Did you know that WILPF had another name when it was created? It was 100 years ago, on its second Congress in 1919, that the “International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace” became the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
This weekend, WILPF in partnership with other peace organisations, is hosting a special event in Zurich to celebrate the 137 women who created WILPF to find sustainable solutions for peace in 1919. 100 years later, WILPF members are meeting again in the same location: the Glockenhof-Hotel in Zurich.
The 100th anniversary of the 2nd WILPF Congress in 1919 is of extreme importance as it marks the birth of our constitution. In particular, at the Second Congress, we created a resolution where we criticised the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty marked the end of the First World War by setting out the peace terms between the Allies (USA, UK, France, Russia and Italy) and Germany.
Women from WILPF pointed out the specific terms they found controversial and punitive and concluded that the terms “seriously violate[d]the principles upon which a just and lasting peace can be secured.” They suggested amendments to the terms and telegraphed it to the winning countries.
The telegraph was only a part of their actions. In 1915, WILPF had already elected five women to meet with 21 Heads of State, including Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers, a King and the Pope. They urged these Heads of Neutral States to set up mediation to end the First World War. However, none of them wanted to take the first step and the war continued until 1918.
Watch the story of these women in this short documentary by Charlotte Bill:
Although the First and the Second World War are over, we are still experiencing today a culture of violence, with countries all over the world experiencing conflicts of various forms. As a feminist peace organisation, we perceive security as human security, that cares about the safety of people that depends on access to nutritious food, clean water, health and reproductive care, education, shelter and income.
The fight for gender equality and for a feminist peace is an ongoing process. Back in 1919, we advocated for the necessity of universal disarmament, for women’s meaningful participation in decision-making and peace negotiations, on solidarity beyond borders, on anti-militarism, on civilian conflict prevention and environmental sustainability, and our goals remain the same 100 years later. It is vital that we “learn from the past, get inspired by the present and be visionary for the future,” as Heidi Meinzolt, WILPF Europe Regional Representative, said.
At the 100th anniversary of WILPF 2nd Congress in Zurich, WILPF wants to raise awareness for the continuum of gendered violence, to renew the understanding of diversity as a landmark for solidarity, tolerance and cross-border cooperation, to emphasise the added value of meaningful participation of women on all levels for the future of humanity and to discuss options linking academic discourse and everyday reality, from local to global.
If you are in Switzerland, do not forget to join us. Register here.
We are thankful for Heidi Meinzolt’s contributions and insights in the drafting of this article.