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Voice of a Yemeni Women’s Rights Defender

10 February 2014

In January 17, 2014 I, Laila Dhaifallah, attended regional meeting arranged by the Palestinian Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC) in Jordan, to promote and support women participation in peace building in accordance with the UNSCR 1325. The participants came from Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and Libya. The meeting addressed the situation for women’s rights and women’s important role and efforts to build and maintain peace in these countries.

Read this article in Arabic: مدافعات عن حقوق المرأه

Women from Iraq addressed the continuation of widespread violence, and the very challenging conditions for peace building and reconciliation at national and local level. There is a growing violence towards women, violent sectarianism and intolerance. It is urgent to improve the situation of women in Iraq, as well as enable them to participate in political and social life to rebuild Iraq in accordance with UNSCR 1325 and CEDAW.

In Libya, women are preparing for the a process of National Dialogue but there are real concerns that extreme religious and fundamentalist views, both from women and men, will constrains the women’s rights agenda in this process. As my Libyan friend recently said “women are harassed just because we are women, some men are annoyed that we are in the society, going to restaurants and living our life in public”. For this process to be sustainable women must be secured participation in the national dialogue conference equally with men, and contribute to the development of new constitution and government policies and laws that protect women rights.

In Egypt, the women have played a crucial role in mobilizing and participating in demonstrations towards political change, but continues to face severe sexual harassment, sexual abuse and being excluded from political life and decision-making. We can only hope that a new constitution will ensure support for women, gender equality and safeguard women rights. Egyptian women are calling for the government to protect women activists and ensure their representation in political life.

The situation for women in Yemen is the same as before 2011. We have the same political system, the same laws and policies and nothing has changed apart from the increase of extreme religious and tribal groups declining the concept of a civil state. There continues to be a lack of equality between men and women, and women have not gained more access to decision-making positions. Not surprisingly, the provincial mayors, the presidents of academic institutions or the officials of the security sector do not involve any women.  Yemen has gone through a process of national dialogue to feed into the new constitution. One woman has been appointed to the Supreme Committee for Elections and one as the advisor of women affairs to the President. Suggestions from the national dialogue include constitutional clauses to safeguard women’s rights and ensure women’s participation but it can easily turn into just another piece of paper. Strong pressure is needed to ensure that steps taken in the national dialogue is respected, implemented and promoted – both politically and also in the communities to ensure equal economic, civil, political and social rights. It requires continuous dialogue and pressure to ensure Yemeni women are safe in their role as women’s rights defenders. Now, we are witnessing increased attacks on women, detentions, disappearances and killings quickly closing the door for any progress on women’s rights and their safety.

Finally, there are common challenges for women in the Arab region at the same time as there are contextual differences.  The women are continuing to struggle for a better future with strong participation for women in the political, social, economic sphere. They will continue to engage on local and national peacebuilding, and will tirelessly work to ensure the role of women in the transitional stages and the future of their countries.

Read this article in Arabic: مدافعات عن حقوق المرأه

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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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