2019 is here, and we are ready!

At the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), we believe that a world without violence is possible. In a time where misogyny, hate, and inequality are gaining rapid exposure, we aim to achieve equality by ending gender-based discrimination and violence against women. The close of 2018 allowed us to reflect and re-energize, and now we are ready to together take on 2019 and demand human rights standards within this challenging climate, including by:


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With a focus on violence in the world of work, we are creating space for women workers to amplify the gendered impact of discrimination and violence they face across their work realities to influence strong new standards. As global coordinator of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, our global ask for the next two years is to end gender-based violence in the world of work. With our partners, we are shifting the campaign from awareness to accountability and transitioning it from 16 to 365 days to galvanize the reach of 300 million globally. 


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We are convening women journalists, and will continue to do so in all regions of the world, to discuss the gendered discrimination and violence that they face and recommendations to employers, governments, and unions in how to protect them. We are also examining the gender dimensions of modern slavery and the plight of domestic workers. With the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, we emphasized this issue’s link with male-biased macroeconomic policies and the undervaluation of unpaid care work that results in migrant domestic workers being subjected to slave-like conditions. With this foundational framing, we will continue our work with domestic workers.


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We launched the Global Feminist Journeys digital timeline to capture the history of feminist activism, which too often remains hidden. We will continue to build on this in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women as a way to provide insight and hope at a time when women’s rights face the threat of rollback. Today, women human rights defenders continue to face crackdowns. We amplify their courageous efforts by providing spaces for them to speak for and about themselves and their activism.

We wish you a very Happy 2019 and invite you to continue on this journey with us toward true equality!

GBV & Women Workers: Conversations in Sri Lanka & Madrid

Written by MaryBeth Bognar (Program Coordinator, Outreach)


It is almost impossible to talk about 2018 without mention of the amplified testimonies of violence and harassment faced by women workers, in part due to Me Too/Yo También, among other local movements. At CWGL, we aim to achieve equality by ending gender-based violence and discrimination in the world of work for ALL women. In fact, you may have seen this topic taken to action as the global ask of our recent 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. We've been regionally convening women workers, and mobilizing the women's rights and labor rights spheres so we can together address this issue in a way that is strong, inclusive, and recognizes the gendered dynamics that exist in work realities for women. Here's where you may have caught us amplifying these issues recently:

Breaking the silence on rural women workers in the U.S. during AFAMMER Congress

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(CWGL Executive Director, Krishanti Dharmaraj, presents at AFAMMER Congress)

CWGL Execute Director, Krishanti Dharmaraj participated as one of the 12 global experts and 800+ participants during AFAMMER's 2nd Congress: The Voice of Rural Women in the World. Dharmaraj emphasized that to advance the leadership of rural women, it is essential to end the gender-based violence that they face. In this context, she highlighted the reality of Latina farm workers in rural California where over 80% have been reported to face sexual harassment, as according to Human Rights Watch. "California farm worker women are the heart of the 6th largest economy in the world and they face human rights violations similar to a rural community in the Global South," said Dharmaraj. It's time to demand new standards, which CWGL is continuing to work toward for women's respective worlds of work.

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(AFAMMER Congress participants including Congress President Carmen Quintanilla Barba and CWGL ED Krishanti Dharmaraj)

Exposing violence faced by women journalists through the documentary "Velvet Revolution" in Sri Lanka


As part of our strategy to convene women workers, we held discussions in Sri Lanka with women from the South Asia region. While there, CWGL hosted a film screening of the award-winning documentary Velvet Revolution by Nupur Basu in partnership with Centre for Integrated Communication Research and Advocacy (CICRA). The film documents violence faced by women journalists and allowed for further conversation around this topic and CWGL's current initiatives to expose and address it.


Stay tuned for continued conversations and opportunities to engage with us around this area of our work in 2019!

Discussion panel: Addressing the impact of austerity measures on women’s human rights

Written by  Magali Brosio (Sr Program Coordinator, Economic Policy)

Photographed by Zarin Hamid (Program Coordinator, Convening & Training)


Macroeconomic policy is often thought of as “gender neutral.” However, economic policies affect women and men differently due to their different positions and roles in the economy, both market (paid) and non-market (unpaid). If policymakers do not consider this, the macroeconomic policies promoted will not be “gender neutral,” but male-biased, as they often contribute to worsening gender inequality. Austerity measures, for instance, are a clear example as they disproportionally affect women through many mechanisms.

Today, more than two thirds of countries across the world are contracting their public purses and limiting, rather than expanding, their fiscal space. While structural adjustment and fiscal consolidation policies can have massive adverse impacts on human rights of persons in situations of vulnerability, most of those policies have not been designed or implemented in a manner that would promote or safeguard human rights, let alone are sensitive to gendered impacts.

In this scenario, the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights focused his thematic report to the UN General Assembly, 73rd session (2018) on the links and the impact of economic reforms and austerity measures specifically on women’s human rights. The report resulted from broad and substantive consultations and contributions from a wide array of organizations, States, National Human Rights Institutions and experts, including the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL). 

With the goal of amplifying the findings of the report, the UN Independent Expert and CWGL co-organized a side-event to discuss the impact of austerity measures on women's human rights. A panel discussion moderated by Sheba Tejani (Associate Professor of International Affairs at The New School) allowed for a conversation among Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (the UN Independent Expert on Foreign Debt), Dinah Musindarwezo (women's rights activist and gender and development expert), Korto Williams (Head of Women's Rights, ActionAid International), and Radhika Balakrishnan (CWGL Faculty Director) on the devastating gender effects of austerity measures and possible avenues to address them in future situations.

Side event: "Gender Dimensions of Contemporary Forms of Slavery and Trafficking in Persons"

Written by Magalí Brosio (Sr Program Coordinator, Economic Policy)

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Last Friday, 26 October 2018, CWGL's Executive Director, Krishanti Dharmaraj, was part of a panel on the gender dimensions of contemporary forms of slavery and trafficking in persons. This side event was co-organized by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences and the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The panel was moderated by Vinicius Pinheiro, Special Representative to the UN and Director of the ILO Office for the UN. In addition to Krishanti Dharmaraj, and the Special Rapporteurs, the table included Amol Mehra, from Freedom Fund, and James Cockayne, from the Centre for Policy Research at UN University.

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Team CWGL Takes on IAFFE

Written by Magalí Brosio (Sr Program Coordinator, Economic Policy)


The Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) was thrilled to be part of the 2018 annual conference of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE). Between June 19 and 22, more than two hundred Feminist Economists from around the world convened at SUNY New Paltz to discuss issues around feminist debates on migration, inequalities, and resistance.

During the conference, Radhika Balakrishnan (CWGL’s Faculty Director) and Alexa Russo (CWGL Research Assistant) presented their work around linking the political economy and gender-based violence across The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Additionally, Balarkishnan was one of the speakers on the closing plenary, where she highlighted the importance of using a Human Rights framework as a tool to transform neoliberal economic policies.

Finally, Magalí Brosio - CWGL's Sr. Program Coordinator for Economic Policy- presented on a panel where she highlighted CWGL’s work around gender-based violence in the world of work.

CWGL Faculty Director Presents to Joint Meeting of UN Agency Executive Boards on Inequality

Written by MaryBeth Bognar (Program Coordinator)

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Radhika Balakrishnan, Ph.D., Faculty Director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), spoke at the Joint Meeting of the Executive Boards of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS, UNICEF, UN Women, and WFP. Balakrishnan presented during a panel that focused on overcoming inequalities among and within countries, including gender inequality, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The panel presented an opportunity to discuss how United Nations agencies can position themselves to address inequalities effectively, including by ensuring their reach to those most vulnerable. Balakrishnan provided insight on macro-economic inequalities between countries and this link with discriminatory social norms. In doing so, it’s necessary to look at how economic policy is constructed. “If we took human rights as the overarching framework, how do we use this to assess economic policy?” said Balakrishnan. She went on to emphasize that, “instead of talking about people being left behind, we need to be talking about how they’re being pushed behind.”

It is also crucial to note that macro-economic policies have gendered effects. Looking specifically at the role of unpaid care work in this context, one can see the disproportionate negative consequences that austerity measures have on women. “Macro-economic policies aren’t gender blind, they’re male biased,” said Dr. Balakrishnan. To begin addressing unpaid care work and the inequalities it perpetuates, the “three Rs” should be considered:

  1. Recognize unpaid care work and measure its impact and value on the economy.
  2. Reduce unpaid care work’s disproportionate burden on women by adequately investing in infrastructure.
  3. Redistribute unpaid care work both within the household and by having it taken up by the state.

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Further framing the discussion, Balakrishnan demonstrated the link between economic policy’s role in the use of resources, and how these resources are necessary to achieve human rights. “If we took human rights seriously and we were to assess economic policy using fulfillment of human rights as the main criterion, we would have a very different kind of economic policy regime,” said Balakrishnan. In relation to this point, it was suggested that United Nations agencies have the opportunity to come together and think through what this kind of framework could be. The full presentation and panel event can be accessed here.

CWGL Hosts Dr. Natalia Kanem for event:Transforming our Future: Human Rights, Equality, and Peace

Written by  Alexa Russo (Research Assistant)

Photographed by Sarah Ragsdale (Communications Intern)


On April 2nd, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) had the opportunity to host Dr. Natalia Kanem, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), at Rutgers University.  After engaging conversations with CWGL and Rutgers Global Health, Dr. Kanem was graciously hosted by Rutgers President Barchi and Mrs. Francis Barchi at a reception with professors and students across Gender Studies, Global Health, and various other disciplines. Dr. Kanem drew many distinguished guests including Abena Busia, Ghana’s ambassador to Brazil.

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Pictured left to right: Krishanti Dharmaraj, Dawn Minott, Melissa Upreti, Soeurette Germain, Yakin Erturk, Dr. Kanem, President Barch, Radhika Balakrishnan, Aretha Oliver Crayton

At the keynote event, Rutgers Chancellor Dutta began with introductions, followed by CWGL’s showcasing of its project on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A panel discussion moderated by Radhika Balakrishnan (CWGL Faculty Director) allowed for a conversation among Krishanti Dharmaraj (Executive Director of CWGL), Yakin Ertürk (former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and CWGL Visiting Global Associate), and Alexa Russo (CWGL Research Assistant) on the project’s aim to bring together an analysis of economic structures, underlying gender-based violence, as well as a human rights framework into the implementation of the SDGs.  As the panel noted, the SDG’s aim to transform society can only be achieved by confronting the many gendered systems of power that run through the economy, and by utilizing human rights as an evaluative framework and as a set of mechanisms for social change.

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Pictured above: Rutgers Chancellor Dutta and Dr. Natalia Kanem

Following the panel, Dr. Kanem’s keynote address discussed how human rights, equality, and peace provide the foundation for UNFPA’s work.  While considerable improvements have been made in the realm of sexual and reproductive health, UNFPA’s area of focus, there is still considerable work to be done. For example, globally more than 300,000 women die each year from often preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, adolescent girls continue to lack sexual education, and women and girls’ vulnerability to sexual abuse and assault leads to, among other issues, an increased risk to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. There are also inequalities within countries that perpetuate these issues among those who are more vulnerable—such as in the United States where African-American women in New York are 12 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than while women.

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Pictured left to right: CWGL staff Rasha Moumneh and Michelle Sucameli, Dr. Kanem, CWGL staff MaryBeth Bognar and Magali Brosio

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Pictured: CWGL opening panel, left to right: Radhika Balakrishnan, Alexa Russo, Yakin Erturk, Krishanti Dharmaraj

Dr. Kanem outlined UNFPA’s plan to promote and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights, particularly for those most marginalized, by 1) making concerted and collaborative efforts to collect data from marginalized populations 2) addressing the social, cultural, policy, and legal barriers to sexual and reproductive health, and 3) empowering marginalized groups to claim their rights.


As it is for many of our friends in the women's rights community, this year's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was a whirlwind of feminist energy. With a growing team and program initiatives, the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) had the opportunity to hold and take part in important conversations, insightful strategy building, and celebrations of progress. Here's a peak into some of our spaces and what we've been up to. 




CWGL and its Feminist Alliance for Rights (FAR) hosted a Meet & Greet for the WGDAW, of which Melissa Upreti, CWGL Senior Director of Program and Global Advocacy, is a member. The event provided the opportunity to hear about the work, forthcoming priorities, and engagement opportunities of the working group.  



On March 15, CWGL held a strategic planning meeting with key partners to discuss the future direction of the 16 Days Campaign. For the past two years, the 16 Days theme has focused on ending gender-based violence in education. While that theme has resonated very strongly with partner organizations, it was agreed that the 16 Days theme ought to be responsive to movement trends. Taking inspiration from the international campaign to push the ILO to adopt a convention against gender-based violence, the 16 Days theme for the next two years will focus on GBV in the world of work.      



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CWGL Executive Director, Krishanti Dharmaraj addressed both the US Caucus and the NGO CSW Orientation.  Her opening of the US Caucus framed the role of US women at CSW, specifically regarding what this means in the Trump Era. At the NGO CSW Orientation, Dharmaraj gave a tribute to the late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. She also presented at the annual Cities for CEDAW strategy session. 



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(Photo: @ESCRNet)

CWGL recently welcomed Magali Brosio to our staff as Senior Program Coordinator, Economic Policy. As a Feminist Economist, Magali attended the ESCR-Net strategy meeting on behalf of CWGL to discuss the intersection between land and women’s economic, social, and cultural rights. 



  • CWGL joined with Global Fund for Women, Urgent Action Fund, Syrian Female Journalist Network, and Women Now for Development to hold a feminist rally for Syrian women in solidarity at a time of intense human rights violations and atrocities in Eastern Ghouta. 
  • CWGL co-sponsored the event, "Women's Human Rights Advocacy in a Time of Backlash," which included Melissa Upreti, as a panelist. The event covered the unprecedented level of backlash toward women's activists and effective ways to strategize to maintain gains won. 
  • Radhika Balakrishnan, CWGL Faculty Director, spoke at an event sponsored by UN Women to discuss the latest measures in reaching gender parity within the UN system. She emphasized the important role of civil society in achieving gender parity and the critical issues of adequate financing and budget transparency for gender equality. 
  • Melissa Upreti spoke on the panel "Closing the Gender Gap: Achieving Gender Parity in UN Human Rights Bodies." The panel emphasized the importance of women representation in international adjudicatory and monitoring bodies as a critical component of gender equality.

CWGL Welcomes Past and Present Special Rapporteurs on Violence Against Women in Conversation with its New Senior Director of Programs & Global Advocacy

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Written by Melanie Hung, Program Intern


The Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) had the pleasure of hosting the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (UN SRVAW)Dubravka Šimonović, to discuss her individual mandate under the Human Rights Council, the relevance to the lives of women in the US and future opportunities for engagement.  This gathering also provided us the opportunity to introduce two new members of the CWGL team.  We are thrilled to have Yakin Ertürk join us this year as our Visiting Global Associate. As a gender expert and former UN SRVAW, Yakin will help shape and inform our emerging body of work on women and peace, safety and security.  We also recently welcomed Melissa Upreti as our Senior Director of Programs and Global Advocacy. Melissa is a member of the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice (WG DAW). As a human rights lawyer and women’s rights advocate, she has spent nearly two decades advocating for the recognition and fulfillment of women’s rights through the use of national, regional and international law and mechanisms. Together, the panel discussed the history and influential work of the UN SRVAW mandate and provided the unique experience of having Šimonović and Ertürk together in conversation to share their experiences and  discuss trends in global advocacy aimed at eliminating gender-based violence.  

Ertürk highlighted that progress has been made. For example, violence against women was once perceived as a private matter but has now become a household phrase. However, this is often at the expense of emptying it of its content. The violence against women agenda has succeeded in mobilizing women across the globe more than other UN gender equality agendas before it and the work of the SRVAW contributed to a focus that included structural, material and ideological underpinnings of a patriarchal gender order that privileges male domination over women, including through violence. This resulted in an important shift from a victimization approach to one of empowerment/human rights. 

Moving forward, specifically in addressing the gap between law and practice, Šimonović shared her thoughts on the need for a new global implementation plan that includes a legally-binding definition of “violence against women.”  She also spoke specifically about her upcoming thematic reports on shelters and online violence toward women as well as her upcoming country visits to the Bahamas, Bulgaria, Egypt and Nepal. Finally, Upreti talked about the WG DAW’s report on the United States, which highlights key advancements in women’s rights as well as areas where the government has fallen short of ensuring adequate legal protection and remedies against discrimination and violence. 

The discussion emphasized the fragmentation in the work between global and regional levels, within the United Nations framework and among civil society actors. Especially as the Special Rapporteur and the Working Group lack the resources to oversee the implementation of their recommendations, they require collaboration and support to hold state actors accountable for the human rights of women and of all peoples. “We need a movement again,” said Šimonović.  

Engage in the conversation: Moving Forward: Defending Civil Liberties and Human Rights.

Margaret Huang (ED, Amnesty USA), Anthony Romero (ED, ACLU), Radhika Balakrishnan (Faculty Director, CWGL) and Vince Warren (ED, Center for Constitutional Rights) engage in conversation at the CWGL event Moving Forward: Defending Civil Liberties and Human Rights.

In April, CWGL Faculty Director, Radhika Balakrishnan brought together Margaret Huang (Executive Director, Amnesty USA), Anthony Romero (Executive Director, ACLU) and Vince Warren (Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights) to engage in the conversation: Moving Forward: Defending Civil Liberties and Human Rights.

This summer, we had two dynamic and inspiring women join us as Mandela Fellows.

Mandela Fellows

This summer, we had two dynamic and inspiring women join us as Mandela Fellows. We welcomed Josephine Nkrurunziza (Rwanda), a gender and accountability specialist with experience in program management of girls' and women's issues, and Ayanda Simangele (Swaziland), a champion of equal rights in community development. The two brought their unique backgrounds to work with us on the 16 Days Campaign.

CWGL had the pleasure of hosting former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

CWGL hosts former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at a luncheon to discuss feminist political leadership

CWGL had the pleasure of hosting former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff for a luncheon in April to discuss feminist political leadership during a rising conservative climate. The dialogue took place among an audience of feminist human rights leaders who engaged with Ms. Rousseff on issues crucial to their work and constituencies.