Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

Women and Armed Conflict – 20 Years after Beijing

14 November 2014

Last week, it got really busy at the United Nations, when the NGO Committee on the Status of Women in Geneva organised a NGO Forum before the official Beijing+20 review process in Geneva.

During the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, UN Member States adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA) and committed to a decisive agenda for advancing women’s rights and empowerment.

WILPF was one of more than 300 NGOs taking part in the NGO Forum. The forum was organised to provide critical input to this important review process. We hosted a panel discussion about the BPFA critical area of concern ‘women and armed conflict’ to see where we were 20 years ago and where we stand now.

Madeleine Rees, General Secretary of WILPF, Kateryna Levchenko, Director of the European network against human trafficking, La Strada in Ukraine, Rehana Hashmi, a refugees expert from Pakistan and Mia Gandenberger of WILPF’s disarmament programme, Reaching Critical Will, discussed different strategic objectives addressed under critical area ‘women and armed conflict’.

They focused on the subjects of women’s participation in peace processes, military expenditure and its effects on international peace and security, and the situation of refugee and internally displaced women in conflict regions like the Ukraine and Pakistan.


Over the past years, more conflicts emerged then ever before. When examining the role of women during and after armed conflict, we see a comprehensive set of law enacted, but a huge lack of effective implementation thereof. As Madeleine Rees highlighted, out of 40 peace agreements, only one bears the signature of a woman.

Security Council Resolution 1325 reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction. It also stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

Madeleine Rees stressed that the UN itself needs to set an example and take gender perspectives into account in their work at all levels and in all programmes. The only way to achieve sustainable peace is to include women in political decisions and peace negotiations.


Mia Gandenberger of WILPF’s disarmament programme ‘Reaching Critical Will’

This year’s total figure of military spending, 1.747 trillion USD, as SIPRI Military Expenditure Database indicates, shows an approximate increase of 40%, instead of a decrease, as demanded in the 1995 BPFA document.

Military expenditure has grown globally by roughly 2% each year, often due to arising conflicts, which causes States to increase the budget for national security, rather than increasing human security to achieve sustainable peace.

We suggest a minimum reduction of 2% per annum to redress this trend. Mia Gandenberger stressed that we need a progressive realisation of social and economic rights with budgetary allocations taking into account a gender perspective and away from military development.


As a result of conflicts, internally displaced persons (IDPs) find themselves in difficult circumstances. This is especially true for women who are already vulnerable to all forms of violence i.e. domestic, social, physical, mental and in particular sexual violence and exploitation, torture, rape, forced pregnancy, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, and trafficking.

Women are often considered “invisible” and are therefore left behind in conflict zones, not being able to seek help or assistance, as they lack the most basic identity documents.

Displaced women face physical, psychological, health, and hygiene problems. In that context, Rehana Hashmi reminded participants that the fundamental rights of IDPs include long term safety and security assurance, the right to dignity, basic human rights, economic, social and cultural rights and rights related to civil and political protection.


20 years ago, a concrete action plan for the inclusion of women in political decisions as well as in peace negotiations was worked out in Beijing. Today, we actually have International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law in place to ensure women’s participation. WILPF encourages the international community to fully implement and respect these rights.

In fact, sustainable and lasting peace is only possible once women’s rights are realised. Military resources have to be redirected to in order to be able to achieve the overall goal of reducing the world’s military expenditure.

WILPF Panel about ‘Women and Armed Conflict’

For nearly 100 years we have been working to end and prevent war, ensuring that women are represented at all levels in a peace-building process. In 2015, we will bring together women peacemakers from all over the world in The Hague, with the aim to build on the movement Women’s Power to Stop War and continue the work to achieve long-term peace.

Come join us in The Hague and participate in the debate!

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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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