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When Home Is Not the Safest Place – Where Should Women Go?

12 March 2013

That was the question rhetorically asked by Permanent Representative of WILPF to the United Nations Dr Krishna Ahooja-Patel at the side event of Protecting and Promoting Women’s Rights.

The conference took place at the United Nations Office in Geneva. Organised by the International Council for Human Rights (ICHR) and the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM), this full-day side event included speakers from all over the world, from as far as Hong Kong and as near as Geneva. And it was not only filled with the presence of women, but a significant number of males attended as well.

Aiming to address women’s human rights in conflict areas, the conference was comprehensive in the topics covered, with specific focus on areas with particular urgent attention such as Kashmir and India, and shedding light on secluded minority groups such as the aboriginal peoples of Canada as well as members from the Kenaitze Indian Tribe in the United States.

The conference aimed to suggest measures and policies for protecting women’s human rights in conflict areas. Similarly interesting, it focused on the role of the media as a growing culture in depicting the hidden and acting as evidence of crime.

It is not a new phenomenon- but the rising trend of women’s insecurity in the household, in the streets and in the work place raises the theme question of the conference: where should women go?

For example, a few weeks ago in India two women were raped when hailing a rickshaw in a popular shopping centre in their hometown, not to mention the heinous crime of the rape of a 23-year old girl in December 2012 resulting in her tragic death. In Kashmir rebel groups are using rape as a weapon in wartime. The outcome is that girls grow up with a feeling that they are a ‘burden’ and many families opt for the easiest solution of giving them up for early marriage, only for them to become victims of another family.


Through the discussion Professor Frances Heidensohn from London School of Economics answered humorously by stating that it is not a question of where women should go but rather “ask the men to stay home”!

But it was suggested and agreed by most panellists that to avoid sexual assault and violence against women  more female staff are needed in law enforcement institutions, more police patrols are also required especially in far-off areas; and that research should be conducted through feminist approach.

In the case of indigenous groups and minorities elsewhere the respective governments have a vital role in protecting their neglected citizens and interventions are needed to rectify the human rights violations against women and children in these areas.

The outcome of the conference was positive, not only because the next day was International Women’s day, but according to Chief of Women’s Rights and Gender Section Office of the UNHCR Ms. Isha Dyfan, “women are now being heard”.


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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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