Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

The Point of No Return

8 March 2016

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, WILPF would like to pay tribute for women human rights defenders undergoing arduous battles and insurmountable challenges in combatting gender inequality and constructing solid grounds for a sustainable peace in their communities.   

Human rights defenders face enormous security risks, such as surveillance, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and even assassinations – particularly in those countries where political opposition, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are extensively controlled, if not forbidden.

However, women human rights defenders are subjected to additional risks for no other reasons than their gender. On top of the aforementioned threats, women activists face doubled perils not only from state apparatuses, but also from their families and communities, and are often subjected to gender-based attacks on their reputation, threats against their families and children, and sexual harassment.

Women activists’ ‘points of no return’

Every activist and women’s rights advocate has a story behind the struggle for peace she engages herself in.

In April 2015, WILPF interviewed a number of women peace makers from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to shed the light on the very intrinsic and personal elements that built the first blocks of these activists’ struggles for peace.

Today, on the International Women’s Day 2016, we publish two of these personal interviews. Meet Oula from Syria, and Asmaa from Iraq, to listen to their stories. Oula’s and Asmaa’s stories reflect how struggles for peace in the MENA region sometimes emerge from repressive political regimes and discriminatory social structures, but could also emanate from a particular education received from family and community fabrics.

Cover from video. Click on it to listen to the video.
Oula’s Point of No Return

Cover of the video. Click on it to listen to Asmaa's story.
Asmaa’s Point of No Return
Doubled Struggles, Doubled Efforts 

“Early on in my life, I faced a difficult situation – and that was abandoning my education. It happened for no other reason than the prevalent norms and traditions in my society. [While] my brothers pursued their education I was forced to quit. Only because I am a female,” says Asmaa in the video. On top of that, Asmaa was forced to marry young, and that has destroyed all the dreams she wanted to achieve back then.

She is right.

Struggles could be disproportionate upon women only because of their gender.

But as Oula and Asmaa tell: it is absolutely worth it.

Nothing comes without tireless efforts and perseverance.

Join the Movement

It is never to late to join the struggle for peace. Together we can all do a little piece, but putting all our pieces together will form the whole puzzle.

Please share Oula’s and Asmaa’s stories online on this special day!

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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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