• Get news and resources for human rights grantmakers. Subscribe Now

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:


Ana Valéria Araújo
Executive Director
Brazil Human Rights Fund

Ana Valéria, a Brazilian attorney, is the founding Executive Director of the Brazil Human Rights Fund, a position she has held since 2006. Prior to this, Ana served as the Executive Director of the Rainforest Foundation where she developed advocacy, policy and educational strategies to promote the rights of Indigenous peoples in Latin American countries. Ana began her career in Washington, D.C., as a human rights intern at the Indian Law Resource Center before she returned to Brazil in 1989 to work for the Nucleus for Indigenous Rights (NDI), the first Brazilian NGO to bring cases on behalf of Indigenous peoples to the country’s Federal Courts. Ana Valéria graduated from the University of Rio de Janeiro State in 1984 and received her Master’s in International Legal Studies from the Washington College Law at American University in 1987.


Lesley Carson (co-chair)
Director, International Human Rights Program
Wellspring Advisors, LLC

Lesley Carson is the Director of the International Human Rights Program of Wellspring Advisors, LLC. Prior to joining Wellspring, Lesley was an independent consultant working with human rights groups including Human Rights First, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, the Columbia University Center for the Study of Human Rights, and the Center for Economic and Social Rights. For six years, she served as founding director of Forefront, a training and advocacy network of frontline human rights defenders in thirty countries. She also spent time in Washington, working for Senator Patrick Leahy on the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee and lobbying for Amnesty International-USA. Lesley specialized in Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs while earning a Master of International Affairs at Columbia, and has a BA from Harvard.


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.


Annie Hillar (co-chair)
Learning and Evaluation Specialist
Mama Cash

Annie is the Learning and Evaluation Specialist at Mama Cash. Her role is to develop 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.


Michael Hirschhorn
Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation

President of the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, Michael Hirschorn directed International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) from 2008-2014. Prior to directing IHRFG, Michael was Executive Director of the Coro New York Leadership Center from 2003-2008. Earlier, from 1995-2001, he served as Executive Director of the Literacy Assistance Center in New York City. He was an Assistant to the Chancellor of the NYC Public Schools and a Visiting Non-Profit Executive at Yale’s School of Management. Michael serves as President of the trustees of the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, and also serves on the boards of several rights-related and educational non-profit organizations. Michael received his BA from Yale University in 1981 and his MBA & MSW from Columbia University in 1989. He has served on IHRFG’s steering committee since 2002.


Mary Miller Flowers
Senior Program Officer, Human Rights Initiative
Open Society Foundations

Mary Miller Flowers is a Senior Program Officer for the Human Rights Initiative at the Open Society Foundations. In this role Mary manages a global grantmaking and advocacy program focused on improving access to justice for indigent criminal defendants. She also collaborates closely with colleagues on questions related to drug policy, disability rights, and the right to information. Prior to joining the Foundations, Mary directed the Carter Center’s Rule of Law program in Liberia for three years, where she managed community paralegals and civil society organizations in providing legal aid and human rights education throughout the country. Mary holds an MA in International Affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and a MS in Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory 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.


Diana Samarasan (co-chair)
Disability Rights Fund

Diana has over fifteen years of experience in disability, international health and human rights. In her previous position, Diana directed the Mental Disability Advocacy Center in Budapest, Hungary, a legal advocacy organization which litigates abuses of rights of persons with mental disabilities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Previous to this position, she worked with the American Refugee Committee and Doctors of the World, addressing issues such as access of vulnerable populations to reproductive health services, tuberculosis control, and deinstitutionalization. Diana has advanced degrees in Public Administration and Psychology, and is a Board member of the United States International Council on Disability and on the Steering Committee of New England International Donors.