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WILPF Vice President Jamila Afghani Wins the 2022 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity 

Jamila Afghani, President of WILPF Afghanistan, has been named this year’s winner of the prestigious Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity in recognition of her efforts to support the advancement of women and peace in Afghanistan. We spoke with Jamila to find out how she’s feeling about the award, the current situation in Afghanistan, and what’s next for her. 

Image credit: Charlotte Hooij
WILPF International Secretariat
14 November 2022

We are thrilled to share that Jamila Afghani, Vice President of WILPF and President of WILPF Afghanistan, was recently named the 2022 winner of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. An educator and human rights defender, Jamila has dedicated more than 25 years of her life to improving the lives of women in Afghanistan through education, economic empowerment, and human rights advocacy. 

In August 2021, following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Jamila was forced to flee the country along with her family. First landing in Norway, she and her family are now in the process of settling in Canada. She continues to drive change for women in Afghanistan from her new home. 

As winner of the 2022 Aurora Prize, Jamila received a $1 million grant to donate to the charity of her choice. She has chosen to support WILPF and the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization, which she founded to advance women’s education in Afghanistan. 

We recently spoke with Jamila to find out how she’s feeling about winning the prize and the current situation in Afghanistan. 

“In the long term, I’m definitely hopeful. Afghanistan is our country, our responsibility, and we have to ensure Afghanistan can stand on its feet again.” – Jamila Afghani

What does it mean to you to have been awarded this prestigious prize? 

I wasn’t expecting it, but I feel honoured. It means a lot to me personally, but most importantly it gives profile to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan and helps to amplify the voices of Afghan women. 

Schools are still not open for girls, women are not allowed to go to their jobs, and women activists are being forced to leave the country. Afghanistan is also facing a major drought and flooding. The Afghan people are suffering. Receiving this award means that people are still paying attention to what’s happening in Afghanistan and the voices of women and girls being impacted. 

You were awarded the Aurora Prize in recognition of your work with the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization (NECDO) and WILPF. Can you speak a little bit about the work both organisations are doing in Afghanistan right now? 

Both are working to promote women’s rights in Afghanistan in different areas. NECDO is delivering humanitarian aid, providing financial support and food to thousands of families, with a focus on households led by women, women with disabilities, and other women in vulnerable situations throughout Afghanistan. 

WILPF Afghanistan currently has 10,000 members across the country. Right now, the Section is focused on advocating for the protection of women human rights defenders, connecting women grassroots activists, and elevating the voices of women on the issues that are impacting their lives. Most of all, we are promoting a culture of peace and advocating for women’s equal rights. 

What are your greatest concerns about the current situation in Afghanistan? 

There are so many problems taking place at the same time right now. The humanitarian crisis is at its peak. People don’t have enough food to feed themselves or their children. Some families are selling their young children to get money to survive for a few days. Young girls are being married off because of financial constraints; a lot of forced marriages are taking place. Meanwhile, many people have lost their jobs and businesses are failing because of the dire economic situation. 

It is a humanitarian catastrophe. If the world is not paying attention, there will be huge human loss in Afghanistan. 

Do you have any hope that the situation will improve?

For the near future, I’m not hopeful because of the complexity of the political situation. But in the long term, I’m definitely hopeful. Afghanistan is our country, our responsibility, and we have to ensure Afghanistan can stand on its feet again. I can see that women, youth, men, all kinds of dedicated people are working hard to keep the country going, from wherever they are in the world. 

As the winner of this year’s Aurora Prize, you chose to donate your $1 million prize to NECDO and WILPF. How do you hope those funds will be used?

$300,000 of that prize money has actually already been donated to support humanitarian aid in Yemen through the UN fund, which is also in a state of collapse. The remaining amount is being split between NECDO and WILPF. The funds will be used to support women’s education and humanitarian aid, as well as future fundraising and advocacy to draw more attention to the situation. 

You’re currently living in Ontario, Canada, with your family. What’s next for you?

We are planning to get together with other WILPFers and women activists in Canada soon to see how we strategise around the work we’re doing in Afghanistan, as well as contribute positively to Canadian society. I’m also looking forward to securing a job and remaining engaged and active in the community. 

Thank you, Jamila! Learn more about the work of WILPF Afghanistan and Jamila’s receipt of the Aurora Prize

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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 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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