Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

Welcoming Our Newest National Group: WILPF Burundi

25 August 2017

WILPF is pleased to announce the recent creation of a new National Group, WILPF Burundi.

WILPF Burundi Group has emerged from the gathering of strong and motivated women united by the common aim of improving women’s situation in Burundi. Their objective is that of contributing to positive change in the country towards peace and stability.

A small landlocked country in east-central Africa, Burundi gained independence from Belgium in 1962. However, its history as an independent country has been plagued by ethic tensions and violence. A civil war sparked in the 1990s claiming the lives of more than 300.000 people. The country is still affected by the consequences of the conflict with an unstable political and security situation affecting the quality of life in Burundi today.

Additionally, the international community continues to express concerns over serious human rights violations, including violence against women and the impunity for sexual violence. In particular, the country has experienced increasing instability and violence since 2015 when unrest sparked after the president successfully run for a third term.

Burundians are today confronted with the task of promoting social cohesion and peace while rebuilding the country.

Members of WILPF Burundi Group
Some members of WILPF Burundi Group

It is in on this backdrop that WILPF Burundi Group has started its activities. After having attended a regional conference in Cameroon in 2015, where they met other WILPF members, the group started to move its first steps into registering as a national NGO and connecting to the whole WILPF family across the world.

We have recently reached out to the Group to find out more about their reasons to join WILPF and their ambitions for promoting women’s rights and peace in Burundi.

What was the main reason to become part of the WILPF family?

The main reason to become part of WILPF was the ambition to work together within the big family, because WILPF pursues the same objectives as we do. It is easier to work together than working separately.

How would you define the place of women in nowadays-Burundian society?

Women in nowadays-Burundian society are exposed to violence and discrimination. Comparing to the situation of men, women in Burundi are considered inferior to men and they are denied some rights such as land inheritance for instance. However comparing to the past situation, nowadays women are aware of their situation, they are willing to change their status and make their situation better.

According to you, WILPF Burundi Group, what is the major problem that women face in Africa these days?

These days, African women face the problem of discrimination and a lack of professional and economic opportunities that leads to poverty. Women in Africa face also violence and are victims of human rights violations.

Knowing that the rate of violence against women is still high in Burundi, in what ways do you believe that WILPF Burundi Group will make a difference in addressing the root causes of violence in communities around the country?

We assume that WILPF Burundi can make a difference in addressing the root causes of violence. We hope that we will gain more experience from other WILPF Groups and National Sections. The issues they have been dealing with, like violence against women, and their successes will serve us as an example to follow. WILPF Burundi will also build networks with other local, regional and international organisations in order to tackle different issues, like violence against women. These networks will hopefully help us to have a common strategy to face those problems and work together.

What difficulties have you faced up until now and what challenges do you believe that WILPF Burundi Group will experience in the future?

The difficulties we have faced are mainly related to the post-conflict situation of our country. For example our efforts to build peace are challenged and the results are slow to be met. Despite all the difficulties that we face, we don’t give up; we go forward and stay positive. Another problem that we have is related to a lack of donors that would provide financial support to our activities.

What are the aspirations of WILPF Burundi Group for the upcoming year, and what do you hope to achieve?

During the upcoming year, WILPF Burundi Group plans to recruit other members from different regions of the country. The objective of WILPF Burundi Group is to work on women’s rights and improve the legal situation among illiterate women; to do advocacy in favour of women whose rights are violated and who are most of the time victims of violence. We will work in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Human Rights in order to implement the UN Security Council Resolution1325. What we aim at achieving during the upcoming year is also to establishment WILPF in Burundi.

 

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Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

PRESIDENT

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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Demilitarisation

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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