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WILPF Africa Pan African Women’s Day Statement

31 July 2022 marks the 60th anniversary of the Pan-African Women’s Organisation (PAWO), which is Africa’s first collective women’s organisation. PAWO has contributed to the struggle for the continent’s liberation from colonialism, the elimination of apartheid and the eradication of gender inequalities, discrimination and injustices against women. In this statement, WILPF Africa Sections and Groups honour their foremothers’ sacrifices and hard work.

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
29 July 2022

Today WILPF Africa joins the continent and the rest of the world in celebrating Pan African Women’s Day. Sixty years ago, on 31 July 1962, African women from all walks of life came together to call for the formation of the Pan-African Women’s Organization (PAWO). Since then, as African women, we celebrate Pan-African Women’s Day on 31 July to honour the sacrifices and the hard work of our foremothers, who are the titans of gender equality. PAWO celebrated its diamond jubilee this year, and the African Union Commission dedicated the entire July as Africa Women’s month to honour this important milestone. PAWO implemented the Africa women’s decade 2010-2020 on “Grassroots Approaches to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE).” PAWO, in partnership with many Women’s Rights organisations in the Continent, advocated for the adoption of the African Women’s Decade and members of PAWO at the national level supported the implementation of ten thematic areas of the Decade. We celebrate the evidence-based and practical initiatives by PAWO on the continent and it is important that in the future we tap from their wisdom for us to continue with the great work that is being done.

As we celebrate African women’s movements, we acknowledge the great strides that the continent has taken towards ensuring gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights. AU Agenda 2063 was unanimously adopted in 2013, and it places gender equality at the centre of development goals. This month (July) AUC and PAWO convened month-long commemorative events under the theme: “Africa Women’s Day – Towards Advancing Women’s Human Capital for inclusive sustainable development: Addressing the scourge of violence, while enhancing food security and good nutrition in Africa.” These themes are a true reflection of the challenges and struggles of most African women. The majority of women from rural areas, and marginalised communities are affected by structural factors that hinder their meaningful participation in economic and political sectors, which further widens the inequality gaps in this age, where we are calling for gender equality. This should push all of us to ensure we address these struggles.

Food insecurity is a major challenge in most African households, women bear the brunt of this challenge because they are the sole providers of food. Women from rural areas are being affected by the climate crisis, while those in most urban centres are affected by the economic policies that do not put into consideration the informal sector. Therefore, it is important that the issues of financial and economic justice for African women are addressed. Violence against women and girls, which surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, is also a cancer that needs to be addressed. Let’s cultivate positive masculinity in leadership because women lag behind men in human capital and related indicators. The COVID-19 pandemic has undermined human capital accumulation and progress on the gender equality front.

WILPF Africa recommends the following interventions:

  • Implementation of economic and social policies that support women’s economic empowerment
  • Increased opportunities for women’s voices
  • Creation of enabling environments for women to exercise leadership and decision-making
  • Strengthening the role of the private sector in the economic empowerment of women

We wish all African women a happy Pan African Women’s Day!

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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 WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations. She holds a PhD in Social Work and currently works at the University of Texas as the Director of Human Trafficking Research at one of the university’s think tanks. Of Mexican descent, born on the US and Mexican border, and raised between the two countries, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. She is also involved with the American Red Cross as a volunteer, trainer, and researcher focused on post-disaster aid distribution and work with undocumented Latinxs. 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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