Give Your Feedback on WILPF Proposed Manifesto for the Next 100 Years

by Cynthia Cockburn (built on Committee work started at Bolivia Congress)

WILPF International wants your feedback on this proposed manifesto for WILPF in the next 100 years!* The manifesto was compiled by Cynthia Cockburn and Cynthia’s letter introduces its content and proposed format and asks that you send along your suggestions for changes, additions or deletions. Please send comments directly to Catia Confortini ( who, as WILPF-US Representative to the International Board is in charge of summarizing members’ responses and forwarding them to the convener of the Political Content working group for our 2015 Congress.

Dear fellow WILPFers,

You were good enough to entrust me with drafting a WILPF centenary Manifesto for you all to consider and discuss. With some trepidation I now put foward to you this draft document. I am calling it the Second Draft, because it benefits from the guidance I received on a First Draft I put forward in May for consideration by four women who had been designated my key informants, that is: Edith Ballantyne, Madeline Rees, Felicity Hill and Kirsten Greback. 

When I was at the International Board meeting in Madrid last February, I asked quite a few WILPF members for their ideas as to how long the Manifesto should be. Some said “a couple of pages," some said “up to twenty." Difficult! Well, this document runs to almost 6000 words. I hope we might find ways of making it shorter, rather than longer during the discussion and redrafting process of the coming year. I think of it as printed in the form of an A5-sized booklet, probably running to 28 pages. Imagine 8 sheets of A4 typing paper, folded in half and stapled in the middle.

I am keeping always in mind the idea that we could preface the whole thing with an "actual," very short, one-page summary statement that would BE the actual "Manifesto"—something we could use in coming years in many ways, on many occasions. But I saw no point in drafting such a succinct statement until you have all had a chance to mull over the content of this longer document, which I see as a positioning of WILPF between past, present and future at this crucial moment in time: 2015.

  • You will see that I open with three pages or so on our history and the significance of the centenary.  
  • This is followed by a succinct restatement of our purposes. 
  • And this again is followed by a longish section on our current programme of work, under the usual three headings. I have tried to make this clearly and repetitively  "of now", our contemporary reality. 
  • Then there is the 'boxed' section on WILPF's organization. It is boxed because I don't want it to impede the flow of the narrative from present to future. Its value lies in enabling us to flag up "integration" which is a key watchword in Wilpf at the moment. 
  • Finally, comes the section I see as the most creative, even visionary, part: "Looking ahead: our future tasks." You will see for yourselves what I have identified, with the help of Edith, Madeleine, Felicity and Kerstin, as the specific challenges we will face and how we may respond to them.

You will notice that I have dropped into the narrative some "text boxes" containing quotations from WILPFers of the past. I would also like to propose that the booklet contains six or eight photographs. We could start perhaps with one of the Ypres battlefield, end with one of lively young activist women of today. What do you think?

Note that there are some facts and figures in this draft that are "hostage to fortune." The world will move on in the next 12 months, so I have placed some passages in square brackets as a reminder that they will need amending in a final draft. 

I only scraped together the confidence to tackle the task of writing this draft Manifesto by reminding myself that it is going to be subject to long and rigorous review by great number of individuals, committees and working groups in WILPF, women much wiser and more experienced than I am. What convinced me to take the risk of laying my thoughts out to view in this way is that I am convinced the process of consultation that now follows must surely benefit us all, whatever the eventual outcome.

Happy reading, happy discussions! Count me in!

All the best,

Cynthia Cockburn

Member of WILPF London branch and UK Section.

Honorary Professor in the Department of Sociology, City University London, and Visiting Professor in the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, Warwick University.


*See also Notes from ExCom members on draft 2 of Manifesto

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