30 Women Who Could Change Afghanistan
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.
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“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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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.