In 1932, long before the age of internet and social media activism, members of WILPF collected 6 million signatures for peace and delivered their petition to the World Disarmament Conference in Geneva. Not only did they demonstrate that people desperately wanted peace, they publicly showed the connection between wars and the arms industry for the first time.
In 2016, one of WILPF’s focus areas is turning the international attention to the human rights violations in conflict zones. WILPF has been cooperating with local activists who face threats every day, reporting crimes committed against people and showing the impact of the war on women.
Rape, detention, human trafficking, and the collapse of the educational, social security and public health systems during wars affect women differently and disproportionately in conflict zones such as the Middle East, Ukraine and Central Africa. Due to WILPF’s advocacy, international decision makers are now increasingly taking this aspect into account when creating frameworks for conflict prevention, resolution, and humanitarian aids.
Uniting cross-cutting areas to achieve peace
“We believe that in order to reach peace, we need full disarmament, political, social, economic and gender equality and human rights”, says Line Favre, International Office Manager at WILPF Geneva office. “All of these are vital to achieving our vision. This complex and intersectional approach is our primary strength. At the same time, it is challenging for us to work on so many fields”, adds Favre who studied humanitarian affairs and worked at the World Health Organization before joining WILPF.
WILPF is active on every continent, with 5000 members and national sections in 37 countries. To be close to UN bodies, their Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and they have another office located next to the UN Headquarters in New York, USA. The national sections meet every three years to agree on the international program and work towards implementing it in their location.
WILPF is a very diverse group of activists, not only geographically but also when it comes to ideas. “Because of our long history, we have all the generations of activists. What unites us is that we are all women, representing an organization that works for human rights and peace for all”, says Favre.