(Originally Published on March 6, 2015)
Welcome to Mina’s List!
My name is Tanya Henderson. I am an international women and human rights lawyer with a professional background in grass-roots advocacy, policy-making and the role of women in peace building and conflict prevention.
Over the last several years, I have had the great privilege of working with women Parliamentarians from around the world. From this experience, I learned how tremendously effective a few courageous women can be when empowered as independent decision-makers in their national governments.
For example, my dear friend and colleague, Ms. Shinkai Karokhail, who is an elected Parliamentarian in the National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, was the only member of the parliament to oppose a draft Shia Family Law, which included many provisions that would have rolled back women’s rights in Afghanistan -such as child marriage and prohibitions on women leaving the home without permission from a male relative. After Ms. Karokhail reached out to the international media, the President of Afghanistan decided to accept amendments to the draft law. Ms. Karokhail personally introduced over 50 amendments to make the Shia Family Law more just for Afghan women and girls.Ms. Karokhail is a powerful example of what women can do when elected to national governments and have the resources and tools to make independent decisions that advance women’s rights. Other examples include:
- In Argentina, despite representing only 14 percent of deputies, female parliamentarians introduced no fewer than 78 percent of the bills related to women’s rights.
- In Pakistan, women in Parliament played a key role in the passage of more than 20 laws in four years for the protection of women and children, and are at the forefront of leading rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by humanitarian crisis or extremist violence.
- In the United States, roughly 9 percent more federal spending is brought home when there is a woman representing the district in Congress than when the district is represented by a man.
- In Rwanda, female parliamentarians used a participatory leadership approach to build support for a domestic violence law that provided a model for strengthening other democratic process.
Unfortunately, the barriers to women’s political participation are numerous. Discriminatory laws and practices and inequities in economic and social resources largely limit a women’s option to run for elected office. Status disadvantages such as; absence of a functioning party system or backing by political parties, misogynist climate, predominately illiterate electorate, or lack of relevant networks further hamper women’s ability to run a successful political campaign.
As Rona Tareen, a candidate from Kandahar, Afghanistan reported, “I am under a burqa; people cannot recognize me. Men can go to the mosque and talk in public. Women must talk to individuals. You cannot have that same large gathering.”
So this is why I have started Mina’s List. To raise the profile and capacity of strong women political candidates who are challenging the discriminatory systems that limit women’s equal representation in national government, and who will advance the status of women and girls for now and for future generations.
I hope that you will stay tuned as we further develop our program and website – and will join our efforts to: Empower Women’s Political Participation Globally!