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Our blog provides an international platform to promote women’s political empowerment. Mina's List believes in fostering a sense of solidarity as we support women's increased political representation around the globe. Submit a blog post about you or your organization's projects.

Women’s History Month


by Emily Kaplan, Mina’s List Communications Intern 

In March, the United States celebrates Women’s History Month, which honors the unsung, unacknowledged women so often left out of history. Women’s History Month in the US traces it roots to 1981, when Congress passed a Joint Resolution requesting the President proclaim a Women’s History Week starting March 7th of 1982. Women’s History Week became Women’s History Month in 1987, and it has been celebrated ever since. 

As we come to the end of this month, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on an experience I recently had that really exemplifies the growth and transformation this month (and this journey as Mina’s List Communications Intern) has inspired in me. 

On March 7th, the day before International Women’s Day, I spent my day at the Women in Leadership Conference at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The Conference was a gathering of powerhouse women in politics, from the national, state, and local levels. Surrounded by former and current leaders in politics, it was a fitting way to celebrate the accomplishments of women political leaders throughout history. I was in the company of women like US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who opened the conference by sharing that when she meets young girls she tells them who she is and what she’s done: “My name is Elizabeth and I ran for Senate because that’s what girls do.” 

At the conference, it was impossible not to be inspired by the women in front of me who had accomplished so much, whether they were just starting their work in politics or already had decades of experience. I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the women in front of me and the women with whom I was sitting. I knew that I was sitting beside women who would be the future changemakers in politics, and knowing that one day I might well be campaigning for the women surrounding me was very moving. This is all the more important given that women make up just 22 percent of all national parliamentarians globally (even less in the US). When women are politically empowered as leaders, gains are made for women’s rights and the well-being of all citizens of a country. In Rwanda, women make up 64% of Parliament. The nation has become a leader among African countries for economic and social development, and this is no coincidence. 

I am so proud to be involved in an organization like Mina’s List, supporting the effort to empower women all around the world to make meaningful, lasting change. At the conference and to a rousing round of applause, Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving woman in the US Senate and one of the co-sponsors of the first Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming a Women’s History Week in 1981, said it best: “That’s what women do. Change the tone, change the tide, change history. That’s what we’re all about.”

So as Women’s History Month comes to a close in the US, wherever you are, I encourage you to keep celebrating women by working to change the tide, for yourself, for women around the world, and for all the future women to come. 

International Women’s Day


by Emily Kaplan, Mina’s List Communications Intern

Happy International Women’s Day Mina’s List followers! The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #PledgeForParity. Throughout the world, women contribute to the political, social, economic, and cultural advancement of humanity. But progress toward achieving equal and substantive representation for women in these arenas has slowed to a near glacial pace. In 2014, the World Economic Forum estimated gender parity would not be achieved until the end of the century, in 2095. Just last year, that estimate was reevaluated. Current estimations show that it will take until 2133 to close the gender gap, nearly 120 years from now. To us at Mina’s List, that is unacceptable! 

Mina’s List is not alone in this view. The United Nations and UN Women are calling on national government’s to change the course and close the gender gap through their own International Women’s Day theme of “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” The year 2030 is the deadline for the implementation of the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which focus on achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. 

Reflecting on how to accelerate the 2030 agenda, UN Women’s Step It Up initiative actively builds momentum for the effective implementation of the new SDGs by encouraging countries to make stronger commitments to gender equality, women’s empowerment, and women’s human rights. The Step It Up initiative specifically calls on governments to make national commitments to close the gap in gender equality by 2030. More than 90 UN Member states have made concrete commitments “to crack some of the fundamental barriers to achievement of gender equality in their countries,” according to UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

At Mina’s List, we are hopeful these concrete commitments will become concrete actions. We fully believe in the power of women leaders, especially the Afghan women who so recently took part in the Empowerment Workshops for Mina’s List’s Afghan Pilot Project. 

Though we believe in these women and the work they do, we know closing the gap in gender equality will not be accomplished without serious commitments from national and local government, current and future women leaders, and male allies worldwide. Mina’s List is hopeful UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s call to action today will be heeded: “Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future.”

Honor Killings: On Women In Film and Politics

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by Emily Kaplan, Mina’s List Communications Intern 

Last night, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar for her documentary “A Girl in the River.” The documentary examines the life of a young Pakistani woman who survived an ‘honor killing’ by her father and uncle, an attempted murder for bringing shame to her family by eloping. 

Obaid-Chinoy used the documentary to advocate for an elimination of honor killings in Pakistan. At least 5,000 honor killings take place across the world every year in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Turkey and the United States, according to the Honor Based Violence Awareness Network. In Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 women are killed every year for bringing shame to their families and communities. Obaid-Chinoy urged the passing of the Anti-Honor Killing Bill, legislation that will close loopholes in laws that prevent the prosecution of honor killings. 

That legislation was piloted by a woman Minister of Parliament, Syeda Sughra Imam, and though it passed the Senate in 2015, it has yet to be enacted into law. 

During her acceptance speech, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy revealed that after watching “A Girl in the River,” the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif vowed to take legislative action to eliminate honor killings. 

Obaid-Chinoy exuberantly exclaimed, “This is what happens when determined women get together!” Because of the ground work of women in politics in Pakistan over years and years, because of “A Girl in the River,” because of the power of women leaders in all arenas of life, meaningful change is made possible indeed. 

Read more at Huffington Post and Radio.gov

30 Women Who Could Change Afghanistan

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by Devin Cowick, Mina’s List Program Manager

Mina’s List’s 5-day Empowerment Workshops for its Afghan Pilot Project were a tremendous success. Hosted in Delhi, India to ensure participant safety, the workshops helped prepare 15 aspiring women candidates who commit to promoting women’s rights as elected leaders to run in Afghanistan’s upcoming parliamentary elections. Perhaps the greatest indication of success is the fact that the program is already undergoing replication for an additional 15 aspiring candidates from underrepresented provinces. 

You can support the training of these 15 aspiring women candidates! Give now

“We have built a network here; the aspiring women candidates, women parliamentarians, and women activists. I hope these workshops continue in the future. First, because the only way to solve the many problems we have is to gather and discuss them. This way we can come to collective solutions to problems. Second, we seriously need women’s self-driven activism all over the world, and in particular in Afghanistan.” 

-Halima Askari, aspiring candidate for Wardak province

The fifteen participants selected by Mina’s List partners, Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) and Afghan Women’s Educational Center (AWEC), came from ten different provinces across Afghanistan. The aspiring women candidates were so committed to the program that they overcame numerous obstacles to attend the workshops, including airport delays due to attacks by the Taliban. In addition to the 15 aspiring women candidates, participants included 10 women parliamentarians (from both Upper and Lower houses), 5 women’s rights activists, and several Afghan government representatives. By including a variety of stakeholders, the program began building a network of in-country support for the aspiring candidates. 

Empowerment Workshops Goals: 

1) Build the skills, capacity, and confidence of 15 aspiring women political leaders in Afghanistan who are committed to advancing the human rights of women and girls. 
2) Ensure that at least 50% of the aspiring women leaders who attend the Empowerment Workshops choose to run for political office in Afghanistan by the next election cycle. 
3) Strengthen relationships and increase accountability between Afghan women’s rights organizations and their women political leaders. 

The workshops were divided into six major themes and collectively covered the training topics that were identified in the Dubai Listening Session as essential for preparing Afghan women candidates to run for political office and advance a women’s rights agenda once elected. The six parts of the training curriculum were: (1) Campaign Process; (2) Political Capacity and Campaign Skills; (3) Women’s Rights Agenda; (4) Gender, Women, and Politics; (5) Women’s Substantive Representation in Parliament; and (6) Action and Planning. Mina’s List Founder/Executive Director and Mina’s List Curriculum Consultants facilitated the 5-day program while civil society leaders, parliamentarian mentors, and Afghan government representatives presented prepared remarks and training materials based on their areas of expertise. 

“This is a unique opportunity for the next generation of female politicians to go with their eyes open and know what they are going to be about, and how they can influence the women’s agenda and make it a priority as a collective within the parliament.” 

-Zulaikha Rafiq, AWEC Director 

Based on assessment feedback, the workshops were hugely effective in increasing participant skills, capacity, and confidence related to running for political office, being an effective leader in parliament, and promoting women’s rights in the political sphere. For instance, twice as many participants felt very confident and knowledgeable in terms of political capacity and campaign skills by the end of the program. Even the most experienced parliamentarian mentors felt that they had learned something new, finding the workshops incredibly valuable for both current parliamentarians and aspiring candidates. The Hon. Shinkai Karokhail, Member of the Afghan Parliament, shared: “It was a really good opportunity for those women who want to come to the parliament for the first time. Believe me, 10 years back when I went to parliament I didn’t have a single person to advise me.”

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Give now to support the tireless efforts of these bold women fighting for their own rights and the rights of all women of Afghanistan! 

Additionally, participant responses to open-ended program evaluation questions suggest that a strong foundation was built to achieve the program goal of strengthening relationships and increasing accountability between women’s rights organizations and women political leaders. Mahboba Sadat, aspiring candidate for Balkh province stated: “These workshops were very helpful. First, it created a network among women in different provinces. Second, it gave us the chance to learn from the experiences of current parliamentarians. We learned about the importance of coalition building and we will benefit more if we build coalitions among women to support each other.” Similarly, Hon. Raihana Azad, Afghan Member of Parliament, explained “I am in this group because we want to change the lives of the women of Afghanistan and we cannot do it by ourselves. We can assist one another so that we can maximize the opportunities the women of Afghanistan have, so that we will be able to bring real democracy to Afghanistan.”

Because of the great success of the recent Empowerment Workshops, Mina’s List partners are already working on replicating the program. AWN and AWEC put out another ‘call for applications’ for women candidates from provinces that were not represented at the program in India, and have already received 33 new applications from sixteen different provinces. AWN and AWEC will host a second round of Mina’s List Empowerment Workshops for an additional 15 aspiring women candidates in the Spring of 2016. 

In anticipation of Afghanistan’s 2016 parliamentary elections, help Mina’s List and its Afghan partners ensure women’s rights are part of the Afghan political agenda by supporting the 30 aspiring candidates that have committed to promoting women’s rights as elected leaders. Please give now

Afghan Pilot Empowerment Workshops


by Emily Kaplan, Mina’s List Communications Intern

Today, Mina’s List embarks upon the next stage of our Afghan Pilot Project– we are getting on a plane to host Empowerment Training Workshops that will prepare 15 aspiring women political leaders to run for office in Afghanistan’s next election! With the help of current women parliamentarians who will serve as mentors to the aspiring candidates, and with the support of women’s rights activists, Afghan government officials, and UN women representatives, we are taking a major step toward achieving serious change.

While we’re doing this exciting work, our normal communications may be interrupted. We’ll do our best to keep up with our normal reflections on the state of women in politics, and though we’ll aim to keep you all updated on the progress of the Empowerment Workshops, we’ll be quite busy!

As we’re off training these aspiring women leaders, support our exciting work and support women’s political empowerment! 

Give to Mina’s List

#GivingTuesday

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by Emily Kaplan, Mina’s List Communications Intern

In one week, Mina’s List will embark upon the next stage of our Afghan Pilot Project– we’re traveling to New Delhi to host Empowerment Training Workshops that will prepare 15 aspiring women political leaders to run for office in Afghanistan’s next election! With the help of current women parliamentarians who will serve as mentors to the aspiring candidates, and with the support of women’s rights activists, Afghan government officials, and UN women representatives, we are taking a major step toward achieving serious change. 

Support our work

We are so excited to see the effort of our first year pay off! It’s been hard work, but from our website launch to finishing in the top 25 of 90 in the Women’s Startup Challenge to an amazing interview in the Huffington Post, we’ve accomplished so much

On #GivingTuesday, it’s hard to pick just one cause or organization to give to. Maybe you are passionate about ending child marriage or eliminating human trafficking. Perhaps you are committed to addressing poverty, climate change, or violent conflict. There are so many worthy initiatives out there. When you support Mina’s List you can have an impact on all of these issues and more…by empowering women as political leaders. 

Research shows that when there are more women in government, more laws are passed to promote the rights of women and girls. When women are included at all levels of decision-making, countries experience higher standards of living, including positive developments in education, infrastructure and health, as well as tangible gains for democratic governance, such as decreased corruption, greater cooperation across party and ethnic lines, and more sustainable peace. 

So don’t worry about choosing one issue over another. Your donation to Mina’s List will have a ripple effect on every level of society. It’s time to empower women decision-makers in countries around the world! 

Give to Mina’s List 

Heartbreak and Hope


by Emily Kaplan, Mina’s List Communications Intern

Our hearts break for the victims of the acts of senseless violence around the world. In the past few days, suicide bombings struck Beirut and Baghdad. Terror attacks rocked Paris. Over 200 lives were lost. Many more were injured, and thousands of other’s lives were affected and changed by the fear and death caused by such violence. At times, we cannot help but feel that this violence occurs so often it is insurmountable, now simply part of the landscape of daily life. Even as these deaths fill us with sadness, we hope. These losses of life strengthen our resolve to empower women political leaders, the people who will help make a difference and prioritize peace and security. 

To all those affected by this senseless violence, Mina’s List mourns with you. We are determined to change the world and ensure peace for all. 

Women’s Leadership & Peace

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by Tanya Henderson, Mina’s List Founder & Executive Director 

Fifteen years ago this week, the United Nations Security Council adopted the groundbreaking Resolution 1325 (SCR 1325) mandating women’s equal role in resolving global conflict and building peaceful societies. Women’s empowered leadership and equal political participation are recognized as essential to achieving long-term peace and development. While some progress has been made to ensure women’s full participation in matters of peace and security, there is still much work to be done! Only 52 out of 196 countries have created National Action Plans (NAPs) to realize Resolution 1325, and those countries with a NAP face huge obstacles in implementation. 

Give now to support women’s leadership in promoting peace! 

Over the past year, women’s rights activists in Afghanistan achieved a momentous victory when government officials approved the first ever Afghan National Action Plan on SCR 1325 to engage women’s full participation in the country’s ongoing peace transition. Recent events have proven that now more than ever, it  is critical for women’s voices to be heard to prevent the Taliban from turning back the clock on women’s rights. Afghan women must be in positions of leadership to determine their country’s peaceful future! 

Give now to support Afghan women’s empowered leadership! 

As you know, Mina’s List is in the middle of its Afghan Pilot Project, which will prepare 15 aspiring women political leaders for Afghanistan’s 2016 parliamentary elections. Because of generous donors like you, Mina’s List was able to fund a Listening Session hosted in June, where Afghan women parliamentarians and women’s rights activists strategized how to overcome the obstacles to women’s political participation in their country. Thank you so much! 

We have raised nearly all the funds needed to implement the upcoming Empowerment Workshops that will build the skills and capacity of the aspiring women leaders. To fully fund the training workshops and two-year mentorship program, we ask that you help us raise $15,000 by the time we get on the plane on Thursday, Dec. 10 (Intl Human Rights Day). 

Give $15 in honor of the 15th anniversary of Resolution 1325
Give $150 to invest in women leaders for Afghanistan’s peaceful future
Give $1500 to sponsor an aspiring woman political leader in our programs

Your support will help Mina’s List create a ripple effect that starts with peace and stability in Afghanistan and extends to the rest of the world.  

Fighting for Empowerment: Under Taliban Rule & Beyond

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by Manizha Baraki, Mina’s List Program Intern

Hello Mina’s List’s blog followers! My name is Manizha Baraki. I am a current MA/Sustainable International Development student at the Heller School of Brandeis University. I am from Afghanistan and I just joined Mina’s List as an intern. The reason I want to do my second year graduate program practicum with Mina’s List is because I truly believe in Mina’s List’s approach to women’s political empowerment.

The recent incidents in Kunduz province made me think about what girls and women went through when the Taliban was ruling Afghanistan 14 years ago. When I was going to school secretly during the Taliban regime, I never imagined that I would even graduate from high school. Look where I am now! Women as decision makers and leaders have played an important role in what I have achieved in my life today. I think my story is the story of every other girl and woman who has managed to continue her education during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and afterwards.

I was in the second grade of school when the Taliban occupied Afghanistan. They banned girls from going to school right away. As a result, I could have remained illiterate for the rest of my life. What helped me stay connected to education was my mom’s continuous encouragement to study with my brothers at home. After two years of the Taliban regime, the hope of going to school started to seem too unrealistic for me and other girls around me. Our light of hope was women who started schools in their homes, secretly. It was not an easy job for them as I recall now. They could have been caught by the Taliban anytime, and recorded cruelty of the Taliban is enough to predict what would have been punishment for these women.

My teachers never showed any fear while they were teaching us. What I clearly remember is one of my teachers saying “if the Taliban finds out about the school and you find the school closed one day, don’t give up.” Fortunately, the Taliban never found out about my secret home-based school. The words of my teacher are still with me and give me courage to fight and not give up when I find barriers in my way.

My story not only illustrates women’s willingness but also their courage to help other women when they need help. As women, my teachers knew what life would look like for an illiterate woman in the society that we lived in. They were concerned and they were doing something about it. illiteracy is the root of many other women’s issues. An illiterate woman is dependent on her male family members and others in Afghanistan. Another consequence of girl’s illiteracy is child marriage, which leads to many other women’s problems. The chances of early marriage are higher among illiterate women.

Since then, I have realized that when women are given higher positions that allow them more authority like political leadership positions, there is higher possibility that these women will advocate for women’s rights. It is easier for women to understand the needs of other women because they have seen and felt what women experience. Parliament is the place where problems are discussed and more importantly laws and policies approved. We need more women to be a part of this process. Currently, 27% of the lower house of parliament in Afghanistan is made up of women, which is not enough to represent the different groups of women all over the country. Women are 51% of the population in Afghanistan. More women are needed in political positions to substantively represent the needs of half the population in the country. 

I am excited to be part of Mina’s List’s efforts to help increase women’s equal and substantive participation in national governments around the world.

Why We Need More Women in Politics

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by Nissa Koerner, Mina’s List Intern & Devin Cowick, Mina’s List Executive Assistant

The United States government shutdown of 2013 was undoubtedly one of the biggest failures for bipartisan cooperation in US history, but was also the conduit for one of the biggest bipartisan success stories. The budget deal that was eventually reached between the Democratic and Republican leadership was initially drafted by a bipartisan group of women Senators– a feat that deserves our attention but is rarely acknowledged. 

It is no coincidence that the deal was drafted by the women in the Senate– research shows that women are better at reaching across the aisle to get work done. Since the 111th US Congress, the average female senator has cosponsored roughly 4 bills with all female counterparts of the opposite party, while the average male senator cosponsored 2 bills with all male members of the opposite party. The first-rate senators that helped end the 2013 government shutdown have cosponsored well above the average, with Sen. Susan Collins having cosponsored 740 bills with opposite party sponsors. What are the implications of such collaborations? A 35-year study of the US congress finds that women legislators are 10% more effective than male legislators. More specifically, bills sponsored by congresswomen are more likely to pass than bills sponsored by congressmen

So why are women legislators so much better at bipartisan cooperation? One might think that because there are such low percentages of women in national government, they instinctively stick together. This simplistic explanation is unlikely, and certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. An experiment intended to study partisanship with 230 male and 230 female subjects found that the women participants were significantly less susceptible to partisan bias and more willing to consider the opposing side. Furthermore, studies show US women legislators spend more time building cross-party coalitions with both women and men. 

The government shutdown was hardly the first time women have banded together to get something done. Women political leaders from all different backgrounds and beliefs have collaborated to make positive changes in countries all around the world. Below are just a few examples: 

  • In South Africa, women leaders of all races, ethnicities, and political beliefs were essential in developing a national security framework based on human needs and development. 
  • Pakistan’s Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, a multi-ethnic and multi-party political caucus, is leading rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by humanitarian crisis or extremist violence. 
  • In Russia, women legislators set aside ideological and party differences to jointly promote legislation benefiting children and families.
  • Rwandan women legislators formed the first cross-party caucus to work on controversial issues such as land rights and food security.
  • In Britain, women parliamentarians have informally worked together across party lines on issues such as employment law, equal pay, and violence against women. 
  • In Sri Lanka, women politicians from all parties overcame extreme political tensions to draft and endorse a platform for improving women’s political participation. 

The fact that women are so effective at working across party lines is just one reason of many why we need more women in politics. Let’s hope the US Congress takes a cue from its women senators and is able to pass the next budget more smoothly. 

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