Center for Women's Global Leadership

The Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University develops and facilitates women's leadership for women's human rights and social justice around the world. The center sponsors leadership development and training programs to create and strengthen a powerful, international advocacy force of women dedicated to working for human rights. They also monitor United Nations progress and advocate for women's human rights worldwide.


160 Ryders Lane
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Ph. 732/932-8782
Fx. 732/932-1180


Principal Staff

Radhika Balakrishnan, Executive Director
Ph. (732) 932-8782
Fax: (732) 932-1180

Charlotte Bunch, Founding Director and Senior Scholar
Ph. (732) 932-8782
Fax: (732) 932-1180

Savitri Bisnath, Senior Policy Advisor

Margot Baruch, Program Coordinator

Julie Ann Salthouse, Program Coordinator

Mika Kinose, Office Manager

Keely Swan, Project Coordinator

Lucy V. Vidal, Information Manager

Nathalie Margi, Program Assistant


Featured Events


Projects & Campaigns

Human Rights

The policy and advocacy program encompasses CWGL's efforts to integrate gender and women's human rights into the work of local, national, regional and international institutions. This program informs and mobilizes advocates for women's human rights around specific events and builds linkages among them to enhance their capacity to influence policy making. The Center, working in collaboration with women leaders and NGOs around the world, helped secure international policy commitments that clearly state "women rights are human rights." With these policy benchmarks in place, the Center has turned its energy toward implementation of this concept and holding policy making bodies accountable to their promises to the world's women. Core activities in this program area include UN Monitoring and Advocacy and the coordination of International Mobilization Campaigns.

Leadership and Leadership Development

Since 2000, CWGL has convened Strategic Consultations and Conversations that provide opportunities to examine world situations and to discuss strategies and venues for work on women's human rights. Given the overwhelmingly positive response to these meetings, the Center decided to continue organizing "strategic conversations" both globally and locally as the core of its leadership development work. This builds on the Center's history of convening people to think and plan strategically about specific initiatives and also addresses the need expressed by many for spaces where they can re-think how to work in the ever-changing world environment. CWGL sees this as making a further investment in the leadership of the women's human rights movement, which needs such opportunities to craft next steps as well as a way to generate new ideas and strategies. CWGL recently convened a Strategic Conversation on the future of Women's Human Rights Leadership Development.

Violence Against Women

More than 2,000 organizations in over 154 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaign since its launch in 1991. This annual campaign, November 25 to December 10, has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups from around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women. Growing out of the Center's first Women's Global Leadership Institute, the Campaign links violence against women and human rights, emphasizing that all forms of violence, whether perpetrated in the public or private sphere, are a violation of human rights. The dates that participants chose for the Campaign symbolically make this link: November 25 marks the International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10 is International Human Rights Day. The 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including December 1 which is World AIDS Day, and December 6 which marks the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
* In coordinating the Campaign, the Center assists individuals and organizations in planning activities which focus on developing and calling for the implementation of local, national and global policies aimed at eliminating violence against women. The Center develops and publicizes the theme of the campaign in collaboration with activists from around the world. Resources available for the 16 Days Campaign include an International Calendar of Campaign Activities, a "take action kit," and an interactive website which has been instrumental in promoting the Campaign on a global scale.


Center News

Center for Women's Global Leadership shares a resource from the International Civil Society Action Network
Friday, December 16, 2011 - 2:33pm

The CWGL shares a new resource from the International Civil Society Action Network. The first of their MENA Region Briefs has been released entitled, "What the Women Say:The Arab Spring & Implications for Women." Beyond identifying key regional challenges and issues impacting women, the brief provides recommendations to national and international policymakers and the media on the importance of and the strategies for ensuring the participation of women in the formation of just, open, equal and democratic societies.

The Right to Water in the Americas
Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 5:33pm

The Center for Women’s Global Leadership and Institute for Women’s Leadership at Rutgers University invite you to a public Lecture by Marcela Olivera, Bolivian water rights activist and 2011 Visiting Global Associate.  The lecture will be held in the RDJC Building at 4pm on October 25th, 2011.

Please RSVP to by October 18th.

Special Call for Papers: Engendering Economic Policy in Africa
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:58pm

Guest Editors
Caren A Grown, Abena D Oduro, and Irene van Staveren

In recent years, feminist economists and gender and development scholars have drawn attention to the adverse effects in Africa of policies associated with the Washington Consensus, including trade liberalization, strict anti-inflationary policies, and privatization of government functions. As these policies particularly disadvantage women and the poor, a variety of voices have emerged critiquing their underlying assumptions and renewing efforts to promote alternate pathways to gender equity, well-being, and sustainable economic development.

The special issue, planned for online publication in 2014 and print publication in 2015, will bring together new research aimed at challenging and improving economic policies in Africa. More generally, the special issue will provide a forum for feminist economists and scholars in relevant disciplines to analyze the interrelationships among macroeconomic reforms, gender inequalities, and the microeconomic channels that affect the well-being of women, their families, and their communities. The special issue will welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions, and analyses that rely on diverse research methodologies, including statistical analysis. Feminist Economics especially welcomes submissions from African scholars as well as others from the Global South.

Contributions may cover diverse topics, including but not limited to:

  • Gender and poverty dimensions of macroeconomic policy, aid, and/or debt
  •  Enhancing food security and reducing livelihood risks using social protection
  •  Ensuring equitable growth and development in post-conflict economies
  •  Property rights and how they affect the ownership of assets by women and men
  • Microfinance and the debate over its efficacy for women’s empowerment
  • The care economy and the role of social policy

Deadline for abstracts:

Please direct queries and abstracts (500 words maximum) to the Guest Editors, Caren Grown (, Abena D. Oduro (, and Irene van Staveren (, no later than 1 September 2011.

If the Guest Editors approve an abstract, the complete manuscript will be due 1 April 2012 and should be submitted to Feminist Economics through the submissions website. Questions about these procedures may be sent to, +1.713.348.4083 (phone) or +1.713.348.5495 (fax).


Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - 11:12am

Civil Society Celebrates Creation of Gender Equality Entity After Four Years of Advocacy. The Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign celebrates the United Nations General Assembly resolution, agreed to on 30 June and to be formally adopted by the General Assembly on Friday, 2 July, to establish "UN Women"-the new gender equality entity at the UN. 

To read more click here!

CWGL Announces New Program Director
Thursday, July 1, 2010 - 11:44am

The Center for Women's Global Leadership is pleased to announce the hiring of Natalia Cardona, as the Center's new program director.  She will join the staff on July 1st.

Read more here!

Executive Director, Radhika Balakrishnan Speaks
Thursday, June 17, 2010 - 2:54pm

Executive Director, Radhika Balakrishnan, will discuss Rethinking Macro Economic Strategies from a Human Rights Perspective, at the US Social Forum.

Date and Time: June 24, 2010; 3-5 pm
Location: Detroit, MI

CWGL is Pleased to Announce the Theme for the Upcoming 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign (2010)
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 11:16am

Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women 

For the online version of the announcement, please visit the 16 Days website:

Human Rights Champion Rhonda Copelon Dies: Broke New Ground to Open U.S. Federal Courts to Victims of International Human Rights Abuses
Friday, May 7, 2010 - 4:42pm

May 7, 2010 | CUNY School of Law

Pioneering Attorney Won Landmark Rights Case in U.S. Court of Appeals on Same Day Supreme Court Narrowly Rejected Her Challenge to the Hyde Amendment on Abortion Restrictions for the Poor.
New York, NY – On May 6, 2010, Rhonda Copelon, a CUNY School of Law professor, human rights attorney and a Vice-President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who broke new ground opening U.S. federal courts and international tribunals to gender-based violence and international human rights violations, died at age 65. The cause was ovarian cancer.
Copelon was noted for her key role in the landmark human rights case, Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, which established that victims of gross human rights abuses committed abroad had recourse to U.S. Courts. Additionally, she was a champion of women’s reproductive health and argued before the Supreme Court in Harris v. McRae, in which the Court narrowly upheld the Hyde Amendment which prohibited Medicaid reimbursement for almost all abortions. Remarkably both the Filartiga and McCrae decisions came down on June 30, 1980.
“Professor Copelon’s passing is a huge loss for human rights worldwide,” said CUNY School of Law Dean Michelle J. Anderson. “Her tireless passion and precedent-setting work leaves a legacy in human rights law, and particularly women’s rights law, that altered the bedrock of how U.S. courts treat international human rights abuses,” Anderson added.
Peter Weiss, a vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) where she began her ground breaking feminist-oriented legal work as a staff attorney, and her co-counsel in Filartiga said, “Rhonda had a fiery passion to bring justice to all the oppressed and abused women of the world.”
Dolly Filartiga, the plaintiff in the case that bore her family name who became her dear friend added, “Rhonda was a true fighter who through the years has shown me her unconditional love for human kind and her effusive desire for the equal rights of all beings. Without her, there would not be a Filartiga principle. She was the pillar that held me throughout the toughest times of my life.”
Over the course of her 12 years at CCR Copelon challenged racial discrimination, government wiretapping, and worked on several landmark cases including Filartiga. She also argued before the Supreme Court in Drew v. Andrews, in support of African-American women plaintiffs who were denied teaching jobs because of the Mississippi Drew municipal school district policy that barred parents of out-of-wedlock children from all but janitorial positions. In this challenge to this moralistic and punitive policy, young unwed mothers won their case and their jobs back at the Supreme Court based on a claim of marital discrimination.
Deeply distressed by the majority’s cruel interpretation of the Constitution in McRae, but heartened by the door opened on the same day by the Filartiga case, Copelon turned to international human rights as a basis for protection of rights of women and the poor. “Rhonda was creative, determined, and impassioned. She never understood the word ‘impossible,’” said Nancy Stearns, Copelon’s former CCR colleague.
Professor David Cole, a leading constitutional scholar and CCR alumni said: “It was hearing Rhonda speaking about Harris v. McCrae at Yale Law School that inspired me to come to CCR in the first place.”
In 1983, Copelon was a founding faculty member of CUNY Law. In 1992 she co-founded the Law School’s International Women’s Human Rights Clinic (IWHR). Under her leadership, CUNY Law’s IWHR clinic enabled students and activists around the world to participate in a range of precedent-setting legal and advocacy campaigns. For example, IWHR’s amicus briefs in the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia resulted in the recognition in international law of rape as a crime of genocide and torture. IWHR’s work with the United Nation’s Committee Against Torture, and other international bodies, contributed to the recognition that gender crimes, such as domestic and other forms of gender violence, can constitute torture under the United Nation’s Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Further while at CUNY Law, Copelon also cofounded the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice and through her role as secretariat and as the Director of IWHR, she coordinated an effort with partners across the globe ensuring that the Rome Statute was written to take gender into account concerning the crimes, procedure and evidence and composition of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and personnel. In particular, as a result of her tireless passion and work with partnering organizations, the ICC codified sexual and gender crimes as being part of their jurisdiction. “At every turn, Professor Copelon made CUNY Law proud,” said Anderson. “She inspired a new legal framework for adjudicating and understanding gender-based crimes.”
In the fall of 2009, Dean Anderson announced “with great sadness” Professor Copelon’s retirement and her continuation with the Law School as an emeritus faculty member. In retiring, Copelon commented that her “26 year romance with CUNY Law will never end.” “Professor Copelon’s spirit and intention will always infuse our community,” said Anderson. “Her passion and intellect helped shape this School’s core mission and values.” Leading feminist scholar Charlotte Bunch said: “Rhonda’s impact is lasting, and that includes her impact on training a new generation of committed feminist progressive lawyers.”
In a special Fall 2009 CUNY Law Magazine issue, Copelon described her 26 years at CUNY Law as “a fabulous and privileged journey in education and advocacy working with amazing students, as well as partners and clients here and abroad.” Copelon, who was always humble about her leadership, credited the “cadre of activists, visionaries, and countless courageous women here and abroad who began long, deep, intersectional, and gender inclusive feminist revolutions that exposed the andro-centrism of human rights law.”
In the weeks before her death Copelon announced the establishment of a “Gender-Justice” fund at CCR for which she has provided the seed funding.


Vivian Todini, CUNY School of Law 917.747.7980
David Lerner, Riptide Communications 212.260.5000

Rights Activist Dis-invited as Keynote Speaker on Violence Against Women Due to Right Wing Pressure
Wednesday, May 5, 2010 - 4:54pm

April 26, 2010

Statement by Charlotte Bunch, Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers University

A year ago, I was invited to be the Keynote speaker for a National Conference on Violence Against Women held in Cincinnati Ohio on April 24, 2010. The Conference was organized by the Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation of the Sisters of Charity in coordination with representatives of 10 other organizations sponsoring the event, and I was pleased to speak with Catholic nuns that were actively addressing this issue. A few days before my flight, I received an email dis-inviting me due to pressure from the right wing and the Catholic Church hierarchy in Cincinnati.
The letter inviting me stated that they had reviewed my work and believed that I “would bring the experience and expertise our gathering in Cincinnati, Ohio needs.” As a person who has worked on the issue for over two decades and served as a member of the International Advisory Committee to the Secretary General of the United Nations for his in depth study on violence against women in 2006, I also thought I had much to offer the event.
The email dis-inviting me said that the organizers had received phone calls and letters from “right to life” persons protesting me as the keynote speaker, that the president of Seton High School (a Catholic Girls School sponsored by the Sisters of Charity that was the venue for the event) said they could not hold the event there if I spoke, and that the Archbishop of Cincinnati withdrew sponsorship of the three co-sponsoring diocesan offices. I understand that the reason is because I am pro choice, and “advocate for positions contrary to Catholic Church teaching.” While the organizers said they strongly resisted this pressure, it was to no avail.
It is ironic that a conference about violence against women is marred by violence against the women organizing it and against a female speaker. Let me be clear that threatening to close down this event if I spoke is an act of violence against women itself – an act of suppression and disrespect to the planning the organizers invested in preparation, as well as a denial of my fundamental freedom of speech.
This incident is indicative of our times and the intolerant atmosphere created by right wing forces in the USA, as well as of the pressures put on women in the Catholic Church by male hierarchical leaders. It is tragic that at a time when the Catholic Church is facing very serious and credible charges of covering up sexual abuse of children on a large scale in many countries, it still acts with impunity to violate women’s right to speak about violence against women. Is this the listening to victims that the world so rightly demands from the church?
Charlotte Bunch is the Founding Director and Senior Scholar of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, where she is also a Distinguished Board of Governor’s Professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. For more information or discussion, contact Charlotte Bunch at

On the front line: Longtime advocate for women’s rights still hard at work on the global stage
Wednesday, May 5, 2010 - 4:33pm


NM Original Story by Anne Pedersen

For New Mexico-raised international human rights activist and educator Charlotte Bunch, “women’s rights are human rights.”

That may sound selfevident, but it’s still a radical idea in a world where liberty and legal equality are denied many women, sexual violence and patriarchal values are commonplace, and gender discrimination persists.   

For decades a voice for gender equality at the United Nations, Bunch is a “go-to” figure in the global fight for women’s rights. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996, and in 1999, then-President Bill Clinton awarded her the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights.   

She recently was honored with a tribute at a global symposium on women’s human rights at the annual meeting of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.   

And because of her work in the field, the U.N. is on the verge of creating, in Bunch’s words, a “super agency” to coordinate all of that institution’s existing efforts on behalf of women’s rights worldwide.   

The author of numerous articles and books, she is also the founding director and senior scholar of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, which trains women from around the world in leadership and organizing techniques, sponsors international conferences on human rights, campaigns against gender violence and addresses issues of women’s health and reproductive rights.   

Bunch, 65, grew up in Artesia, which, she says in a phone interview, gives her a familiarity with community dynamics and rural life that   has helped her understand women worldwide. “I have a sense of what it means to come from a small town,” she says.   

Her now-deceased father was a family physician; her mother, a social worker, now lives in Albuquerque. Both were concerned with global issues and passed that “bigger view” on to their daughter, teaching her how to relate to people from diverse backgrounds.   

A ‘sense of possibility’   

In the 1960s at Duke University, Bunch was active in the anti-war and civil rights movements. That involvement fostered a “sense of possibility,” but she says that was temporarily quashed when, after accepting a post-graduate fellowship at a Washington, D.C., policy research institute, she discovered, “I wasn’t taken seriously as a woman.”   

That “classic feminist experience” of being marginalized and discounted helped spark her passion for working for women’s rights, she says.    Historically, a major reason for gender inequality is “women are defined in the private sphere and not the public,” Bunch says. Abuse occurs away from public view, where laws often don’t penetrate and archaic attitudes persist. “A woman’s lack of freedom may be coming from her own family.”   

That is changing, though not for all women. “We have found ways to give more women access to freedom,” she says, especially those “willing to take risks.”   

As women worldwide have increasingly gained the right to vote, they have also come to be seen, and see themselves, as citizens rather than property. More than 100 countries have statutes outlawing domestic violence, microfinance initiatives   in many countries help impoverished women achieve economic independence, and reproductive freedom increasingly gives women “access to controlling their bodies.”   

Culture changes slowly   

It will take generations for abuse of women to end, Bunch asserts. The gap between rich and poor is increasing, further entrapping poor women and making it harder for them to break free, she says.   

There are “vestiges of male control that men want to keep,” she says, citing “backlashes” even in the developed world to keep women subordinate.   

For Bunch, the three biggest threats to women’s rights worldwide are “lack of control over one’s body,” which includes reproductive rights and sexual violence, poverty and “militarism and war.”     

Culture changes more slowly than political or economic realities, she says. Protective laws may be enacted, but abuse can persist. Not until attitudes definitively change and perpetrators of abuse are no longer protected by their families and communities will a “tipping point” be reached, she says.   

“Ultimately, men benefit from more equality just as women do,” she says. “It harms men to be defined in their most intimate relationships as dominant versus submissive. It diminishes their humanity.”   

For those who want to work for change, Bunch’s advice is, first, believe in yourself. Be realistic about “what piece of it you can do, what you have   access to and what you’re passionate about.”   

Action doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. Her work with women from many nations has convinced her that change comes from “all the things that people do on the ground, everywhere.”   

Those simple words, “women’s rights are human rights,” are powerful, she notes. In a recent interview with the online news service Rutgers Today, Bunch says women view “their own abuse differently when it’s called a human rights issue … they no longer see it as inevitable.”   

“I’m optimistic over time these changes will break through,” she says. “We’re moving in a direction that is ultimately unstoppable.”


International human rights activist Charlotte Bunch says abuse occurs away from public view, where laws often don’t penetrate and archaic attitudes persist. This 2008 photo shows her participating in a march in Cape Town, South Africa, as part of a campaign to end violence against women.



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