Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

The Giant Quadruplets of Militarism, Capitalism, Racism, and Patriarchy

4 April 2016

Luther-King“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

On the 4 April 1967 exactly one year before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. highlighted three major challenges to human security: racism, capitalism, and militarism. Already in 1915, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom had identified these challenges and articulated a fourth: patriarchy.

The fourth challenge: patriarchy

Patriarchy is a system of society or government in which (predominantly heterosexual) men hold power and women are largely excluded. It is sustained by the construction of gender roles and identities. Gender is like language – it does not exist on its own but it is built by human beings interacting and subscribing meaning to our differences on the basis of our physical sex. It celebrates as normative the heterosexual male as a strong, rational, unemotional leader and women, other sexed, or LGBT people as “others,” as subordinate groups.

Patriarchy continues to exist in most societies today, preventing gender equality and perpetuating other systems that sustain it—including militarism, capitalism, and racism. These four systems of power work together to generate and perpetuate a culture of violence, greed, and discrimination that undermine peace and justice around the world.

The consequences of the giant quadruplets

At WILPF’s 100th anniversary last April, the thousand peace activists that gathered for the celebrations found that power in human society is still—100 years after WILPF was founded—constituted through the mutually reinforcing structures of the giant quadruplets. The Conference Summary states on page 2:

All rely on violence and together produce militarism, war, and other forms of violence… Patriarchy and violent masculinities predispose societies to militarism, war, and violence. Racism creates fear of ‘the other,’ which helps create a ‘need’ for militarism. Capitalism generates inequality, fostering violence and conflict.

Armed conflict, armed violence, arms production and trade; poverty, inequality, social injustice; forced migration and displacement; climate change; financial crises: these are all linked together, consequences of the political and economic choices made by those in power.

Challenging the power, challenging militarism

Military spending – investments in weapons, soldiers, bases, etc. – is a key indicator of the level of militarism of a society. Those profiting from the production of arms have an interest in sustaining the system of war.

As activists for peace as well as for gender equality and women’s rights, we need to seek and articulate effective strategies that challenge war profiteering and privatisation.

This means, among other things, challenging the international arms trade, preventing the development of autonomous weapons, ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, confronting the use of armed drones, banning nuclear weapons, ending impunity for private military and security companies, and taking on those who produce and manufacture weapons.

The Global Days of Action on Military Spending starts tomorrow. Running from the 5–18 April 2016, the global campaign provide an excellent opportunity to take on the system of war and offer alternative approaches that foster peace, security, and justice for all.

We need collective action and solidarity amongst our movements and issues. The death and destruction meted out by military enterprise abroad has everything to do with the health and wealth of our societies at home. As Dr. King said,

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

During the next two weeks, WILPF will be challenging militarism. We are sure that had Dr. King not been shot dead with a rifle while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis on the 4 April 1968- 48 years ago – then he would be standing with us.

Read to get an overview on our activities during the Global Days of Action on Military Spending.

2016-03-21_1636Effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the UN Programme of Action on small arms (UNPoA) presents a unique opportunity to prevent gender-based violence (GBV). WILPF is now publishing a report that seeks to provide tools and guidelines for effective implementation of the ATT and the UNPoA, including how to conduct an export risk assessment on GBV and how to enhance gender mainstreaming in disarmament and arms control.

The report will be at the upcoming WILPF webinar “Preventing gender-based violence through arms control: Tools and guidelines to implement the Arms trade Treaty and UN Programme of Action” taking place online on the 12 April 2016, 1.30-2.30 PM CET.

Register to the webinar today!




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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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