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Feminists for Nuclear Disarmament

Feminists for Nuclear Disarmament

Building the Movement
Women are our greatest strength. We are more than half of the world’s population, we are an enormous global constituency. WILPF maintains and builds this network as a safe and inclusive organisation, using it to advance ideas and create momentum for change.
Redefine Security
WILPF rejects the idea that security is synonymous with military strength. We believe that real security can only be achieved through a shift to a different political economy with investment in environmental protection, social and economic rights, moving money from the machinery of war to the foundations of peace.
Leverage Feminist
Perspectives on Peace
In a patriarchal world, the feminist perspective has been missing from discussions on conflict, sustainability, and more. WILPF develops and amplifies feminist perspectives on root causes and promotes them on the international and national policy agenda. In doing so, we advance the cause of peace.

Just over 75 years ago, the United States (US) dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan – one on the city of Hiroshima, one on Nagasaki. The bombs, with their blast, fire, and ionising radiation, immediately incinerated hundreds of thousands of people, plants, animals, and buildings. By the end of 1945, 140,000 people had lost their lives. And the bombs’ radiation has caused the harm to be felt for generations.

Despite knowing their catastrophic effects, certain nuclear-armed state officials and academics still point to nuclear weapons as important tools of “security”. This perspective willfully overlooks how, for nearly a century, nuclear weapon activities have contaminated land and water and have disproportionately endangered and harmed the lives of many of the world’s most marginalised populations – particularly Indigenous and economically disadvantaged communities.

In 1999, WILPF formalised its focus on anti-nuclear activism with the launch of our disarmament programme, also known as Reaching Critical Will (RCW). For over two decades, RCW has been working to undo the nuclear way of thinking – better described as nuclearism.

Ray Acheson, RCW’s Programme Director, calls nuclearism “‘an epic feat of gaslighting”’ upheld by academics, politicians, and bureaucrats who profit from the unconscionable investments made in technologies of massive violence and destruction.

In 2020, WILPF and its partners in the fight for the elimination of nuclear weapons celebrated a historic milestone: the ratification of the UN’s landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which will come into effect on 22 January 2021. The TPNW prohibits the use, possession, and development of nuclear weapons and marks a major step forward for the global peace movement.

This achievement was only possible through a decade of collective action, which included WILPF’s dedicated efforts to campaign for the adoption of the treaty alongside the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Looking back as we look forward

In the months leading up to the 50th ratification of the TPNW on 24 October 2020, WILPF members around the globe worked to raise awareness of the human impact of nuclear weapons.

Photo of lanterns on water. A city is seen in the background. It is evening.
On 6 August, WILPF Finland in collaboration with other Finnish peace organisations lighted floating lanterns to remind the world of the senselessness of nuclear weapons and the importance of working for peace.

On 6 August – the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing – WILPF members around the world lit up lanterns in the night and let them float down streams of water as a silent reminder of all the lives lost on the same day 75 years ago.

Other moments of remembrance that day included a peace concert organised by WILPF Netherlands at the Peace Palace in the Hague and a camphor tree planted by US WILPFers at the Peace Garden of California State University. At the heart of our efforts was the understanding that on the road to abolition, we must centre the perspectives and experiences of atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha).

On 9 August, the Nagasaki anniversary, WILPF members and disarmament activists collectively delivered a statement against nuclear weapons.

In addition, WILPF Cameroon organised a workshop to urge Cameroon to ratify the TPNW and WILPF Finland sent an open letter to the government asking it to sign and ratify the TPNW.

It’s time to move the money

In August, we also launched a four-day campaign against nuclear weapon spending to mark the 75th anniversary of the bombings.

Our anniversary campaign sought to raise awareness of the absurd amount of money that is currently invested into nuclear weapons, and advocate for better uses of it.

Illustration sample from campaign: "France will never engage into a nuclear battle or any forms of graduated response." says Emmanuel Macron, President of France. Poster then states: However ... As of early 2020, france had a stockpile of around 300 nuclear warheads. Approximately 280 of these are already deployed or ready for deployment on short notice.
This illustration was part of WILPF’s campaign against nuclear weapon spending. It was shared on social media as part of a series of similar illustrations showcasing the differences between what nuclear armed states say and what they do.

We asked WILPF members how this money could be better spent and received an inspiring array of responses. Many of our members also used WILPF’s social media toolkit to share graphics online on nuclear spending.

Uniting our voices for nuclear abolition

When the TPNW comes into effect in 2021, we will be one step closer to a future of feminist peace. But our work is far from over: together with WILPFers, activists, and allies all over the world, we will continue to fight for an end to the very existence of nuclear weapons – and for the right of all people to live free from the threat of the unimaginable violence witnessed by the world 75 years ago.

Illustration of poster with WILPF quotes since 1915.
Click on the tree to see what WILPF has said over the years on disarmament and nuclear weapons
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The Women Leading Yemen’s Peace Movement

The Women Leading Yemen’s Peace Movement

Building the Movement
Women are our greatest strength. We are more than half of the world’s population, we are an enormous global constituency. WILPF maintains and builds this network as a safe and inclusive organisation, using it to advance ideas and create momentum for change.
Leverage Feminist
Perspectives on Peace
In a patriarchal world, the feminist perspective has been missing from discussions on conflict, sustainability, and more. WILPF develops and amplifies feminist perspectives on root causes and promotes them on the international and national policy agenda. In doing so, we advance the cause of peace.

Yemen is a nation in crisis.

Since 2014, the country has been in the grips of a devastating civil war that has left nearly a quarter of a million people dead. In 2020, under the added strains of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yemen’s healthcare system collapsed along with its resource supply chains.

The situation is so dire that the United Nations has recently warned an entire generation of children may be lost to hunger. Countless more will continue to suffer the vast consequences of war.

Among them are women, who – like women in all conflict-affected countries around the world – are disproportionately impacted by Yemen’s intersecting crises.

Faced with the intense pressures of protecting, feeding, and caring for children, family members, and communities under profoundly challenging circumstances, ever-growing rates of gender-based violence, and exclusion from meaningful economic and political participation, women in Yemen are navigating some of the most complex and life-threatening circumstances in the world.

But they are also taking a stand – for their rights, and for a future of peace. And they are doing so with courage, conviction, and relentless action at all levels, from grassroots efforts in remote communities to advocacy targeting the United Nations Security Council.

Creating space for women’s voices

In 2015, when scholar and activist Rasha Jarhum first started campaigning for peace in Yemen, she was immediately disappointed by the clear exclusion of women from peace negotiations organised by the United Nations.

“We tried to engage within UN systems, but I didn’t feel there was a genuine interest in women’s participation,” she says. “There was too much questioning about our role, too much pressure to adhere to the neutrality principles of the UN, too much enforcing of consensus principles.”

So she took matters into her own hands.

In 2016, Jarhum withdrew from her engagement within the UN peace initiative and revived the Women’s Solidarity Network (WSN), a grassroots network of more than 70 Yemeni women leaders calling for a recognition of women’s rights, needs, and interests in the country’s peace talks and political processes. First launched in 2013 to advocate for the integration of women’s rights into the new draft constitution, the group’s work had been put on hold due to the war.

In reviving WSN, Jarhum committed to creating a space in which participation and action, not consensus, were the goal.

“The idea was to bring women leaders together from all different backgrounds and not enforce neutrality or consensus,” she says. “We have common ground, but we recognise our political differences. That’s what makes us strong.”

WSN now has over 300 members who reside both in Yemen and around the world. With a mission to promote women’s rights and contribute to peacebuilding, WSN is working on the ground to protect and improve the lives of women, children, and other marginalised populations in Yemen.

“Members of the network have been involved in the evacuation of armed groups from schools and humanitarian negotiations to grant safe passage to families stuck on the frontlines of conflict or to allow humanitarian aid to pass through,” says Jarhum. “The members are also working on ending armed conflicts in areas over water and land, and on the release of arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared persons.”

Other initiatives include work to de-radicalise children and youth combatants, provide support for internally displaced persons, and provide legal aid for women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence.

Photo of Rasha Yarhum signing a book.
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the City of Verden, represented by Mayor Lutz Brockmann, presented Rasha Jarhum, director of Peace Track Initiative, co-founding member of the Women Solidarity Network, and fierce human rights defender from South Yemen, with the Anita Augspurg award for rebels against war for 2019.

From WSN’s earliest days, WILPF has been providing Jarhum with support, guidance, tools, and resources as she worked to build Yemen’s feminist peace movement from the ground up.

And we were by her side when she doubled down on her commitment to the future of Yemen with the launch of the Peace Track Initiative (PTI) – a powerful force for the inclusion of women and other underrepresented groups in Yemen’s peace processes.

On track for women-led peace in Yemen

Incubated by Jarhum and a group of Yemeni women activists at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in 2017, PTI was also officially registered in Canada and is now hosted in the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa. It’s among the leading organisations working to directly embed women in peace talks in Yemen.

PTI focuses on ensuring women are represented and empowered within each of the three “tracks” of diplomatic peace processes: official discussions (Track I), unofficial dialogue and problem-solving activities (Track II), and grassroots action through community organising (Track III).

As a Track II feminist partner, the organisation is actively involved in hosting consultations with women activists and women’s groups in Yemen. Jarhum says that compared to many Track II partners, PTI members have no interest in staying silent when they hear about or observe human rights abuses and violations – a reality she says is all too common for groups concerned about maintaining a neutral stance in the name of diplomacy.

“We report [human rights abuses and violations] to international mechanisms,” she says. “We report who is blocking the peace process, we monitor the UN peace process and anyone who is sponsoring the peace process, and we criticise when something is wrong.”

In 2019, the group’s relentless efforts led to recognition of their work by the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, in a briefing to the United Nations.

“We have claimed our space in the peace process,” says Jarhum. “It’s not that someone invited us or gave it to us; we just kind of forced ourselves in and everyone had to recognise us – and no longer ignore us.”

Local impact buoyed by a global movement

As Jarhum and her network of women peace activists continue to pursue their vision of a future of justice, equality, and security in Yemen, they are motivated by the momentum of their movement and the change they’re already creating.

“One of PTI’s biggest achievements was our successful efforts to advocate for the adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution that called for women’s inclusion in the peace process in 2018 and another that listed sexual- and gender-based violence and child recruitment as sanctionable crimes in 2020,” says Jarhum. “So now, individuals involved in these crimes will be sanctioned.”

And while the feminist movement in Yemen is being imagined, built, and driven by Yemeni women, Jarhum says that support from WILPF helped bring their plans to life.

“It’s cheesy to say, but WILPF is the wind behind our wings,” she says. “They helped us take off in many ways – not only financially, but technically, morally, and through all forms of support that we never could have imagined.”

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Over Two Decades Later, What Have These Women’s Rights Milestones Really Achieved?

Over Two Decades Later, What Have These Women’s Rights Milestones Really Achieved?

Building the Movement
Women are our greatest strength. We are more than half of the world’s population, we are an enormous global constituency. WILPF maintains and builds this network as a safe and inclusive organisation, using it to advance ideas and create momentum for change.
Leverage Feminist
Perspectives on Peace
In a patriarchal world, the feminist perspective has been missing from discussions on conflict, sustainability, and more. WILPF develops and amplifies feminist perspectives on root causes and promotes them on the international and national policy agenda. In doing so, we advance the cause of peace.

2020 was a year of milestone anniversaries.

In September, we marked the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – a landmark platform for the rights of women and girls. Through a concrete action plan, 189 world leaders came together in 1995 at the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women to commit to pursuing gender equality across the world.

Stock photo from 1995. Women behind a WILPF banner on a train station. One with a guitar.
In 1995, WILPF sponsored a “Peace Train” that brought 230 women and 10 men from 42 countries to the Fourth UN Conference on Women. During the three-week trek from Helsinki, Finland, to Beijing the activists meet with women groups and political leaders. Credits: WILPF archive.

And in October, we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). In 2000, WILPF, alongside other women’s rights and peace advocates, was at the forefront of advocating for the resolution, which recognises that the equal participation of women is critical to the success of international peace and security efforts.

Did you know that UNSCR 1325 is the most translated Security Council resolution ever?

Both events were unprecedented and considered huge victories for advancing the rights of women. But 25 years after the Beijing Declaration and 20 years since the adoption of UNSCR 1325, has any progress actually been made?

A reality check on the state of women’s rights today

While it’s important to acknowledge these milestones, we must also examine whether they’ve actually helped progress women’s rights. We can start by looking at the realities of today’s world.

In 2021, inequality – in all its forms – persists around the world and continues to grow. Militarism dominates security discourse and works together with patriarchal, colonial, and capitalist systems to devalue the lives of human beings, particularly the most marginalised populations.

Militarisation erodes our societies, stifles civil liberties, and wrecks the environment. Yet money and resources continue to be poured into global violence inappropriately labelled as “security”. Meanwhile, women and girls throughout the world live in poverty and face the effects of violent conflict, gender-based violence, and various other forms of structural violence.

It’s clear that meaningful progress is still yet to be made.

How different would the world look if we invested the money used on global militarism into public resources? Or if the promises made in Beijing in 1995 and by the Security Council in 2000 were more than just that – promises?

These were the messages and questions WILPF delivered in March 2020 in our statement to the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64), where the Beijing+25 anniversary was due to be celebrated. As the UN marked the anniversaries of 2020, we demanded accountability from governments and suggested bold new paths forward. And we issued a sharp criticism of the work that hasn’t taken place, holding back the advancement of women’s rights and progress toward a future of sustainable peace:

“If the Beijing Platform had been translated into law, we would have a reason to celebrate. If the Women, Peace and Security Agenda had delivered on its promise there would be change for all of us. If society understood the importance and meaning of gender, we would be living in a different world.”

WILPF’s statement to CSW64

Watered down commitments and a civil society response

The discourse around women’s rights and human rights more broadly has become increasingly politicised due to the rise of authoritarianism, fascism, nationalism, xenophobia, racism, white supremacist ideologies and fundamentalism worldwide, and policies have suffered as a result.

We saw this especially in discussions around sexual and reproductiove health and rights as well as LGBTQ+ rights.

Such political sidestepping was evident in the political declaration published by governments ahead of the CSW64 in March for the Beijing anniversary. Rather than offering a promising step forward, the declaration merely reaffirmed the commitments made 25 years ago – which have since proven ineffective.

In response, a global coalition of more than 200 feminist organisations, networks, and collectives that advocate for gender equality at the United Nations – known as the Women’s Rights Caucus – published an alternative feminist declaration. WILPF, as part of the coalition, helped draft the declaration with concrete demands for action and change.

And in May 2020, we raised our voices even louder with the publication of Where are the Words?, a report published by WILPF and the London School of Economics’ Centre for Women, Peace and Security detailing systemic disregard for the advancement of UNSCR 1325 by the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council.

The report also highlights the disappearance of language on the Women, Peace and Security agenda from a significant number of country-specific resolutions – a lack of representation that threatens to reverse progress for women’s meaningful participation in peace-building processes.

Re-imagining the path forward

Our work is far from over.

In October 2020, WILPF was selected as a Catalytic Member of the new Generation Equality Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action. Part of the Generation Equality Forum, a global space for civil society individuals and organisations to engage in dialogue and action on gender equality and women’s rights, the Compact has a goal to address key structural issues preventing the realisation of the WPS agenda, such as militarisation.

In November, WILPF published UNSCR 1325 at 20 Years: Perspectives from Feminist Peace Activists and Civil Society, a major analysis of how – and whether – UNSCR 1325 has been implemented over the past 20 years.

Based on global consultations with hundreds of WILPF members and other feminist peace activists and WPS practitioners, the report reveals three key areas requiring urgent attention if the Women, Peace and Security agenda is to continue moving forward: militarism and militarisation, the patriarchal and political underpinnings of the agenda itself, and a lack of accountability for its implementation.

“The next decade’s approach must be centred on working towards structural changes to promote systems and economies that prioritise gender equality, human well-being, dignity, and livelihood,” the report states in its conclusion. “In order to achieve sustainable and feminist peace, the UN, UNSC, and all states must address the gendered root causes and consequences of conflict; protect and promote the rights of all women and girls; and take much-needed action towards conflict prevention, disarmament, and demilitarisation.”

In December, we published a policy brief examining the application of UNSCR 1325 in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The report found that despite the inadequate implementation of the resolution by governments in the region over the past 20 years, the grassroots feminist movement has never been stronger: “A diverse set of homegrown feminist movements is flourishing and realising great achievements despite the enormous challenges they face,” the report concludes. “Women and girls in MENA have made great strides in pursuit of progress and are moving forward towards even more.”

A future of feminist peace is within our reach. But to get there, we must continue calling out the failings of the system and driving action in pursuit of equity for all.

Every step of the way, WILPF will be there: talking, publishing, advocating, acting. Creating change.

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Walking the Green Feminist Road

Walking the Green Feminist Road

Building the Movement
Women are our greatest strength. We are more than half of the world’s population, we are an enormous global constituency. WILPF maintains and builds this network as a safe and inclusive organisation, using it to advance ideas and create momentum for change.
Promote
Socio-Economic Justice
Neoliberalism has brought us inequality, exclusion, and environmental destruction. Its very nature makes it an obstacle to peace and justice. WILPF analyses, raises awareness, and advocates for alternatives to neoliberalism. Lasting peace requires fairer economic systems and protection of people and planet.

From the devastating wildfires in Australia and California to extreme weather in India and Bangladesh, in 2020 it was more clear than ever that the world is facing a profound environmental crisis.

As a global organisation working for peace and human security, WILPF is committed to raising awareness about the impacts of militarism, patriarchy, and capitalism on the world’s ecosystems – and how the environmental harm created by these oppressive systems deepens socio-economic inequality.

That’s why, as part of our commitment to highlighting and acting on the root causes of climate change, in 2020 we focused not only on what the world can do – but on what we can do.

Asking ourselves how we can operate in a more climate-friendly and socially responsible way, we strategised how to elevate diverse perspectives on climate justice and further integrate action on the environment into our work.

But first: what do climate justice and social inequality have in common?

Climate justice isn’t only good for the planet. It’s also critical for achieving an equitable future in which the rights of all people are recognised, respected, and upheld.

Environmental destruction and social oppression have always gone hand in hand.

Women are disproportionately impacted by climate change because they are more likely to lack access to and power over natural resources. They are also less likely to be represented in decision-making processes, which prevents women from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policy making, and implementation – ultimately deepening the inequalities they face.

In addition, capitalist systems that prioritise profit over well-being have enabled powerful mining industries that negatively impact the lives of people in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. With policies and practices rooted in legacies of colonialism and present-day racism, multinational companies are exploiting resources in the Global South, international aid systems are creating hierarchies, and the geopolitical priorities of international powers are dividing populations by exacerbating ethnic and sectarian divisions.

It doesn’t stop there. Despite the ever-growing climate crisis, trillions of dollars that could be used to address climate change are instead being poured into weapons and conflict. At the same time, many military activities are highly polluting and have disastrous impacts on social security and access to food, water, and services.

Taken together, environmental challenges and social inequalities are both the cause and effect of the structures WILPF seeks to dismantle.

Sharing stories of hope for a green feminist future

Illustration from zine

To showcase the environmental justice work of WILPFers around the world, on World Environment Day 2020 we launched a zine called Down the Green Feminist Road that shares stories from WILPF Sections and Groups on projects they undertook in 2019 using the WILPF Environment Grant.

In contrast to the 24-hour news cycle, which is filled with climate change disasters and stagnant politics, Down the Green Feminist Road brings stories of hope and progress. Using a creative, accessible, and highly visual format, the zine helped us reach a global audience of climate justice advocates and allies.

Among the stories included in the publication were a look into WILPF Burkina Faso’s work on women’s land rights, WILPF Lebanon’s efforts to create healthier environments for refugees, WILPF Kenya’s innovative mama bomas, and WILPF Sweden’s commitment to shedding light on the link between militarism and the climate.

Spead sample from Zine titled Women supporting Women.

Jamila Afghani, President of WILPF Afghanistan, also spoke with us about her Section’s tree-planting initiative.

“Because of the war, some of the jungles are [being] destroyed by the government because warriors [hide] themselves behind the trees,” Jamila says in a video created to showcase the initiative. “[And because] most people do not have better economic resources, they are cutting the jungle for firewood.”

To help restore Afghanistan’s forests, in 2019 WILPF Afghanistan planted more than 10,000 trees. To learn more about the Section’s efforts, watch the video below.

In the lead-up to the launch of Down the Green Feminist Road, we prepared a package for members, Sections and external partners to help them amplify the message and extend the reach of the zine.

Starting from the ground up

In January, as part of WILPF International Secretariat’s annual Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning meeting, WILPF staff discussed methods of care for the planet and for ourselves. We brainstormed everything from how our emails and data emit pollution to ways to control the extent of travel that comes with our work. We also reflected on the importance of rest and mental well-being in ensuring the sustainability of our work.

WILPF staff group photo

From these discussions, we formed a staff group and started building an environmental and social responsibility policy specific to our work. We hired an environmental consultant and activist, who initiated conversations with staff and members about our priorities, and we exchanged ideas with the UN Environmental Programme on opportunities to integrate environmental priorities into our advocacy.

In addition, WILPF’s Environmental Working Group convened consultations with members, who reinforced our collective commitment to address environmental issues as an integral part of our work for socio-economic justice, human rights, and feminist peace.

Building knowledge, taking action

Our concern for the environment is nothing new.

In 1915 – the year WILPF was founded – Elin Wägner of WILPF Sweden stated that “Everything that disturbs nature’s self-activity must be removed or we too.”

Today, as the world faces an accelerating climate crisis and the deepening socio-economic inequalities brought about by a lack of environmental action, WILPF is more committed than ever to taking action for justice – justice for the climate, for human rights and security, and for a future in which peace, not profit, is the goal.

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WILPF’s COVID-19 Response: Action for Change

WILPF’s COVID-19 Response: Action for Change

Building the Movement
Women are our greatest strength. We are more than half of the world’s population, we are an enormous global constituency. WILPF maintains and builds this network as a safe and inclusive organisation, using it to advance ideas and create momentum for change.
Redefine Security
WILPF rejects the idea that security is synonymous with military strength. We believe that real security can only be achieved through a shift to a different political economy with investment in environmental protection, social and economic rights, moving money from the machinery of war to the foundations of peace.
Leverage Feminist
Perspectives on Peace
In a patriarchal world, the feminist perspective has been missing from discussions on conflict, sustainability, and more. WILPF develops and amplifies feminist perspectives on root causes and promotes them on the international and national policy agenda. In doing so, we advance the cause of peace.
Promote
Socio-Economic Justice
Neoliberalism has brought us inequality, exclusion, and environmental destruction. Its very nature makes it an obstacle to peace and justice. WILPF analyses, raises awareness, and advocates for alternatives to neoliberalism. Lasting peace requires fairer economic systems and protection of people and planet.

As COVID-19 began making its way around the world in early 2020, the lives and futures of millions of people – disproportionately women and girls – were immediately put at risk.

The coronavirus itself wasn’t the only threat. Since that day, the vast impacts of the pandemic have pushed an ever-growing number of people into poverty, increased rates of gender-based violence (GBV) globally, and led to historic levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.

At the same time, women – and especially women of colour – are at greater risk of contracting the virus. With women representing 70 per cent of the world’s healthcare workers and poor or marginalised women more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, women are not only struggling – they’re getting sick.

With a few noble and notable exceptions, the overall responses of governments have been confused and confusing: desperately trying to protect capitalist economies, failing to protect people, and yet still managing to turn the pandemic into another opportunity to advance neoliberal policies which further deepen the inequalities so vividly exposed by the virus.

WILPF’s response? To take action.

Illustration of loop over COVID-virus symbol

In 2020, WILPF mobilised a global movement to drive awareness, healing, and long-term change through targeted funding to support local initiatives, collaborative advocacy efforts demanding a feminist response to COVID-19, and in-depth research and analysis projects exposing failed government responses to the pandemic.

The Solidarity Care Fund

In April 2020, just a month after the WHO’s declaration, WILPF launched the Solidarity Care Fund – a short-term funding resource offering emergency support for Sections and Groups leading grassroots initiatives in response to COVID-19.

Grants were distributed to WILPF Sections and Groups in 24 countries around the world, which used the funds to reach deep into the hearts of local communities grappling with a global crisis.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

Many Sections and Groups used funds to distribute sanitisers, masks, and handwashing stations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in remote or underserved communities.

In Pakistan, Nabeela Aslam and Misbah Nazir of WILPF Pakistan purchased sewing machines and supplies to help rural women make their own masks. They also provided mobile phones and offered training to connect women with resources and loved ones in other parts of the country, reducing their isolation and ensuring they have access to the support they need.

The Section created a special video highlighting the work made possible by the Solidarity Care Fund.

Raising awareness of gender-based violence

Supporting victims of gender-based violence and educating community members about the prevalence and effects of GBV was a primary focus for many funding recipients.

As schools, businesses, and community resources closed, millions of people around the world became locked in with their abusers. At the same time, opportunities to report violence or access support became limited or non-existent in many countries.

To address growing rates of GBV in their communities, WILPFers in Nigeria, Kenya, and Zimbabwe launched support services for victims – primarily women, girls, and members of the LGBTQ+ community – and ran public awareness campaigns to help community members understand the link between COVID-19 and GBV and recognise signs of violence.

A video created by WILPF Kenya highlights the Section’s efforts to educate students and other community members about how to protect themselves from gender-based violence, when and how to seek care, and where to go for more information.

Protecting at-risk populations

Other WILPFers accessed the Solidarity Care Fund to support specific populations facing critical risk factors for COVID-19 and its impacts.

In Afghanistan, women peace activists focused on ensuring women, girls, and individuals living with disabilities had access to the resources they needed to protect themselves from the virus while remaining safe and connected to their communities.

The Section’s support also extended to individuals with limited literacy – the majority of whom are women and girls.

“We used the budget to develop creative awareness materials accessible to all Afghan people, whether they’re literate or illiterate, so that they can learn how to protect themselves from COVID-19,” says Jamila Afghani, President of WILPF Afghanistan.

In Italy, where the number of people arriving by sea has increased dramatically over the past year, WILPFers used funds to help them access safe temporary housing, food, and mobile phones.

“We had originally planned to use the funds to house refugees and migrants in public youth hostels, but the pandemic forced the closure of all hostels, B&Bs, and hotels,” says Antonia Sani of WILPF Italy. “So, we ultimately housed refugees by renting rooms and apartments.”

In Cameroon, WILPF members used funds to launch awareness campaigns specifically targeted at the country’s large populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who have been impacted by ongoing conflicts. Living in IDP camps and often without regular access to food, water, sanitation, and hygiene, this population is critically at risk of contracting COVID-19.

“Our campaigns focused on educating IDPs about how to protect themselves from COVID-19, identify symptoms of illness, and reduce stigma surrounding the virus, which can prevent individuals from seeking or receiving the appropriate healthcare,” says Donald Nguépi of WILPF Cameroon.

Addressing food insecurity

Other WILPFers used their funds to help address the issue of food insecurity, which has emerged as a major worldwide crisis during COVID-19.

WILPF Nigeria distributed food packages to nearly 2,200 families in 14 communities through its Citizens Rising Food Bank Delivery programme, while WILPF Zimbabwe provided food hampers to 100 families headed by elderly family members or children. In Afghanistan, over 400 food packages were distributed to families headed by women, widows, girls, and women living with disabilities.

Atalia Mapika of WILPF Zimbabwe said that the Solidarity Care Fund allowed the Section to deliver on-the-ground support during a period of great vulnerability. “As a Section, we were able to show that our communities can count on us in times of need,” she said.

Advocating for a feminist response

At the same time that WILPF’s support for grassroots initiatives was creating impact at the local level, we were also pushing for change for women, girls, and other marginalised groups through advocacy efforts targeted at the United Nations’ COVID-19 response.

Working in collaboration with four other global women’s organisations – Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, MADRE, medica mondiale, and the Nobel Women’s Initiative – WILPF developed Feminist Principles for an International Post-COVID-19 Settlement, a document presented to the United Nations demanding action on six critical areas of concern: ceasefire, gender-based violence, health, environment, economy, and militarism and security.

In the document, the five partners describe how systems of oppression – namely capitalism, racism, colonialism, militarism, and patriarchy – have led to failed policies and practices in each of the six areas of concern that disproportionately impact women, girls, and other marginalised populations.

Feminist Principles is now in the hands of UN members – those leading the COVID-19 response locally and globally. We will continue to closely monitor their approach and challenge them to take the action needed to change the world.

Driving change through research and dialogue

Behind the scenes, we have also been researching, talking, consulting – and reporting.

In 2020, WILPF published two major research reports examining the impacts of COVID-19 on human lives and the systems that claim to protect us.

COVID-19 and Gender Justice: Feminists in MENA Defying Global Structural Failure highlights the consequences of failed government responses to the pandemic – specifically as they relate to women’s rights activists and women’s organisations – in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The report offers a set of recommendations intended to guide the adoption of inclusive and responsive policies that advance the stability and progress of the feminist movement in the region.

And Locked Out During Lockdown, published by Reaching Critical Will – WILPF’s Disarmament Programme – during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, offers an analysis of key UN processes and forums during COVID-19. The report revealed disrupted processes, an alarming lack of transparency and civil society participation, and extensive dysfunction that threatens to directly impact international peace and security.

We also published A WILPF Guide to Documenting and Analysing Responses to the COVID-19 Crisis, a document providing feminist peace activists with an overview of the key issues and concerns they should monitor and consider acting upon.

And from March to August, we published a series of blog posts exploring a broad range of topics related to the pandemic, its impacts, and the responses needed to ensure a just, equitable path forward.

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