The fall of 2012 has been an exciting time for the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative (GWLI) at the Wilson Center. Though we are the Wilson Center’s newest initiative, our director and staff inspired by the leadership of Jane Harman, President and CEO of the Wilson Center have been working tirelessly to advance the goal of empowering women emerging leaders around the world.

GWLI Director, Rangita de Silva de Alwis, spoke at Stanford Law School at a The Levin Center's International Public Interest Lawyering Symposium about women’s leadership and the Global Women’s Movement. She discussed lessons for other social movements and heightened the call for including women in the post- Arab Spring transitional justice processes. She also spoke at Amnesty International’s XX Factor Town Hall about women in post conflict societies. Rangita de Silva de Alwis spoke at Berea College on “Challenges and Opportunities for Women’s Leadership.”

The GWLI’s Emily Malkin and Alexandria Icenhower spoke on GWLI’s mentoring program and social media best practices at the first Circle of Women National Conference held at Yale University.

On September 23, 2012, Jane Harman and Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, co-hosted a dinner to celebrate the newest Wilson Center Initiative, the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, headed by Dr. Rangita de Silva de Alwis. Over 30 leading women, including four current or former female heads of state, were invited by Ambassador Rice to help launch the Global women’s Leadership Initiative.

On October 26, 2012, the GWLI hosted a conversation at the Wilson Center with Indira Jaising, India’s first Deputy Woman Solicitor General. The conversation focused on Jaising’s storied career and legendary work as the premier women’s rights lawyer in India who represented the victims of the Bhopal Gas disaster and brought to court some of the first sexual harassment and sex discrimination cases in India. Indira spoke about her journey to public service as an outsider who had challenged the government in some of the first anti-discrimination cases in India.

In early November, GWLI held a conversation with Zainah Anwar, which focused on “Women Leading a Progressive Interpretation of the Shariah Law: Case Studies from Musawah (A Global Movement for Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family).” Zainah Anwar is leading a movement to reclaim Islam from patriarchal forces and set into motion a progressive interpretation of Islam. A burgeoning body of scholarship on “Islamic feminism” co-mingles Islam and feminism, bringing it in line with international human rights norms and highlighting the compatibility of the human rights framework with the Shariah law. Zainah’s groundbreaking work must be seen within the context of a movement to disenfranchise women in the name of religion. Women’s participation in public policy in Muslim communities is pivotal to the political transitions sweeping the world.

The Global Women’s Leadership Initiative and the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center and Amnesty International USA hosted a roundtable with two remarkable Afghan women changemakers: Hasina Safi, Executive Director, the Afghanistan Women’s Education Centre (AWEC) and Executive Board Member, Afghan Women’s Network and Mahbouba Seraj, Founder and Director, Organization for Research in Peace and Solidarity and Executive Board Member, Afghan Women’s Network. The women discussed the many challenges—and opportunities—facing women in Afghanistan today, including the impact on women as Afghanistan assumes greater security responsibility and pursues political reconciliation with the Taliban; domestic violence against women; women’s participation in public life and politics; and access to education.

The Director, President, and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Jane Harman, made a keynote presentation at the Kosovo International Women’s Summit “Partnership for Change—Empowering Women,” hosted by President Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo.