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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.

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 

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.  

Listening Session for the Afghan Pilot Project

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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:


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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.

Mina’s List NYC Launch Party

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Click here to view more photos from the NYC Launch.

On the evening of Tuesday, February 3rd, Mina’s List hosted its New York launch at the home of Abigail Disney. We shared the evening with a diverse, prominent group of individuals - from nonprofit leaders and entrepreneurs to philanthropists and government officials - all committed to ML’s vision of women’s equal and substantive political representation. Together we realized that without empowered women policymakers who would transform the systems that marginalize and discriminate against women and girls, it would be difficult to achieve lasting and substantive change. 

Our keynote speaker for the launch was the Hon. Shinkai Karokhail, Afghan Parliamentarian and Mina’s List Advisory Board member. Mrs. Karokhail discussed the obstacles women parliamentarians face when advocating for the rights of women and girls. She strongly believes that Mina’s List can help improve the status of women in Afghanistan through its work to empower women as political leaders.

As the Hon. Shinkai Karokhail shared with us:

“We need women with a vision, women who are really committed to changing the lives of other women. Otherwise, if we do not bring women into politics, if we do not increase their number, if we do not have a specific agenda, I do not think our male politicians will be wiling to share, and give rights, and listen to them. So who is going to do that? The best way is to have a strong, committed, mission-driven woman inside the parliament to lobby, advocate, and claim the rights of half the population.”

Mina’s List plans to help politically empower women like the ones Mrs. Karokhail described through the ML Afghan Pilot Program. Mina’s List will host the program in the Spring of 2015, in partnership with the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) and Afghan Women’s Educational Center (AWEC). The purpose of our pilot program is to empower Afghan women who are committed to advancing a women’s rights agenda as political leaders in preparation for the 2015 Parliamentary elections. Program participants will be provided with access to relevant educational resources, empowerment workshops, a mentorship program, and an online engagement platform. 

Through programs in Afghanistan and beyond, Mina’s List hopes to build a sustainable, long-term framework for women political leaders that will improve their ability to advance a women’s rights agenda.

Poised at the Precipice

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by Devin Cowick, Mina’s List Executive Assistant

On the surface, the recent attack on Afghan Parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai appears to be another in a long list of violent extremist activities. Upon further reflection however, the attack seems indicative of a more encouraging phenomenon: the rise of Afghan women in the public sphere. Parliamentarian Barakzai is one of an increasing number of women who have ascended to political leadership positions and are leading the struggle for women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Since the US military removed the Taliban from power thirteen years ago, Afghan women have won more access to public life through education, healthcare, employment, and politics. Almost 3 million girls are in school and more than 16,000 women have graduated. Equally impressive is the fact that women now fill more than a quarter of parliament seats and have joined the ranks of police and military forces. Under an increasingly inclusive parliament, Afghanistan signed bilateral security agreements with the US and NATO, and even passed its own National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan.

Yet gender equality in Afghanistan is by no means a certain outcome, as illustrated by the recent attack on Ms. Barakzai. Though no longer in power, the Taliban continue to exert influence in Afghanistan and remain a violent and destructive force in the country. It is crucial that we support Afghan women leaders to further their cause and prevent the Taliban and other fundamentalist groups from reversing their hard-earned progress. With more women in parliament, the Afghan government is more likely to promote the rights of women and girls, and has already begun to do so. Afghan women still have a long way to go in achieving equal representation in national government, and they need our help. This is where Mina’s List comes in.

As is the case all around the world, women in Afghanistan face a number of unique challenges to attaining political office. With our pilot program in Afghanistan, Mina’s List will offer Afghan women the tools and resources they need to address such challenges, including running a campaign under the anonymity of a burqa. We plan to help women in Afghanistan overcome obstacles to political empowerment by providing them with culturally relevant educational resources, training, and mentorship through in-country women’s organizations. Mina’s List has already established partnerships with grassroots women’s organizations in Afghanistan, such as the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) and Afghan Women’s Education Center (AWEC).

The argument that deep-rooted cultural and religious beliefs in Afghanistan will not allow for women’s progress is clearly no longer valid. In fact, women experienced improvement in their status as early as the 1920’s, when King Amanullah Khan and Queen Soraya worked to open schools for girls and abolish child marriages. Even today women continue to make enormous strides in the fight for their rights. An upward trend in the number of Afghan women political leaders has tremendous implications for Afghanistan, as well as the international community as a whole. Research shows that when women are empowered as political leaders, countries experience higher standards of living and tangible gains in democratic governance. In other words, more women in national government will lead to a more stable Afghanistan, which will in turn lead to greater international security.

The women of Afghanistan have reached a precipice. In this crucial time in the region, we must protect and empower these women who have already accomplished so much.

Mina’s List Official Launch Party

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Click here to view photos from the event.

On the evening of Tuesday, December 2nd, Mina’s List: Empowering Women’s Political Leadership Globally hosted its first official launch party in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Over 50 individuals representing diverse sectors of society - from non-profit leaders and entrepreneurs to academics, lawyers, and government officials - joined to celebrate the beginning of this exciting new non-profit. Guests enjoyed an authentic Afghan meal in honor of Mina’s List first Pilot Program to support more women’s representation in Afghanistan’s 2015 Parliamentary elections. Founder and Executive Director Tanya Henderson - an international attorney and gender expert - outlined what Mina’s List is all about: achieving women’s equal and substantive political representation in national governments around the world.

Most agree that women remain significantly underrepresented in politics, particularly considering that 50% of the world’s population make up less than 20% of the world’s parliamentary seats. From a misogynist sociopolitical climate to a lack of relevant networks, women face a number of unique challenges to attaining political office. Even when women are successful in rising to political leadership, they may lack the expertise or awareness to effectively advance women’s interests in the political arena. Still, research consistently shows that governments with higher percentages of female legislators introduce more laws to promote human rights, women’s rights, and the welfare of girls. Furthermore, when women are empowered as political leaders, countries experience higher standards of living and tangible gains in democratic governance. Through partnerships with in-country women’s organizations, Mina’s List will provide aspiring women leaders with the tools and resources required to overcome such obstacles to political empowerment.

The keynote speaker for Mina’s List launch was Justine Mbabazi, an international lawyer with over 20 years in international law and development. Her work in post-conflict countries such as Rwanda, Afghanistan, and South Sudan has helped these countries achieve some of the highest percentages of women in decision-making roles in the world. During her keynote speech, Justine detailed how she worked with people from the highest levels of government to the smallest rural village to place women’s interests at the forefront of discussion in each country. In Rwanda, she trained police officers and local leaders on the rights of women and children and how to protect them. Justine has also mentored more than 1,000 women around the world, as she believes mentorship is one of the most effective long-term methods of empowerment.

Justine Mbabazi is living proof of the importance of Mina’s List work and what women can accomplish when empowered as leaders. In Justine’s own words, “Mina’s List is already a fabulous success, and it’s reflected in the people who attended the launch. You could see it in their eyes. They came with open hearts and minds, ready to help make the Mina’s List vision a reality.”

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