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The Time is Now to #ReclaimUN

18 April 2017

The beginning of 2017 has been challenging for activists around the world.

Many women activists were unable to attend this year’s CSW in New York. In the midst of the CSW61, UN Security Staff removed women NGOs from the building after 6:00pm while negotiations on the draft agreed conclusions continued late into the night. At the same time, some were denied entry to the UN Security Council Chamber and the opportunity to inform Member States about the situation in their own countries.

This is only a tip of an iceberg!

These actions represent another period in a long history of restrictive migration, refugee and asylum measures that subject women and their families to hate crimes, detention, deportation and family separation, while undermining core universal human rights regarding migrant and refugee rights, and worker protections. Some states are currently developing policies and changing their development aid programmes to prohibit women’s access to education and services that promote their health and well-being.

As a matter of principle, and in solidarity with the women denied access to the UN, WILPF International decided not to participate in the formal CSW61 process. Other organisations decided to do the same with a view to expose the ways in which state policies serve to undermine the human rights of women and girls. WILPF shared an open letter to ambassadors in New York and Geneva, worked with our grassroots network and partners to raise awareness of #MissingVoices at the CSW61 in diverse spaces, and moved its planned CSW-events with partners in Syria, Libya and Yemen to the Human Rights Council Geneva.

It is a stated core principle and belief of WILPF that international peace must be sought and guaranteed through the multilateral system. WILPF has engaged, supported and participated in the various functions of the UN system since its inception. And WILPF will continue to do so. It is incumbent on Member States to uphold the Charter of the UN, human rights and international law.


As a matter of fact, the UN has obligations to uphold its own Charter, principles and practices agreed and acted upon over decades and grounded in human rights law. Clearly, the current political environment undermines these obligations and indeed, the integrity of the UN; it prevents inclusivity and is discriminatory on prohibited grounds.

The current emphasis on conventional forms of state security then easily translates into policies like the US travel ban, which, rather than resolving anything, plays into the normalisation of war and violence and othering and penalises people who were working to end the very conflicts that the ban claimed to combat.

There are simply too many voices that are turned into #MissingVoices, voices essential for creating sustainable peace and gender justice on a global scale.

As emphasised by 63 civil society organisations during the CSW61: “maintaining access for civil society, particularly women’s human rights defenders, to UN decision-making spaces is essential to the empowerment of women as envisioned in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the gender-responsive realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The CSW61 has now ended, but  members of the feminist movement have a duty to ensure that the conversation on women’s meaningful participation will continue beyond the CSW. We are on a slippery slope of exclusion, and it is important to take immediate measures to change direction.

WILPF and its partners are therefore planning a series of initiatives in order to overcome intransigent obstacles to women’s meaningful participation in the UN system. The first event in this series is the 20 April 2017 Tweetathon in collaboration with AWID. The Tweetathon will focus on the on-going and deepening discussion around the shrinking space for civil society engagement at the UN.

On 26-28 April 2017 WILPF will hold a convening where UN officials, Member States and civil society will continue this discussion. This forum will bring together various stakeholders in order to bring to light today’s obstacles to women’s meaningful participation in the UN system.

The invited participants will:

  • assess the current modalities for participation and UN response; what is effective and can be replicated, what obstacles are faced and concrete proposals to overcome them;
  • examine the existing mechanisms on gender integration and develop concrete proposals for improvement or reform.
  • consider how to strengthen participation and the monitoring of implementation by Member States and the UN.

A lot of work is ahead: ongoing obstacles continue in the shape of visa rejections, sidelining on panels, lack of action on the Women, Peace and Security commitments and otherwise.

Join WILPF in taking further action for change!

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Thank you!

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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