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Women Vote Peace

Did you know that WILPF had another name when it was created?  Its current name, WILPF, was adopted 100 years ago, on its second Congress in 1919. 100 years later, WILPF members are meeting again in the same location, to celebrate WILPF’s legacy and work.

Image credit: WILPF
Heidi Meinzolt
7 May 2019
Photo of WILPF's second Congress in 1919: platea of women listening to the Board.

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. 

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Heidi Meinzolt

Heidi Meinzolt is a member of WILPF Germany for more than 30 years. She has been a member of the International Board for many years and served as a European coordinator in this period. Her major concern is raising awareness among the general public about the importance of a feminist analysis of conflicts, highlighting aspects of justice, human security and freedom.

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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