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What Does International Day of Peace Mean to You, Me and WILPF?

21 September 2014

Happy UN International Day of Peace, everyone! What a great opportunity to think about WILPF and peace. What is that “magic ingredient” that has made it such a success story?

In 1981, the United Nations declared today, the 21st of September, as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The ways in which people can engage in the day are endless – through thinking, speaking, acting on strengthening the ideals of peace.

We at WILPF see this as an opportunity to reflect, not only on our understandings of peace, but also on its relationship to international institutions and to ourselves. In order to do this, let me first walk you through WILPF’s legacy and structure, which is inextricably intertwined with the promotion of peace building.


To start, the clue is in the name: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. As the oldest women’s international peace organisation in the world and one of the world’s oldest NGOs, WILPF has been around the block in terms of being involved in debates on peace. But what is it about WILPF that has allowed it to remain active for so long?

According to Mary Meyer in her book Gender Politics in Global Governance, WILPF’s founders “sought to institutionalize the international women’s peace movement of the early twentieth century through an organizational structure that combines both mainstreaming and disengaging political strategies” (page 108). This means that the institution is structured and open to discussion at the same time.


On the one hand, WILPF is involved as a consultative body of the United Nations (UN) and has a voice in other similar structured institutions. Its involvement in institutionalised methods of peace making gives WILPF the chance to challenge gendered structures within these organisations themselves – if we’re going to listen to big institutions, then they need to walk the talk, right?


On the other hand, with 30 very active National Sections across the globe, WILPF’s structure leaves space for all members’ voices to be heard. Perhaps it is this flexible form of institutionalisation that has kept WILPF active in the fight for peace for the last century. I personally believe that both these routes are key to a sustainable peace.


As a self-identifying WILPFer, I have always admired WILPF’s ability to play such a big role in many types of dialogue with many types of people and organisations. I think that this openness is part of what gives WILPF such authority.


And now I would like to open up the floor to you, fellow activists!

How would you define peace? What do you think is the role of institutions in promoting peace? And finally, how will you be spending this year’s International Day of Peace?

Whatever you end up doing, remember to spread the word so that we can broaden and deepen the discussion. Please comment here, tweet us @WILPF, and use the hashtag #PeaceDay with your ideas!


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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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