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Women Disregarded during Colombian Peace Talks

17 October 2012

President Santos of Colombia is due to begin peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People’s Army (FARC), next week in Oslo.

The talks are being billed as historic. But in terms of providing women with a voice and ensuring a gendered dimension to the negotiations, they will be far from it.

Despite President Santos’ confirmation to UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, during her visit to Colombia in mid-September, that he was committed to ensuring a female presence at the negotiation table, the women are nowhere to be seen!

This should perhaps not come as a surprise. The 2011 Monitoring Report on Colombia’s compliance with Resolution 1325 – created by the 1325 Working Group – reported a total absence of women from any governmental peace talks or armed groups in recent decades.

It is absolutely imperative that women be included in the upcoming Oslo Peace Process. If we look back to the 1993 Oslo Peace Accord between Israel and Palestine, the issues that were left unresolved were those that did not include women in the negotiations.

And the excuse certainly can’t be made that women cannot be found to participate in the negotiations.

Our very own WILPF Colombia have been working on conflict related issues for decades, precisely because we firmly believe that women know intimately the causes and consequences of conflict, and women are aware of the social and structural changes needed to transition from a country of conflict to a country where human rights are respected.

In fact, in our October 2012 internal newsletter, WILPF International Update, we were proud to mention that the women of WILPF Colombia were getting ready to take an active role in the upcoming conversations, to ensure women’s rights are included in the process and in the outcomes.

The 1325 Working Group (including Red Nacional de Mujeres, Alianza Iniciativa de Mujeres Colombianes por la paz, and WILPF Colombia amongst many others) recently sent an open letter to President Santos demanding women’s inclusion in the peace talks and their consequences.

Women’s organisations are now uniting to create ‘Women for Peace’, a new movement with the following proposals:

  1. To continue to carry out actions which contribute to the achievement of peace.
  2. To gain women’s voice and legitimacy as political actors and spokespersons in the peace negotiations and peace process.
  3. To help elevate the level of dialogue among women on subjects such as legal frameworks for peace and transitional justice.
  4. To design and implement mechanisms to strengthen and/or construct strategic alliances with social and political sectors.
  5. To elaborate and strengthen the women’s agenda in order to influence the general agenda agreed upon by the government and the insurgency.
  6. To develop and strengthen ‘Women for Peace’ in the national and regional spheres.

We have seen from the examples of previous peace agreements, Bosnia to mention just one, what happens when women are excluded from peace agreements. It is THE transformative moment when there is a possibility for real and lasting change. For that to happen the voices of women from all races, classes, and backgrounds, must be heard.

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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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