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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.

Women’s History Month


by Emily Kaplan, Mina’s List Communications Intern 

In March, the United States celebrates Women’s History Month, which honors the unsung, unacknowledged women so often left out of history. Women’s History Month in the US traces it roots to 1981, when Congress passed a Joint Resolution requesting the President proclaim a Women’s History Week starting March 7th of 1982. Women’s History Week became Women’s History Month in 1987, and it has been celebrated ever since. 

As we come to the end of this month, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on an experience I recently had that really exemplifies the growth and transformation this month (and this journey as Mina’s List Communications Intern) has inspired in me. 

On March 7th, the day before International Women’s Day, I spent my day at the Women in Leadership Conference at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The Conference was a gathering of powerhouse women in politics, from the national, state, and local levels. Surrounded by former and current leaders in politics, it was a fitting way to celebrate the accomplishments of women political leaders throughout history. I was in the company of women like US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who opened the conference by sharing that when she meets young girls she tells them who she is and what she’s done: “My name is Elizabeth and I ran for Senate because that’s what girls do.” 

At the conference, it was impossible not to be inspired by the women in front of me who had accomplished so much, whether they were just starting their work in politics or already had decades of experience. I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the women in front of me and the women with whom I was sitting. I knew that I was sitting beside women who would be the future changemakers in politics, and knowing that one day I might well be campaigning for the women surrounding me was very moving. This is all the more important given that women make up just 22 percent of all national parliamentarians globally (even less in the US). When women are politically empowered as leaders, gains are made for women’s rights and the well-being of all citizens of a country. In Rwanda, women make up 64% of Parliament. The nation has become a leader among African countries for economic and social development, and this is no coincidence. 

I am so proud to be involved in an organization like Mina’s List, supporting the effort to empower women all around the world to make meaningful, lasting change. At the conference and to a rousing round of applause, Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving woman in the US Senate and one of the co-sponsors of the first Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming a Women’s History Week in 1981, said it best: “That’s what women do. Change the tone, change the tide, change history. That’s what we’re all about.”

So as Women’s History Month comes to a close in the US, wherever you are, I encourage you to keep celebrating women by working to change the tide, for yourself, for women around the world, and for all the future women to come. 

Why We Need More Women in Politics

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by Nissa Koerner, Mina’s List Intern & Devin Cowick, Mina’s List Executive Assistant

The United States government shutdown of 2013 was undoubtedly one of the biggest failures for bipartisan cooperation in US history, but was also the conduit for one of the biggest bipartisan success stories. The budget deal that was eventually reached between the Democratic and Republican leadership was initially drafted by a bipartisan group of women Senators– a feat that deserves our attention but is rarely acknowledged. 

It is no coincidence that the deal was drafted by the women in the Senate– research shows that women are better at reaching across the aisle to get work done. Since the 111th US Congress, the average female senator has cosponsored roughly 4 bills with all female counterparts of the opposite party, while the average male senator cosponsored 2 bills with all male members of the opposite party. The first-rate senators that helped end the 2013 government shutdown have cosponsored well above the average, with Sen. Susan Collins having cosponsored 740 bills with opposite party sponsors. What are the implications of such collaborations? A 35-year study of the US congress finds that women legislators are 10% more effective than male legislators. More specifically, bills sponsored by congresswomen are more likely to pass than bills sponsored by congressmen

So why are women legislators so much better at bipartisan cooperation? One might think that because there are such low percentages of women in national government, they instinctively stick together. This simplistic explanation is unlikely, and certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. An experiment intended to study partisanship with 230 male and 230 female subjects found that the women participants were significantly less susceptible to partisan bias and more willing to consider the opposing side. Furthermore, studies show US women legislators spend more time building cross-party coalitions with both women and men. 

The government shutdown was hardly the first time women have banded together to get something done. Women political leaders from all different backgrounds and beliefs have collaborated to make positive changes in countries all around the world. Below are just a few examples: 

  • In South Africa, women leaders of all races, ethnicities, and political beliefs were essential in developing a national security framework based on human needs and development. 
  • Pakistan’s Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, a multi-ethnic and multi-party political caucus, is leading rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by humanitarian crisis or extremist violence. 
  • In Russia, women legislators set aside ideological and party differences to jointly promote legislation benefiting children and families.
  • Rwandan women legislators formed the first cross-party caucus to work on controversial issues such as land rights and food security.
  • In Britain, women parliamentarians have informally worked together across party lines on issues such as employment law, equal pay, and violence against women. 
  • In Sri Lanka, women politicians from all parties overcame extreme political tensions to draft and endorse a platform for improving women’s political participation. 

The fact that women are so effective at working across party lines is just one reason of many why we need more women in politics. Let’s hope the US Congress takes a cue from its women senators and is able to pass the next budget more smoothly. 

A Word from the Founder

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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!

Warm regards,

Tanya

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.”

Rwanda Female MPs World Pioneers

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Rwanda is a leading example of what women can do if they are in positions of power, the executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, told BBC Africa.

The former deputy president of South Africa - who was one of the key speakers at the Girl Summit co-hosted in London earlier this week by Unicef and the UK government - said she was optimistic about the initiatives taken by some African countries.

She told the BBC’s Kim Chakanetsa that some of the changes which have taken place in Rwanda in terms of health and education are linked to the fact that 64% of parliamentarians are women - the highest such proportion in the world.

Read more at BBC News.

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