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WILPF in Syria: The Power of Partnership

Out of a strong belief that at the heart of powerful feminist movements are well-equipped and sustainable organisations, WILPF has been working closely with Syrian partners towards a feminist peace in a country deeply impacted by conflict, instability, and violence.

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
27 May 2021

Read the blog in Arabic

Out of a strong belief that at the heart of powerful feminist movements are well-equipped and sustainable organisations, WILPF has been working closely with Syrian partners towards a feminist peace in a country deeply impacted by conflict, instability, and violence.

Since 2018, we have been supporting our partners’ efforts to build a future of justice and security for women in Syria through a wide range of strategies and initiatives.

Take a look at the impact we are helping to create through the power of partnership.

Providing Flexible Funding for Impact and Sustainability

Donor-restricted funding – or funding that can only be used for specific purposes, as defined by the donor – presents a growing challenge for Syrian grassroots civil society organisations working towards feminist peace.

Unable to address their most urgent needs, which are constantly evolving due to highly volatile social, political, and economic circumstances, many feminist organisations struggle to pursue their work for social change to its fullest extent while meeting restrictive donor requirements, policies, and agendas.

Seeking to address this challenge, between 2018 and 2020 WILPF provided flexible funding to 23 partner organisations across Syria, in neighbouring countries, and in the diaspora. Free from restrictions or caveats, this funding allowed partners to deepen their impact in the communities they serve by advancing their core activities and services.

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Each organisation used the funds differently. Administrative costs, IT support, office space, legal fees, outreach costs, training spaces and course development, team-building retreats, translation services, and awareness-raising campaigns are just a few examples of how WILPF’s flexible funding enabled our partners to meet their unique needs over the three years of the project.

In 2020, as COVID-19 started to present unpredictable challenges to the work of our partners and drastic shifts in donor priorities, this funding helped our partners quickly adapt their plans to mitigate difficulties and fulfill their urgent needs.

Partners reported that the flexible funding they received has helped them pursue their long-term feminist agendas by reducing the pressure to meet basic costs, allowing them the time and resources they need to think and act strategically, and focus on their core goals. 

According to many partners, needs-oriented flexible funding has enabled them to grow stronger and more sustainable.

Supporting Mental Health and Capacity Building

Many organisations working on Syria lack the technical support and opportunities for networking and coordination required for their development into more sustainable entities. Particularly for many activists pursuing a feminist peace agenda in Syria, working closely with women, children, and other individuals directly and disproportionately impacted by instability and conflict can take a profound mental health toll that requires urgent support. 

With the aim of enhancing our partners’ ability to carry out their work effectively, WILPF designed technical support plans that met and addressed partners’ needs and the contextual challenges they are facing. Tailor-designed based on annual capacity assessments held with each of the organisations, these plans included psychosocial support, feminist dialogues and capacity building webinars. 

To provide a trusted outlet for our Syrian partners to express themselves in a safe and private space, WILPF offered regular psychoeducational and group psychosocial support sessions where women could receive support, connect with one another, and speak freely about their challenges and concerns. As one partner stated, “The psychosocial support was very useful for me personally, and for the organisation as well. It left an impact despite it being brief.” With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent toll it has taken on feminist activists, topics such as work-life balance and dealing with COVID-19-related stress were also addressed in the sessions.

In addition to offering psychosocial support, WILPF also hosted a number of closed feminist dialogue webinars in Arabic for its Syria partners, focused on building contexualised knowledge of feminist principles and incorporating feminist approaches into organisational activities and systems. 

These webinars explored topics such as feminist governance, feminist leadership, women’s political participation, complaints response mechanisms in relation to harassment and bullying at work, and more. 

Other training webinars focused on feminist monitoring, evaluation and learning, crowdfunding, and international human rights mechanisms. All of these training opportunities sought to develop the skills and capacities of our partners and enable them to pursue their feminist agendas. 

Many partners described these webinars as transformative.

Advocating for a Gender-Sensitive Approach to Transitional Justice 

Discussions on transitional justice in Syria– or the ways in which countries emerging from conflict address widespread human rights violations – remain male-dominated and gender-blind, despite the fact that women and other marginalised communities have been uniquely and overwhelmingly impacted by conflict and instability. Representation on justice-related issues has often engaged women merely as victims or representatives of victims, while engaging men as experts. 

As part of WILPF’s efforts to ensure transitional justice processes are gender-sensitive and victim/survivor-centred, we jointly designed a project with Dawlaty – an organisation launched by Syrian activists dedicated to building democracy, human rights, activism, and gender equality – in which we partnered with five Syrian women-led organisations working on justice and gender issues to amplify the voices of grassroots feminists on the international stage. 

  • To support and strengthen the capacity of small- and medium-sized women-centred organisations in Syria to advocate for gender-sensitive, victim-centred transitional justice strategies.
  • To increase knowledge of the gendered impacts of conflict in order to inform gender-sensitive transitional justice strategies.
  • To engage partners in advocacy opportunities that will elevate their voices on the local and global levels.
  • To foster community-led efforts to promote gender-sensitive transitional justice strategies.

WILPF, Dawlaty, and partner organisations adopted a local-global-local approach that creates linkages between local, regional, and international efforts. At the local level, partner organisations engaged with women and community leaders to introduce a feminist analysis of issues affecting Syrian women. As such, their feminist demands targeted the impacts and outcomes of challenges vis-à-vis women’s roles during the transitional period and justice from a gender perspective. 

This unified approach aims to bring the voices and needs of women at the community level to multilateral fora, while ensuring the information and analysis of what is happening at the international level is taken back to the communities. 

By using a bottom-up approach – engaging grassroots activists in efforts to promote feminist approaches to transitional justice – this project has directly supported women’s meaningful engagement in diplomatic and peace processes.  

Partner organisations in this joint project shared how useful it has been in helping them understand complex political concepts from a gendered perspective.

WILPF believes this model can be expanded to other thematic areas, ultimately building a stronger, more focused movement for feminist peace by creating specialised feminist working groups.

Political Is personal Podcast Cover

Listen to the first episode of WILPF’s podcast “Political is Personal” to learn more about women’s meaningful participation in Syria before and after the uprisings of 2011.

#political_is_personal #WILPF_Podcast #السياسي_شخصي

For more information about WILPF’s work in Syria, visit the Syria page on our website.

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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.

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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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