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WILPF’s New President: Get to Know Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo, a peace activist and the founder of WILPF Cameroon, got on 24 July 2022 elected as the next President of WILPF by the WILPF Congress. We’ve asked her some questions about her visions for the coming three years.

Image credit: Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo
Sylvie Ndongmo
29 July 2022

Q: How long have you been involved with WILPF, and what first inspired you to join the movement?

A: Ten years ago, I got familiar with WILPF and its work at the AWID Forum in Istanbul, Turkey. While there, I visited WILPF’s stands and participated in workshops organised by WILPF. I was very impressed by the work WILPF had been doing worldwide to promote peace.

I was particularly intrigued by the cutting-edge research and data provided on conflict prevention and peacebuilding actions and requirements, militarism, peacekeeping operations, and countries’ military spending, which were most often disproportionate to their efforts to promote human rights and women’s rights in particular.

I was able to make a clear link between women’s rights and arms proliferation, and I was shocked to see how countries could vote enormous budgets for the acquisition of weapons to the detriment of other social and critical sectors such as education, health care, gender equality which are essential for the advancement of women.

Being aware of the situation in my country, Cameroon, which was already affected by conflicts with neighbouring countries, I felt a moral obligation to ensure that Cameroonian women would become more involved in this global quest for social justice. WILPF Cameroon was established in January 2014.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in your new role as President of the International Board?

A: My background as a WILPF Section Founder and President, as Regional Representative and an IB Member have allowed me to know the organisation and how it operates very well. Now that the members have believed in me and allowed me to lead the organisation for the next three years as President of the International Board, I wish to bring my modest contribution to the organisation’s growth.

I am very much looking forward to seeing WILPF members re-connect to the vision of our founding mothers outlined in the Manifesto; we all learn from each other in an open and inclusive space for experiences, sharing and learning. I wish we all commit to upholding our feminist values and take action to challenge systems and structures of oppression, promote inclusive and peaceful solutions to conflict, and strengthen feminist peace activism more than ever. I also sincerely hope that greater trust is rebuilt among members, that we overcome barriers and strengthen the enablers in our work, and that we look for the best and most efficient ways to work together in future.

My energy will also be geared towards ensuring more participation and increased visibility for the youths. I genuinely look forward to promoting intergenerational connections between the young and the older WILPF members to ensure continuity and uphold our cultural values.

Q: What does feminist peace mean to you?

A: Feminist peace is about respecting the UN principle ‘’Leave no one behind.’’ It means questioning the root causes of conflicts, the conflict drivers, identifying the fault lines in peace processes through proper gender conflict analysis etc.

It means acting locally to globally, building on everyone’s assets, and co-creating peace conditions with grassroots, feminist actors on the ground and the most marginalised groups and elites. At the centre of peacebuilding in the communities, I see grassroots activists, feminists and women’s civil society and any required actor acting to drive inclusion and meaningful participation of women in the processes that unfold around conflict prevention and peacebuilding, which to me is all about feminist peace.

To me, the feminist peace approach means acting from the insights and experiences of women, men, girls, and boys that explicitly renders visible the differential and gendered power structures and relations that often play out at the detrimental extreme during threats to peace. For instance, building peace requires a gender-centred approach to work closely with the lived experiences and contributions of everyone amid conflictual situations.

Some fundamental principles of feminist principles are inclusion, accountability, collaboration, self-care and care for others, challenging systems and structures of oppression, challenging the patriarchal system of oppression, and ensuring a holistic response to conflict.

Q: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the feminist peace movement today?

A: The biggest challenge I see is the poor or non-consideration of this critical inclusive, and holistic approach in peace-building processes. The environment in which we operate is still very patriarchal, and inclusion is still lacking. Also, many women or groups are left behind and don’t know their role in these processes, don’t know how to get involved and have existential needs, such as lack of access to basic needs.

Q: Why should feminist peace activists and allies consider getting involved with WILPF?

A: WILPF is a grassroots feminist organisation known for its inclusiveness and conflict resolution based on addressing the root causes. It is a well-structured, century-old movement composed of National Groups and Sections, which include grassroots communities and critical players in the quest for peace and social justice.

Its bottom-up approach ensures that the voices of the most vulnerable are considered at the decision-making level through advocacy and a diverse network of partners.

WILPF is a leading organisation with a proven winning strategy and needs to be supported in this effort. Therefore, all feminist peace activists and allies are strongly encouraged to join this movement so that we together can contribute to a more just world.

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Sylvie Ndongmo

Sylvie Ndongmo of WILPF Cameroon is stepping into the role of President of the WILPF International Board as of 24 July 2022. She has been a member of WILPF since 2012 and set up WILPF Cameroon in 2014. From 2018-2022, she served on the International Board as Regional Representative of Africa. She is taking over the position from outgoing president Joy Onyesoh, who served in the role for the past four years.
Read more about the next International Board.

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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