Photographs by Jo Rekart
In April 2015, five members from the Vancouver and Nanaimo branches represented Canada at the Centennial Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in The Hague, Netherlands. This organization is the oldest international women’s peace organization in the world having come into being in 1915 when over 1,000 peace seeking women from 12 countries went to The Hague in an effort to find a mechanism of mediation to end the First World War.
Although the central focus of WILPF is to campaign for universal disarmament and demilitarization, social justice and women’s equality are considered to be inseparable from peace and so are in the forefront of the organization’s actions. WILPF’s national Sections are encouraged to advocate for peace, equality and opportunity for all. WILPF Sections tackle violence against women in the forms of pornography, prostitution, sex trafficking and abduction, forced marriage and rape as a weapon of war.
WILPF has observer status at the U.N. and a presence at all meetings discussing the U.N.’s initiatives concerning women. For example, recently WILPF was successful in persuading the Security Council to hear directly a delegation of grassroots women from Syria about the unique effects of the war on the lives of Syrian women and children. WILPF often engages with the U.N. Human Rights Council. At the Congress, the importance of women’s human rights and women’s right to be included in all peace negotiations were stressed. The contradiction of militarism, patriarchy and inequality with the achievement of universal peace was emphasized as well as WILPF’s efforts to liberate women’s power to stop war. It is our hope to apply some of the lessons learned from the Congress to our own advocacy work in our Section.