Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

WILPF Australia Celebrates The Centenary of The Organisation

29 June 2015

The centenary celebrations of WILPF in Australia at the end of May were enhanced considerably by the presence of our Secretary General Madeleine Rees. The celebrations, held in Australia’s capital Canberra, included a public conference, centenary Australian Peacewomen celebration, a historical exhibition and the Section’s triennial conference.

By Janette McLeod, WILPF Australia

WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees with her newfound Australian friend.
WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees with her newfound Australian friend. Photo by Janette McLeod

Madeleine arrived early in the country, travelling firstly to Brisbane where she spoke at the University of Queensland on The dream and the reality: are our international institutions fit for purpose? (Although the real purpose of her visit was to cuddle a koala.)

The Peacewomen celebrations honoured four prominent women:

  • Helen Caldicott – physician, author and anti-nuclear advocate; founder of several associations dedicated to opposing the use of nuclear power, depleted uranium munitions, nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons proliferation, war and military action in general.
  • Anne Gallagher – independent scholar and legal adviser to the United Nations and Association of South East Asian Nations; leading global expert on the international law in human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and transnational organised crime; named as a ‘Trafficking in Persons Hero’ by then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
  • Helen Durham – director for International Law and Policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) based in Geneva – the first Australian to be appointed as a Director with ICRC and the first woman Director of Law in the 150 year history of the organisation.
  • Kirstie Parker – Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Director of Reconciliation Australia, and a Co-Chair of the national Close the Gap Campaign.  Kirstie is also a member of the Deadly Awards Executive Academy; former editor of the 100% Aboriginal owned and controlled newspaper, the Koori Mail.
Madeleine Kirstie Parker Peacewoman and Barb O'Dwyer President WILPF Aust
Madeleine Rees, Kirstie Parker and Barb O’Dwyer. Photo by Chris Henderson

The Awards evening was opened by A Chorus of Women with an excerpt from their Community Oratorio A Passion for Peace. After this we were privileged to hear Kirstie speak; her words creating a poignant picture of the resilience and bravery of so many indigenous women who have struggled for recognition and visibility as the first custodians of the land we all walk on.

The following day, Australia held its own Women’s Power to Stop War conference, the aim of which was to look to the future and elicit ideas for future peacebuilding and conflict prevention actions, included three keynote speakers: WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees; Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja; and Mrs Shukriya Barakzai, a member of the Afghanistan Parliament. Two panel sessions of practitioners and academics looked at A Feminist Perspective on women’s Power to Stop war and Women Working Globally, and a lively debate on whether Government diplomacy or NGO advocacy were more effective in peacebuilding, got everyone thinking. The conference had a strong Young WILPF presence. It was MC’d by two Young WILPFers and two other Young WILPFers delivered the closing keynote address, on the next hundred years of feminism and WILPF action for peace.

CMAG exhibition 3
The historical exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery. Photo by Janette McLeod

A fantastic historical exhibition was held at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery, celebrating the work of WILPF women in Australia.

Finally, we held our triennial conference, at which Madeleine reported on the 2015-18 International Programme adopted at the Congress; we discussed proposals for the Section’s work program and elected a new National Board. The conference also passed resolutions calling on the Australian government to take action in relation to Military Spending: US Bases in Australia; Nuclear, Arbitrary Removal of Citizenship; Internet Freedom, Seeking asylum is a human right and Humanitarian Aid.


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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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