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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.

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PO Box 390185
Cambridge, MA 02139
Call + 1 (617) 945-2194