A Q and A with Leila Milani on International Women’s Day About Her Global Work


What do you want people to know about the work that you do?

My top priority is increasing the United States’ investment in advancing gender equality internationally, with a focus on eradicating gender-based violence and ending child sexual exploitation. I want people to understand that violence against women comes at a physical, emotional and economic cost. But if we invest in women and their safety, we not only uplift them, we also add to a country’s GDP by three percent.

I’ve also learned in my decades of doing this work how important coalitions are. We are stronger together. In 2022, in collaboration with USAID, we were able to bring our Coaching Boys Into Men program to Tanzania to train coaches and athletes about how to promote respectful behavior among young athletes and help prevent relationship abuse, harassment, and sexual assault. One teacher, Cuthbert Nzingula, who participated in the four day training said, “I find myself as a strong mentor for my athletes, besides academics, physical fitness, and playing techniques. Now, I have a lot to share with them. I know how to influence positive behaviors and healthy relationships. I also teach them to avoid risky behaviors and prevent HIV/AIDS.”  This kind of collaboration can bring about real change in the global community.

With the myriad problems here in our own country, why should people be compelled to care about gender-equality and gender based violence abroad?

Gender inequality and violence plays a big role in all of the crises that are brewing around the globe. This sounds simplistic, but as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The truth is, what happens overseas impacts us here too.

What inspires you to continue doing this work?

On a trip to Kenya this summer I visited a small village of shepards where most of the young girls don’t attend school. I was there to talk to the community about how educating a young girl can increase her family’s financial well-being. A 10-year-old girl came up to me and showed me the book she was reading. She was so excited to tell me that she wants to be a doctor.  She’s a shepherd living without running water or electricity, and she was so excited that she could read and hopes to continue her education.

Why is International Women’s Day important through the context of your work?

It’s an opportunity to uplift the issue and educate the public around gender equality and gender-based violence internationally and encourage more people to learn and care about it.

Hopefully more people might use their voices to engage in the work and contribute to advancing it, whether it’s helping fund a young girl to get an education overseas, which could be very little money, or donating to an organization like FUTURES. All of it matters and all of it adds up. I hope International Women’s Day will inspire people to come to our website, follow us on social media and learn more.

What’s one thing you can’t live without?

My Faith.  As a Bahá’í, I believe every individual is a member of the body of humanity. Each is essentially noble, possessing a unique soul. We are all co-stewards of one planet.  We all are responsible to ensure all enjoy fundamental rights. This belief is what gives me the drive and commitment to continue this work even in face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.