Established in 1915 and with branches on every continent, last month WILPF (the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) made its debut at Bristol University. Whilst of great international importance, and holding a seat at United Nations formal deliberations, WILPF is not yet fully established across higher education institutions, making Bristol University one of the first to collaborate with the NGO. In a talk on ‘Women in Leadership’, hosted by final year student Isabel Bull last month, academics from the University as well as Thangam Debbonaire MP spoke of their personal experiences in leadership, but also reflected on the roles and rights of women in the wider world. It is this acute awareness of the experiences of women outside of democratic societies that has cemented WILPF as an organisation emblematic of international sisterhood.
Inspired by the event, a number of feminist students at the University have taken up the cause for social justice rallied by WILPF, and plan to launch a campaign to aid the benighted position of Syrian girls and women. In a similar vein to the Feminist Society’s efforts to collect sanitary pads for refugees, WILPF hopes to enlighten students on the issues faced by Syrian women in amidst the conflict. As Isabel discussed last month, “collective leadership and collective power are important tropes” within WILPF, an organisation that has long encouraged active member participation.
In the coming month, representatives at the University of Bristol hope to devise a plan as to how best communicate WILPF’s values – that of non-violence, women’s empowerment, justice and equality – to the student body. In doing so, we hope to direct issues relevant to young feminists, whether is be Intersectionality or sexual politics, to the forefront of WILPF on a national and international scale. The introduction of WILPF at Bristol University could potentially be a real force for social, political and cultural change therefore.
Keep a look out for WILPF’s activism in the lead up to International Women’s Day early in 2017, and if you’d like to get involved yourself, please don’t hesitate to join our Facebook group.