by Sana Johnson, Communications Intern, Mina’s List
Earlier this month, Mina’s List invited eight Afghan women Parliamentarians and six Afghan women’s rights activists (collectively representing each of the major ethnic/religious groups and eleven different regions) to participate in the Listening Session for our Afghan Pilot Project. In collaboration with our civil society partner organizations, Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) and Afghan Women’s Educational Center (AWEC), Mina’s List hosted the Listening Session to gather information on the unique and specific barriers that prevent Afghan women’s equal and substantive political participation in Parliament. The Listening Session was the first step to empowering Afghan women who are committed to advancing a women’s rights agenda as political leaders.
During the two-day session, the participants engaged in thoughtful and honest discussion about women’s participation in Afghan politics. The MPs and civil society representatives displayed a deep commitment to women’s rights and to advancing a women’s rights agenda in Afghanistan. The empowered leaders inspired each other as well as the Mina’s List team with their stories of perseverance, sacrifice, and courage. One of the most exciting developments to come from the Listening Session was the establishment of the Mina’s List Mentorship Program. The MPs expressed overwhelming enthusiasm for the opportunity to serve as mentors to the aspiring women political leaders– and all eight Members of Parliament in attendance agreed to take part in the program! We feel so thankful for the MPs and our partner organizations AWN and AWEC for their contributions to the Listening Session, and for working to make the session a success.
Feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive and reaffirmed the importance of the Mina’s List’s collaborative model. At the end of the first day’s program, Afghan women’s rights activist Mary Akrami, who was one of the first recipients of the U.S. State Department’s International Women of Courage Award, said that the Listening Session was the first time she had the opportunity to hear what women parliamentarians need from civil society to fully advance women’s rights through legislative action. Akrami added that after connecting with the women MPs though this program, she now feels they could build a coalition together and work in unity to advance women’s rights. Similarly, the Hon. Shinkai Karokhail noted that the Listening Session was the first time in her tenure that women MPs and civil society activists fully dialogued on how to support each other and unite to achieve their shared goal of advancing women’s equal and substantive political participation in Afghanistan.
Outcomes from the Listening Session’s strategy session include the following notes:
Mina’s List is now working hard to implement the next two phases of the Afghan Pilot Project, the Empowerment Workshops and Mentorship Program. Our next step is to take all the information gathered from our in-country partners during the Listening Session and develop a country-specific and culturally relevant curriculum to prepare aspiring women political leaders to run in Afghanistan’s next parliamentary elections!
As we reflect on our first year, we could not be more proud of the progress we have made or more excited for what is to come. Thank you all for your continued support. We hope you are as excited as we are for the future of Mina’s List.