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Press Release: Women Take the Lead in Protesting Nuclear Weapons at Major NYC Event Next Month

23 May 2017

Thousands of women are expected to gather on 17 June in New York City and around the world to protest nuclear weapons and support their prohibition. Organized by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb is entirely women-led. This event is supported by dozens of sponsor and partner organizations that are representative of peace, disarmament, women’s rights, indigenous, environmental, and human rights communities, among others.

The march will occur as 130 governments resume negotiations in the United Nations on a ground-breaking new treaty that will ban nuclear weapons. When adopted, such a treaty will make it illegal for any signatory country to possess nuclear weapons and will impose economic, legal, political, and social barriers to nuclear weapon possession. It will further stigmatize nuclear weapons and help compel their elimination.

“No one is safe from a nuclear attack,” says Ray Acheson, a Programme Director at WILPF. “These are the ultimate indiscriminate weapons and don’t care about race, age, gender, political affiliation, or nationality,” she explains. “One detonation can potentially obliterate hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people in an instant, with longer-term impacts on the air, water, climate, and food sources. Simply put, they are an existential threat – which is why we must unite in protesting them.”

Through the march and rally, WILPF and its co-organizers want to demonstrate the pivotal role that women have played in the peace and antinuclear movements, despite being largely under-represented in decision-making positions. The event is also meant to highlight that despite the inhumane and widespread impact of these weapons, control over them remains in the hands of a very small elite. The cost implications of maintaining a nuclear arsenal also mean less funds available for other needs; for example, the United States is spending $1 trillion USD over the next thirty years to maintain its arsenals and will triple the killing power of these weapons.

Another important voice that will be highlighted through this event is that of indigenous communities in the United States and elsewhere, which have been dramatically and negatively impacted by nuclear weapons testing over the last several decades.

WILPF and its event partners see a clear connection between the current momentum of the resistance in the United States and what is happening at the UN. The 130 countries that support the ban treaty face opposition from nuclear-armed countries and their nuclear-supportive allies. Alongside the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, a major impetus to the treaty talks is that almost 50 years have passed since the nuclear-armed countries agreed to disarmament provisions through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and there’s been insufficient progress.

“Just as many people have been marching in the United States for justice and equality, inside the United Nations smaller and less influential countries are standing up to the powerful nations that hold us hostage by having these weapons,” says Ms. Acheson. “Like us, these countries are demanding a change to the status quo, challenging double standards and false promises.”

The march will begin with a brief rally at Bryant Park, and then proceed across midtown to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza for a longer event. Among the confirmed rally speakers is Kozue Akibayashi, who joined other feminist peace activists such as Gloria Steinem and two Nobel Peace Laureates, in a crossing of the the Korean Demilitarized Zone in 2015. Another speaker is Karina Lester, the  daughter of well-known Yankunytjatjara Elder and Activist Yami Lester, who was blinded by the ‘black mist’ from the first Atomic Test Bomb at Emu Junction, South Australia. It will also feature the handover of a petition from a group of Japanese atomic bomb survivors, called hibakusha, to the president of the negotiating conference.

Sister events are taking place in other cities in the United States, as well as in Australia, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and elsewhere.

For more information please contact Allison Pytlak, WILPF Programme Manager, tel: +1 212 682 1265 / mobile: +1 917 755 2128 / email:

Download Press Release in PDF format


  1. The Women’s March to Ban the Bomb will begin at 12:00 on Saturday 17 June and end at 4:00pm. Details of the event route, speaker line-up and timings are available at and through the Reaching Critical Will Facebook page. Look for us on Twitter @RCW_ or @wmtbtb.
  2. Photographers and journalists interested in covering the event are asked to contact Allison Pytlak for further information, including interview requests.
  3. Negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons will take place at the UN in New York from 15 June – 7 July 2017. This follows a first negotiating session that took place from 27-31 March 2017. WILPF is a member of the steering group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the leading civil society movement for the treaty. More resources about the ban can be found at or
  4. Co-organizers of the march and rally include: Hibakusha Stories, International Peace Bureau, Native Organizers Alliance, PAX, Peace Action New York State, Western States Legal Foundation, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) (host), and WILPF-US.

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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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