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Global Women’s Leadership Project 


From 2017-2020, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Global Women’s Leadership Project (GWLP) has provided research for UNESCO and UN Women in support of their work on women, peace, and justice and women’s human rights. 

These student papers bring a global women’s human rights- based approach to addressing the direct and indirect health, social, economic, cultural, political, human security and gender impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on marginalized populations, including, women, minorities, migrant workers, displaced persons and prison populations globally. As future policymakers, the hope is that their policy directives on a range of issues, including violence against women, access to water, reproductive health, and gender stereotypes will help mitigate and combat current and future global crisis situations. In the course of history, black swan events have led to significant social and political change, including the modern employment contract after the Great Bubonic Plague. Similarly, we hope that the post-COVID-19 era will see a new global gender compact that guarantees the equal rights of women and their intersectional identities.


Guiding Principles on Inclusive Distance Learning
The Guiding Principles on Inclusive Distance Learning consist of principles and values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and are meant to guide a human rights-based approach to distance learning at a time of global crisis.


Male Allyship in the Future of Work
Law School students engage with themes of male allyship in the workplace. Read a collection of student interviews with male allies. The full report can be found here

Five-Year Retrospective
Read the International Affairs office’s Five-Year Retrospective, narrating the diverse, international voices that have shaped the Law School’s inclusive vision of global justice.

In Our Own Voice Podcast
Listen to podcasts recorded by students of the Law School’s International Women’s Human Rights course and invited guests, discussing the intersections of feminism and law. Students of Associate Dean Rangita de Silva de Alwis interpret legal issues through a feminist lens. 

The Law School Marks Women, Peace and Security Agenda

Read the Law School’s student reflections on the 20th Anniversary of the Women Peace and Security Agenda here .

Women’s Leadership in the Global Economy

THE GENDER AND BUSINESS INDEX PRESENTED to LUBNA OLAYAN- the Middle East’s leading businesswoman.   

“A New Opportunity for Women in the Global Economy: The Gender and Business Index authored by Associate Dean Rangita de Silva de Alwis with contributions from The Women, Law & Leadership seminar was presented  to Lubna Olayan, the Middle East’s leading businesswoman. Law School students Michael Machado L’20, Sarah Heberlig L’21, Claire Samuelson L’21, Farah Chalisa L’20, Kunal Kanodia L’20, Emi Mitani Ed., 20, and Fumnanya Ekhator L’20 contributed to data collection. 

Read the full report here.

Associate Dean Rangita de Silva de Alwis and the class on Women, Law and Leadership engaged in a fireside chat with Dina Powell, Partner at Goldman Sachs and Pioneer of 10,000 Women. A roundtable with Silda Spitzer focused on women in entrepreneurship and private equity. Read student Lindsay Holcomb’s reflections on the project. 

Distinguished Leaders

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
United Nations
Under-Secretary-General & Executive Director of UN Women

Irina Bokova

Former Director-General of UNESCO

Lubna Olayan

Chairwoman of the Board,
Saudi British Bank &
Chairwoman, Alawwal Bank

Founding Director

Rangita de Silva de Alwis , Associate Dean of International Affairs and Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

Mission Statement

Global citizens like you know that fairness and equality start with empowering women and girls.” - Justin Trudeau

From 2017-2019, under the distinguished leadership of UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (former Vice President of South Africa), and Irina Bokova, the Secretary-General of UNESCO (the leading female candidate for UN Secretary-General in 2016), the Law School launched the Global Women’s Leadership Project. The Project, the first of its kind, is distinctive in its unique vision: to bolster the primacy of SDG Goal 5 C’s target on gender equality law reform through research support for UN Women’s and UNESCO’s work on gender-based justice sector reform.  

Founded on the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2015, the Law School’s Global Women’s Leadership Project strives to provide research support to UNESCO’s gender-related work on peace and justice and UN Women’s work in women’s human rights, specifically relating to legal reform, and the elimination of discrimination in justice systems. Adopted by 193 countries, The SDG’s is the crowning achievement of the global development agenda and one of the most ambitious platforms of action. Goal 5 is inextricably interlinked to all 17 SDG goals and recognizes that gender equality and ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere is linked to sustainable development and security.

UN Women, grounded in the vision of equality enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, works for the elimination of discrimination against women and girls around the world.  In 2007, UNESCO designated Gender Equality as one of its two Global Priorities. Gender equality is central to UNESCO’s overarching objectives of peace and sustainable development.

Working with Student Fellows, the Law School’s Global Women’s Leadership Project’s research will build on the Beijing Platform of Action, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its intersectional treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015).  Further, taken together, the UN Security Council’s eight resolutions 1325 (2000); 1820 (2009); 1888 (2009); 1889 (2010); 1960 (2011); 2106 (2013); 2122 (2013); and 2242 (2015) provide landmark guarantees to promote and protect the rights of women in conflict and post-conflict under the rubric of the Women Peace and Security Agenda. The Law School’s Global Women’s Leadership Project will convene important global leaders on critical conversations and build a single umbrella of research on one of the key targets of Goal 5 of the SDGs, the adoption, and strengthening of sound policies and enforceable legislation on gender equality. 



Hina Jilani, Member of the Elders

Radhika Coomaraswamy, Former Under Secretary General and UN Secretary General’s

    Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict

Navi Pillay, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Justice Sisi Khampepe, Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa  

Gulser Corat, Head of Gender, UNESCO

Program Coordinator

Kerri Kearney, Program Coordinator, International Affairs

2015-2019 Global Women Leaders Forum 

From 2015-2019, the Law School hosted leading women trailblazers from around the world creating a platform to amplify women’s leadership as an urgent cause of the 21st century.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th United States Secretary of State

Featured Global Women Leaders: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Mary Robinson, Navi Pillay,...

Featured Global Women Leaders: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Mary Robinson, Navi Pillay, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Irina Bokova, Zainab Hawa Bangura, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Ambassador Moushira Khattab, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Asma Jahangir, Hina Jilani, Indira Jaising, MK Tzipi Livni, Penny Wong, Lubna Olayan, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Making Laws, Breaking Silence: Case Studies From the Field

Making Laws, Breaking Silence: Case Studies from the Field grows out of a high-level roundtable convened by the Law School, UN Women, UNESCO, UN SDG Fund, and IDLO in March 2017. The convening brought together over 30 legislators, judges, and policy experts from more than 15 countries to examine new developments and challenges in gender equality lawmaking under Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The following case studies and essays expand on those deliberations and interactions and highlight some tensions in evolving law reform efforts around the world. Closing the enforcement gap in gender equality laws is often called the “unfinished business of the 21st century.” These reflections offer fresh insights and policy guidelines for UN agencies, multilaterals, government entities and civil society organizations charged with gender-based law reform.


Project News

  • April 9
    Penn Law International
    Follow Penn Law’s vibrant programs across the spectrum of international, transnational and foreign law.

    Law Leadership, and Influence
    Highlights from Rangita de Silva de Alwis’ ground-breaking course, which brought together women leaders in law and business for engagement with Penn Law students on the radical changes in public leadership in law and business around the world.

    In our Own Voice
    Student voices discuss various legal topics through a feminist lens.
    Blog, global women leadership project, International, Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Students
  • July 10
    “This event, co-organised by the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) and the Fourth Sector Group, in collaboration with the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, will bring together senior level officials from governments, business, and civil society for an inspiring discussion on a new generation of partnerships that use public resources in ways that contribute to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The event will introduce the “Kampala Principles” for Effective Private Sector Engagement (PSE) in development co-operation. Based on specific examples presented by business leaders and governments, the event will demonstrate how the principles are already being applied in specific partnerships and what is needed to encourage others follow suit and scale up such successful partnerships in different contexts and sectors.

    The event will be organised as a moderated panel discussion, comprised of a range of senior level speakers which will be followed by an interactive discussion with the audience.” 
    global women leadership project
  • May 20
    “When Law is Complicit in Gender Bias”: Associate Dean Rangita de Silva de Alwis published in SDG Goal 5 Book

    This publication by the SDG Fund and Thomson Reuters examines the ways in which gender must be integrated into all 17 of the SDG Goals. Goal 5 on gender equality is not only a goal in itself but also a precondition for the achievement of all 17 SDG Goals. Rangita de Silva de Alwis, along with other scholars and practitioners around the world, examines gender discrimination in the law in a chapter named: “When Law is Complicit in Gender Bias.”  

    global women leadership project
  • May 9
    Few law school classes involve convenings at the UN. Even fewer give students a forum to discuss their policy proposals with UN leadership. Yet Penn Law students in Associate Dean for International Programs Rangita de Silva de Alwis’s seminar on “New Debates in International Women’s Rights” did just that when they convened at the United Nations on April 29 to present their research to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UN Women, Office of Legal Affairs, and the newly appointed Office of the Secretary-General’s Victims’ Rights Advocate. The students had the opportunity to present to Under-Secretary-General and Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares and Assistant Secretary-General Jane Connors and other experts. For students eager to share a semester or more of research, this audience of key policy leaders was an inspiration.
    Blog, global women leadership project, Human Rights, International Law, Womens Rights
  • April 22
    Allyson Reynolds L’19 & Allison Perlin L’20 as part of an Independent Study supervised by Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Associate Dean of International Affairs. Report presented to Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions & Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza, Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the UN
    global women leadership project, International
  • March 1
    To mark Women’s History Month, we present four extraordinary stories that change the public conversation. On a personal level,  I celebrate the women who have made history and shaped my thinking: Radhika Coomaraswamy, Asma Jahangir, Hina Jilani, Mary Robinson, Martha Minow, Nancy Gertner, Hillary Clinton, Melanne Verveer, Deborah Rhode, Paula Johnson, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
    Blog, global women leadership project, International Women's Day, Mentorship, Women's History Month, Womens Rights
  • February 28
    In The Odyssey, before he leaves for the Trojan War, Odysseus asks Mentor, a wise old friend to watch over his son, Telemachus. While Odysseus was on the battleground, goddess Athena, also disguised herself as Mentor to watch over Telemachus, creating Western history’s first interpretation of a female-male mentor relationship. Below, Bill Burke-White, Richard Perry Professor and Inaugural Director of Perry World House, speaks of the role of powerful female mentors and role models in his journey to leadership with Associate Dean of International Affairs Rangita de Silva de Alwis.
    Blog, global women leadership project, International Women's Day, Mentorship, Sponsorship, Womens Rights
  • February 27
    In a special edition of the Penn Law Feminism Podcast Series to acknowledge International Women’s Day, Sophie Gaulkin speaks to Jake Romm on becoming a woman lobsterer.
    Blog, Feminism, global women leadership project, International Women's Day
  • February 27

    Twenty-two years ago Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty changed the national conversation on race, gender and reproductive justice. Two decades later, it remains more critical than ever before–a rallying cry around the world, for education, awareness, and action. Its vision for reproductive justice for all women engages in the global conversations on Female Genital Mutilation, virginity testing, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization and asks questions on how women’s ability to control their bodies is constantly challenged by politics, economics, race, cultural traditions, and injustice.    

    A whole generation of feminist scholars and practitioners are trained on Dorothy Robert’s groundbreaking scholarship. In marking International Women’s Day, we speak to her about the way she continues to exert an influence on the study of law, gender, and its intersections.  

    A Q&A with Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Associate Dean of International Affairs

    Blog, global women leadership project, Human Rights, International Women's Day, Reproductive Justice, Womens Rights