Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

WILPF Creates A Common Space for Women Activists from MENA Conflict Countries

4 October 2016

Since 2011, WILPF has worked with women activists and women groups from countries experiencing conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, including in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. WILPF has contributed to feminist movement building and supported the effort of local women organisations to build peace and combat militarisation.

WILPF has therefore proposed to deliver a specialised training to women activists from Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The details of each component of the training was finalised after the completion of a needs assessment to be carried out with women activists in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The results of the needs assessment were used to refine the objectives and content of the training so that the training responds to as much of the participants’ needs as possible. The purpose of this training was to provide activists with the specialised expertise they have identified through the delivery of expertise and knowledge and the sharing and communication of experiences from different conflict situations in a safe space. The training focused on three areas that WILPF’s partners have identified as particularly relevant to their work in conflict. This training will equip participants with:

  • Knowledge and understanding of international humanitarian law, which was conducted by Geneva Call;
  • Advocacy tools to combat the use of arms; and
  • Knowledge of how to build effective, sustainable national and regional
  • Coalitions and general advocacy skills

Despite the different conflict dynamics and particularities in each of these conflict countries, women human rights defenders face very similar patterns of violations, discrimination and exclusion. As part of our efforts to support the building of a consolidated feminist movement in the region, we provided this common space for women activists from Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen to exchange experiences, share lessons and best practices, in an attempt to set the first building block of a common regional strategy for human rights defenders from these countries.

The women activists from Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen discussed the issues facing women in general and activists in particular, identified the stakeholders they would like to build stronger relations with in order to respond to these issues, as well as the impediments and stakeholders hindering them from fulfilling their work.

Participants identified several strategies to strengthen the protection of women and girls, and to increase and enhance the participation of women across the peace and security spectrum. These strategies mainly revolved around the building of trust, coalitions and partnerships amongst civil society actors at the local, national, regional and international level; developing capacities of women activists and broader civil society; advocating at the local, national, regional and international level; and raising public awareness and transforming education and aspirations.

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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 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

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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