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!