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The Global Responsibilities of a Feminist Government

26 February 2016

Last week, Sweden was scrutinised by the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) regarding its implementation of the CEDAW Convention. WILPF International and WILPF Sweden (IKFF) have been actively advocating for key issues to be asked by the Committee and have closely monitored the review that took place on 18 February 2016.

Living up to being a feminist government

The Head of the Swedish delegation, Pernilla Baralt, declared in her introductory statement that the rights of women and girls are maybe more important than ever in the world, in particular due to the current conflicts and the rise of extremism. She also stated that Sweden has a feminist government and as such, that it also needs to live up to the expectations that this entails.

The CEDAW Committee experts have recognised and praised Sweden for its record on women’s rights and for its leading role on the global scene as an advocate for the rights of women and girls. However, the experts were not complacent in any manner and have scrutinised and questioned the Swedish delegation in an expert and thorough fashion. In addition, CEDAW expert Ms. Biancamaria Pomeranzi, made an important statement recalling that Sweden bears national responsibility, but also global responsibility with regards to the transnational feminist community. This message is at the heart of WILPF’s advocacy to ensure global accountability and respect for women’s rights by States, not only within their borders, but also extraterritorially.

CEDAW experts challenge Sweden on its global responsibility
Click on the cover picture to read the report.

We have been very pleased to see several experts from the Committee asking questions about the topics raised in WILPF’s alternative report for the CEDAW review of Sweden. In particular, Ms. Jahan questioned Sweden about its policy and implementation of the gender criterion of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in its authorisations of arms sales overseas. Ms. Jahan also posed a question on the extraterritorial obligations of Sweden and in particular, on whether Sweden has made a gender impact assessment of its new asylum laws and their impacts on women and children, who are particularly impacted by the conflict.

Another expert, Ms. Pomeranzi, raised the issue of women workers’ rights violations in Bangladesh in particular in the textile industries and asked how the Swedish government is tackling this issue. Ms. Pomeranzi also asked whether the Ministry of Labour is included in the Swedish government’s work regarding human rights due diligence of Swedish enterprises. On this topic, Ms. Acosta Vargas also asked Sweden to explain whether Swedish companies operating outside Sweden have any monitoring mechanisms to ensure the evaluation of safety in their whole supply chains.

Finally, Ms. Gladys Acosta Vargas stated that a strong international feminist policy implies living up to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and respecting General Recommendation 30 of the CEDAW Committee. The expert asked whether these criteria will be well reflected in Sweden’s upcoming National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and asked when the plan will be adopted.

Sweden beats around the bush on key issues

Sweden answered to the experts’ questions above in a very formalistic and legal manner describing the current policies and laws in place, as well as plans for future legislative reforms. However, we found these responses unsatisfactory in so far as they were very general and did not address the substance of the questions.

For instance, regarding the question on arms exports and gender-based violence assessments under the (ATT), Sweden simply indicated its procedural state of play and that legislative work will likely be initiated in 2017 to review the Military Act. However, the Swedish delegation did not explain its current assessments of arms exports, nor its reasoning for the future law. The response thus failed to alleviate our concerns regarding Sweden’s ongoing arms exports to countries in conflict situation and their impacts on women’s safety.

Secondly, on the issue of the impacts of Swedish companies on women’s rights, the lack of clarity and commitment of the Swedish government was even more striking. Sweden just responded that the government adopted a National Action Plan and encourages Swedish companies to establish due diligence processes to prevent human risks. Although the Swedish government indicated that this issue is at the top of their agenda, no specific information on concrete policy or legislative measures was given to tackle this highly problematic issue. We do not believe that corporate voluntary measures, which still seem to be Sweden’s approach, will be sufficient to eliminate safety risks and human rights violations for women workers in textile factories in Bangladesh.

What’s next?

The final recommendations of the CEDAW Committee to Sweden will be published on 7 March 2016. WILPF will be closely monitoring these recommendations to see whether our concerns were taken into account by the CEDAW Committee and explicitly asked to be followed-up by the Swedish 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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