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Our Steering Committee

Our Steering Committee is a diverse group of HRFN members representing broadly the interests, organizations, and institutions active in the human rights grantmaking field. The Steering Committee provides guidance on HRFN’s strategy, programs, and initiatives.


Monica Aleman Cummingham
Senior Program Officer, Building Institutions and Networks (BUILD)
Ford Foundation

Monica Aleman Cunningham is a senior program officer on the BUILD team at Ford Foundation, working to advance the foundation’s efforts to support and develop stronger, sustainable, and more effective social justice organizations and networks across the globe. Her areas of concentration in BUILD are Latin America; Civic Engagement and Government; and Gender, Race, and Ethnic Justice. Before joining Ford Foundation in 2011, Monica was executive director of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum, a network of organizations in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. She also served as program and policy director at MADRE, an international women’s rights organization. In addition, Monica has worked as a coordinator and assistant for the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and has consulted for various organizations, including the Ford Foundation and Nicaragua’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Monica received her master’s degree from the Intercultural Indigenous University, Popayán, Colombia, and her bachelor’s degree in international relations, with a focus on political science and business administration, from the University of Mobile, Latin America Campus at San Marcos, Nicaragua.


Puja Dhawan
Director, Initiatives to End Violence Against Girls and Women
NoVo Foundation

Puja directs NoVo Foundation’s Initiative to End Violence Against Girls and Women. In that role, Puja oversees NoVo’s largest operational program, Move to End Violence, as well the initiative’s grantmaking programs. Before joining NoVo, Puja was the Senior Program Officer for the U.S. Human Rights Fund at Public Interest Projects (now NEO Philanthropy). In 2010 she authored a report for the Asian Law Caucus on integrating domestic human rights into the Asian American advocacy community, and consulted with the International Human Rights Funders Group. After law school, Puja worked as a Staff Attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid and worked on gender and caste discrimination in South Asia at Human Rights Watch. Puja earned her JD from NYU School of Law and a BA with honors from the University of Michigan.


Hanan Elmasu
Programme Officer, International Human Rights Programme
Oak Foundation

Hanan joined Oak’s International Human Rights Programme as Programme Officer in July 2016. She covers the portfolio area of impunity and works across the Programme on issues related to human rights and technology. She has worked over the last twenty years with a range of national and international NGOs and the UN on the protection of human rights and respect for humanitarian law.  She lived in the occupied Palestinian territory from 1994 until 2005, where she developed her expertise on human rights protection, particularly focusing on refugee rights, arbitrary detention and torture, the protection of civilians during armed conflict and international accountability. She acted as an advisor in the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, and participated on behalf of Palestine in the International Court of Justice case on Israel’s construction of a wall in occupied Palestinian territory. She spent the last eight years as part of the Middle East team at Christian Aid working on human rights and humanitarian law advocacy and managed a programme that focused on ending impunity and developing accountability mechanisms, including through the exploration of transitional justice, in the Middle East. Hanan completed her LLM in Public International Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and later trained to be a solicitor in England and Wales. Her particular interest in human rights and technology stems from her involvement in some of the first instances of using the internet for social justice in the Middle East in the early 90s, through the development of live reporting websites during armed clashes and technology to support human rights documentation.


Rachel Freed
Vice President and Chief Program Officer
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Rachel Gore Freed is a human rights lawyer, community organizer, and social justice advocate with a wealth of domestic and international experience. As UUSC’s Vice President and Chief Program Officer, Freed leads the organization’s creative and effective approaches to advancing human rights and oversees all aspects of UUSC’s programmatic work, including program and partnership development, advocacy and strategic communications, and justice education and outreach. Prior to joining UUSC, Freed was deeply engaged in community struggles around the world, including successfully litigating against Exxon for violations of the Clean Air Act in the Houston Baytown shipping channel, arguing for the right to seek asylum before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and representing low-income immigrants and detained asylum seekers pursuing relief from unjust deportation in New York City. Her experiences abroad include helping volunteer youth serve as peace witnesses in Gujurat, Northern India after communal rioting and serving on the team that prosecuted the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, and leaders of the rebel forces through the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Freed holds a bachelor’s degree with a focus in international development from the George Washington Elliott School of International Affairs and a doctor of law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School.


Annie Hillar (co-chair)
Senior Officer for Women’s Funds
Mama Cash

Annie is the Senior Officer for Women’s Funds at Mama Cash. Previously she was the Learning and Evaluation Specialist where she developed planning, monitoring and assessment tools for organization-wide learning, decision-making and accountability. From 2008 to 2012, Annie was the Director of Programmes at Mama Cash, overseeing the grantmaking team and a budget that grew from 2.5 million euros to 5.3 million euros within four years. Annie has also worked as a consultant to various foundations, local women’s NGOs and women’s funds in Central and Eastern Europe in strategic fundraising and evaluation. She held a number of programmatic positions at the Global Fund for Women over a period of six years. Her responsibilities included Interim Programme Team Co-Leader, and Senior Programme Officer for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Middle East and North Africa. She holds an MA in social anthropology from Central European University, and a BA in Romance Languages from the University of Chicago.


Tirza Leibowitz
Associate Director for Legal Advocacy
Open Society Foundations

Tirza Leibowitz is associate director for legal advocacy with the Open Society Human Rights Initiative. She leads an initiative challenging laws and practices that label, control, criminalize, or marginalize communities of people, including people living in poverty, LGBTI people, and people with disabilities. Previously, Leibowitz developed the nexus of human rights and disability rights through her litigation work at Bizchut, Israel’s human rights center for persons with disabilities. She contributed to the formulation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which she then used in her work for Landmine Survivors Network, connecting humanitarian law and landmine survivors’ human rights. Leibowitz has authored book chapters on disability rights, human rights, and humanitarian law. She is a graduate of the law school of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Maitri Morarji (co-chair)
Senior Program Officer
Wellspring Advisors, LLC

Maitri Morarji is a Senior Program Officer in the Women’s Rights program at Wellspring Advisors. She coordinates the Land and Property Rights Initiative and oversees grants for international women’s movements. Prior to joining Wellspring in 2008, Maitri was Program Officer for East Africa at American Jewish World Service. Morarji has also conducted research in the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations on peacekeeping and conflict resolution for the first Annual Review of Global Peace Operations, published by the Center on International Cooperation. She was also the Development Officer for Foundation Relations at the Global Fund for Women, and a Policy Associate at Grameen Foundation USA. She currently serves on the Steering Committees of HRFN and the Research Consortium on Women’s Land Rights. A native of India and Sweden, Maitri received a bachelor’s in history from the University of California Berkeley and a Master’s degree in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.


Wanja Muguongo
Executive Director
UHAI – The East African Sexual Health & Rights Initiative

Wanja Muguongo is the Executive Director of UHAI – The East African Sexual Health & Rights Initiative (UHAI-EASHRI), an organization that addresses the structural and systemic discrimination and marginalization that people of non-conforming sexual orientation, sexual expression, and gender identity continue to face in Africa. A feminist and social justice activist, Wanja has spent her entire professional career working in human rights activism, mostly within the East African civil society sector, as well as India and Pakistan. Before founding UHAI-EASHRI, she worked at the Ufadhili Trust on its East African program on Community Resource Mobilization and Volunteering. Wanja has a master’s degree in sociology, and is fluent in English, Kiswahili, and Kikuyu. She has edited and collaborated on many publications and papers, and was a 2012 Yale World Fellow.


Regan E. Ralph
President and CEO
Fund for Global Human Rights

Regan E. Ralph is the president and CEO of the Fund for Global Human Rights and has directed the organization since its founding. Prior to launching the Fund, Regan was Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington D.C., where she led strategies to promote the quality and availability of health care for American women. From 1992-2001, Regan helped build and ultimately directed the Women’s Rights division of Human Rights Watch. A graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, she studied international law at the London School of Economics and Arabic at the American University in Cairo. Regan serves on the boards of EG Justice and WITNESS, the advisory council of the Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program at Georgetown University Law Center, the advisory committee of The Council for Global Equality, and the Global Practitioner Council at Stanford University’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship.


Dave Scamell
Director, International Advocacy
American Jewish World Service

Dave Scamell oversees AJWS’s advocacy to influence international policy institutions, including the U.N., and international funding organizations. He has more than 14 years’ experience in human rights advocacy, policy and grantmaking, having worked with civil society to advance the rights of marginalized communities in 27 countries around the world. Dave joined AJWS in 2014 as Associate Director for Sexual Health and Rights. Dave expanded the organization’s international advocacy work on early and child marriage and funding to the international LGBTI movement, while also supporting the grantmaking work of the sexual health and rights team. Prior to AJWS, Dave was a program officer with the Sexual Health and Rights Project at the Open Society Foundations, where he led the foundations’ work on the legal and health rights of trans people and sex workers. Before joining OSF, Dave worked for a number of years on sexual health and human rights policy and advocacy in Australia, with a particular focus on LGBT health and human rights. He holds a master’s in international human rights law from the University of Essex, as well as a bachelor’s in law and another in political science and international relations from the University of New South Wales.


Maria Amália Souza (co-chair)
Senior Advisor, Founder, and Former Executive Director
CASA Socio-Environmental Fund

Maria Amália Souza is dedicated to designing systemic strategies that assure philanthropic resources reach the most excluded and vulnerable grassroots communities. She is a founding steering committee member of the Brazilian Philanthropy Network for Social Justice and leads her organization in many global/regional funders coalitions. In 2016, Amalia was a finalist among 7 global leaders for the Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize on innovative philanthropy in the Global South. Her 30+ years of professional life include roles as Director of Member Services for the Association for Progressive Communications, International Communications Director for the Brazilian Union of Indian Nations, and Brazil Advisory Board Coordinator for Global Greengrants Fund. She has also worked with international NGOs, consulting with companies on their social investment assessments, and partnered with global grassroots networks. She is on the Advisory Board of The Ocean Foundation and is Board Chair for Nucleus of Information Technology Research and Training (NUPEF). Amália holds a degree in International Services & Development / Environmental Studies from World College West, participated in the Donnella Meadows Leadership Fellows Program, and trained in Biopsychology at Instituto Visão Futuro.


Mandy Van Deven
Communications Officer
Foundation for a Just Society

Mandy Van Deven uses data-informed, human-centered communications approaches to ensure that those most affected by injustice have the opportunity to tell their own stories. As the communications officer at Foundation for a Just Society, she developed an integrated communications strategy that includes: a holistic capacity building program created with and for grantee partners, launching a journalism grantmaking portfolio, and building the foundation’s identity and mission. A Southern expat, Mandy has lived in New York and Calcutta, where she’s leveraged her communications and organizational management skills on behalf of organizations such as International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region, High-Level Task Force for ICPD, Haiti Adolescent Girls Network, and Girls for Gender Equity. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Newsweek, Marie Claire, and Salon.