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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.”