More than 100 individuals gathered on 11 May 2019 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of WILPF’s 2nd Congress that took place in 1919 in Zurich. The event was the opportunity to remember this important moment of WILPF’s history and to reflect on the accomplishments of the past decades.
As emphasised by our International President, Joy Ada Onyesoh, the fundamental pillars upon which the 1919 Congress was held are still relevant today as wars and conflicts are still happening all around the globe. She asked the audience to reflect on their individual responsibility as to what is happening in the world today, and how we can sustain the feminist peace movement. She concluded by saying that “We are united in the struggle and in the common fight for women’s rights and for feminist peace. We should not allow men created barriers to divide us and to stereotype us. We must continue to speak the language and message of peace. Non-violence has always been our tool, and it cannot change. Violence cannot defeat violence.”
A Jump in the Past
The highlight of the event was when women dressed up in 1919 costumes re-enacted the 1919 Congress in a theatre play.
Back in 1919, these women included in their resolutions to be presented to the Peace Conference of the winning countries in Paris, elements such as equal opportunities for men and women, equal pay for equal work, a women’s rights internationally recognised treaty, the abolition of the death penalty, the need to eradicate racism, but most importantly, the need to establish peace and total disarmament.
Margrethe Tingstad, WILPF’s Vice-President, played Martha Larsen, one of the five Norwegian delegates that came to the 1919 Congress. She said it was, clearly, important to celebrate 100 years of what we have achieved so far, but that it is fundamental that we are all willing to learn from history. Sylvie Ndongmo, WILPF Africa Regional Representative, described the re-enactment play as “a powerful experience, where women came together to make the world a better place and are still doing it 100 years later.”
Following the play, there were six workshops where WILPF members discussed amongst other topics, how to reclaim the UN as a peace organisation, how to achieve total disarmament, how to implement peace education and environmental justice, and gender justice.
We were also glad to have with us, documentary director Charlotte Bill. Her previous work includes a documentary about the 1st WILPF Congress in 1915, and she is now following up on this film with a second documentary in which the 1919 WILPF Congress plays a major role. During the event, she filmed the re-enactment play which will be included in the upcoming documentary. It is to be released in August 2019.
In the aftermath of the play, members highlighted that the resolutions from 1919 still reflect the challenges we face today to achieve permanent peace. Nonetheless, most of the attendees reported feeling inspired to continue to advocate for women’s rights and for feminist peace.
WILPF members reflected on what we must do differently to achieve progress in the upcoming years. Amongst other solutions, there was an emphasis on the need to make peace exciting for men, in particular, young men so that our goal of sustainable and permanent peace can be achieved.