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WILPF Colombia and Sweden: Working Together for Change

9 January 2014

One of WILPF ‘s strengths is the wonderful development in building bridges between the work done at the grassroots level and the international policy and advocacy work. WILPF’s success in this endeavour arises from building capacity at the local level empowering and enabling women and girls to raise their perspectives, concerns, and rights both at local and international arenas.

International Collaboration for Women’s Participation in Colombia’s Peace Negotiations

WILPF Sweden cooperates and collaborates with WILPF Sections, supporting local capacity building in countries such as Nigeria, DR Congo and Colombia. As the International Coordinator of WILPF Sweden, I am able to see first hand, the amazing work that WILPF does in these countries.

Tove and Ester visiting LIMPAL Colombia
WILPF Sweden visiting LIMPAL Colombia.

In early December of last year, Ester Harrius and I travelled to Colombia to take part in WILPF’s work there and forge closer ties between our Sections. We were especially excited at the timing of our trip due to the development of the on going peace negotiations. Colombia is the focus of many politicians and organizations around the world and in the weeks prior to our trip, we attended many seminars, meetings and parliamentary debates in Sweden regarding Colombia and the situation of the human rights defenders in the country.

Although there has been uncertainty surrounding whether the Swedish government would continue its aid assistance to Colombia, Sweden now focuses on promoting the peace process. During our trip, we had the opportunity to meet with the Swedish Embassy’s equality officer who discussed the political and social work Sweden has done to ensure the participation of women in Colombia’s peace negotiation.

WILPF Colombia’s Work with Resolution 1325 and Mujeres Lideresas

WILPF Colombia is working hard to increase female participation. They are co-founders of “Coalition 1325 Colombia”, which is a network of organisations that work together on lobbying the government  to develop a National Action Plan for the implementation of the UNSC resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

Katherine Ronderos, President of WILPF Colombia, explains, “There are many good laws and policies in Colombia but unfortunately they seem to be dispersed at the moment of their implementation, they are distributed across different programmes, public policies and laws that make it extremely difficult and complicated for us, civil society, to monitor and hold governments accountable. We hope that a National Action Plan (NAP) for UNSCR 1325 will be a tool to harmonize everything in one single instrument. WILPF Colombia understands the resistance that exists at the national level towards a NAP 1325 so we have now changed our strategy. Now, we focus on supporting local governments in their efforts to develop local action plans”.

A large part of WILPF Colombia’s local work with UNSC resolution 1325 is about increasing the political participation of women and increasing their awareness of their rights. In Cartagena, we saw how WILPF Colombia evaluated their members’ developments on a personal level in the past year, their analysis on how the political context has changed within the country and what this means for WILPF’s work and women’s rights in general.

A mujer lideresa at a workshop with LIMPAL in Colombia.
A mujer lideresa at a workshop with LIMPAL in Colombia.

Much of WILPF Colombia’s work is also about educating women to become so-called Mujeres Lideresas, or women who know their rights and can pass the knowledge on to others. Many of these women have started organisations in their villages to empower others by sharing their knowledge through workshops and meetings.

One Mujer Lideresa said to us,* “Through WILPF, I found out that I had rights that I did not know I possessed – not only political but also private rights. WILPF was our mother. Now we have a better understanding of our rights and laws, but not only that, we also demand these rights. We are very proud.

“We are here thanks to all the women who have worked with this before us and who continue to work for us. WILPF is the oldest peace organization for women. We have always wanted peace. You fall in love with the organization. Through the activities we do in WILPF, we strengthen not only ourselves but also our families and societal structures”.

Mujeres Lideresas: Agents of Change
Workshop with LIMPAL and Mujeres Lideresas.
A workshop with LIMPAL and Mujeres Lideresas.

Most of the Mujeres Lideresas participating in WILPF Colombia have been victims of the armed conflict. They have been forcedly internally displaced in Colombia, forced to flee their villages. Many of these women are now settled in Cartagena’s suburbs where they are often ostracized and despised by the rest of society.

One woman told us,* “I’ve had so much pain in my stomach, but did not understand why, it is only now I realize that it is the stomach that collects all the pain, and it was only after WILPF’s workshops that I realized the weight I had carried in my stomach. The pain has been a normal state since becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs), but now I understand that it is not normal and have received the right tools to process the pain”.

WILPF Colombia works to influence politicians on a national and international level. In October, Rosemary, a Mujer Lideresa, travelled to Geneva to participate in the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). She said, *“I met several women who told stories that I can recognize myself in. It made me realize that we are not alone in this. Women throughout the world are working to gain their rights”.

Partaking in the work of WILPF Colombia’s work was both intense and instructive. Even though it hurt to hear what these women (Mujeres Lideresas) went through, it was incredibly inspiring and uplifting to see their strength and motivation. Thanks to WILPF, these women can begin to address their pain and change the situation in their county by helping others, by getting their voices heard nationally and internationally and by demanding their rights.

*Our own translation from Spanish to English

Tove Ivergård, International Coordinator, WILPF Sweden

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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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