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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.

Honor Killings: On Women In Film and Politics

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by Emily Kaplan, Mina’s List Communications Intern 

Last night, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar for her documentary “A Girl in the River.” The documentary examines the life of a young Pakistani woman who survived an ‘honor killing’ by her father and uncle, an attempted murder for bringing shame to her family by eloping. 

Obaid-Chinoy used the documentary to advocate for an elimination of honor killings in Pakistan. At least 5,000 honor killings take place across the world every year in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Turkey and the United States, according to the Honor Based Violence Awareness Network. In Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 women are killed every year for bringing shame to their families and communities. Obaid-Chinoy urged the passing of the Anti-Honor Killing Bill, legislation that will close loopholes in laws that prevent the prosecution of honor killings. 

That legislation was piloted by a woman Minister of Parliament, Syeda Sughra Imam, and though it passed the Senate in 2015, it has yet to be enacted into law. 

During her acceptance speech, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy revealed that after watching “A Girl in the River,” the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif vowed to take legislative action to eliminate honor killings. 

Obaid-Chinoy exuberantly exclaimed, “This is what happens when determined women get together!” Because of the ground work of women in politics in Pakistan over years and years, because of “A Girl in the River,” because of the power of women leaders in all arenas of life, meaningful change is made possible indeed. 

Read more at Huffington Post and Radio.gov

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. 

167 Years After the #BadAssWomen of Seneca Falls

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by Nissa Marie Koerner, Communications Intern, Mina’s List

In honor of the 167th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention today, Mina’s List is highlighting modern-day #BadAssWomen fighting for women’s equality in politics. But it is also important to take a look back at the #BadAssWomen who were present at Seneca Falls. I wonder what they would say about why we need women’s equal and substantive political representation in national government?

“The history of the past is but one long struggle upward to equality.” - Elizabeth Cady Stanton

“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” - Sojourner Truth

“The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation, because in the degradation of women, the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.” - Lucretia Mott

Mina’s List hopes to continue honoring these women and their work that has led the way for women’s political empowerment!

Wise words from a former #FemalePoliticalLeader

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.

What Women Really Need From Men


This is why Mina’s List works hard to help prepare aspiring women candidates to run for national government – the policies which address issues affecting women need to come from women. Increasing the political representation of women in national governments around the globe is crucial to achieving women’s equal rights.

Read more of Angelina Jolie Pitt’s speech at the biannual African Union Summit here.

#WinningWomen

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Illustration by Christine Daniloff/MIT


by Devin Cowick, Executive Assistant, Mina’s List  

The significant lack of women in politics is often explained away with claims that voters simply prefer male candidates or that there are not enough qualified female candidates available. False and false. 

Pablo Casas-Arce and Albert Saiz, professors from Arizona State University and MIT, disprove these claims in their recently published paper titled Women in Power: Unpopular, Unwilling, or Held Back? In fact, their study concludes that political parties with more women on the ballot perform better in elections. 

Peter Dizikes from the MIT News Office provides a summary of the study–

“The study analyzes changes to municipal election laws in Spain, which a decade ago began requiring political parties to have women fill at least 40 percent of the slots on their electoral lists. With other factors being equal, parties that increased their share of female candidates by 10 percentage points more than their opponents enjoyed a 4.2 percentage-point gain at the ballot box.”

So what’s the best thing a political party can do to improve their chances in an election? Include more women!  

Read more at MIT News.

We Don’t Need Another Sarah Palin

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by Sana Johnson, Communications Intern, Mina’s List

Around the world, women continue to face obstacles that inhibit their equal participation in the social, economic, and political spheres. Increasing the rates of female political participation is crucial to achieving gender parity, but breaking the glass ceiling requires a twofold solution. In addition to women’s equal (50%) representation in national government, we need women political leaders who are willing and able to address the issues that are most relevant to women. This is why Mina’s List calls for women’s equal and substantive political representation. We need empowered women in national governments. We don’t need another Sarah Palin. 

For a woman’s political participation to be substantive, she must advocate for policies that attempt to close the opportunity gaps between men and women. We believe that by working with in-country women’s rights organizations and current female legislators, ML can provide aspiring women political leaders the tools necessary to effectively participate in legislative positions. This capacity-building is what ML means by empowerment, and is the key to securing equal rights for women.

While research has shown that women’s political participation can raise the standard of living for all, we need our leaders to address the specific areas that most impact women. Issues such as poverty, illiteracy, disappearing social safety nets, and lack of access to clean water require the substantive representation of women political leaders to address them in a meaningful way. The areas of peace-building and conflict resolution also require legislation that supports women in particular. It has become general knowledge that war disproportionately affects women. The use of rape, sexual slavery, and forced pregnancy as war tactics has grown tremendously. To improve the status of women, female political leaders must have the determination and capacity to advocate for women in these areas. The presence of more women at the table does not necessarily beget change, however the participation of more empowered female decision-makers does.

Evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of women’s substantive political participation is overwhelming. For example, figures show that as the percentage of women legislators increases by 10 percent, countries are about 10 percent more likely to adopt legal protections against domestic violence and sexual harassment. In Argentina, female parliamentarians represent only 14 percent of deputies but introduced 78 percent of the bills related to women’s rights. These gains are the result of empowered women’s leadership.

Mina’s List is committed to giving aspiring women political leaders the power they need to advance women’s rights. Now is the time to capitalize on the current global increase of women in politics. Women deserve to have representatives who will drive their issues forward, and we all deserve to enjoy what women parliamentarians contribute to the world.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Women in Government

Learn from someone on the inside about what it’s like to be a woman in government. 

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

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