootings, letters and ancient Chinese music. Her past and present feelings, as well as the feelings of an entire country, China, find an emblematic meaning in the natural elements Lois sees through her window (corn, sunflowers, birds, clouds, poppies) and in traditional Chinese paintings.

Such beautiful poetic pictures and montages are the background to some important historic events of the past century. The film mentions the intolerance and repression in the US under McCarthyism, the war in Vietnam, Nixon and ping-pong diplomacy. However, it is mostly centered on the recent history of China, from Mao’s Long March against Chiang Kai-shek, until the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square protests.


“I became and remained for years a firm friend of China, spending much time and many trips there until, to my enormous shock, the murderous violence of Tiananmen in 1989 led me to publicly denounce the Chinese administration and to forego any support I had previously given,” reveled Lois in a recent interview with WILPF. Since then, she has never stopped denouncing human rights violations.

She is still in contact with Ding Zilin, who she described in the interview with WILPf as “an icon of human rights in China,” the woman who “heads the activist organisation Tiananmen Mothers fighting for rights taken away from the mothers and relatives of those killed or imprisoned during the government-instigated attacks” in Tiananmen. She supports also Wei Jingsheng, “another valiant Chinese dissident.”


Lois Snow confesses that despite the many fights and cosmetic improvements, the Chinese society is still victim of oppression, corruption and misuse of power. Her denouncement finds an echo in the voice of the film director, who, at the end of the screening in Geneva, mentioned the cases of the Chinese dissidents Liu Xiaobo and Ai Weiwei.

The repression suffered by Liu Xiaobo and Ai Weiwei is a particularly thorny issue nowadays and you will hear more about that on this website during the next weeks, as this year’s edition of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) in Geneva is dedicated to the imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and to the dissident artist Ai Weiwei, member of the jury of the festival. Follow our website and social media in the upcoming days for more info on the festival.


Although the open representation of Lois’s most private sorrow, at times, could have been spared, the overall documentary is a good inspiring portrait of a woman who has committed her life to improving the world.

We could all take inspiration from this extremely humorous, smart and still physically and mentally agile 92-year old woman. WILPFer Lois Snow has had close contacts with our members based in Geneva and she is still an active supporter of human rights. When asked during the interview with us what she hopes and envisions for the future of WILPF and of peace activism, she gave an encouraging answer:

“My hope for the future is based on such people – men and women – as determined to bring about positive change all over the world. I have two young grandchildren who, along with all the youngsters in the world, face a precarious future. They are a vital reason to support and aid the continuance of WILPF in its on-going important role.”

Thank you, Lois!

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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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