Professor Sakena Yacoobi co-founded Creating Hope International and is President and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL).

Yacoobi founded AIL in 1995 to provide teacher training to Afghan women, to support education for boys and girls, and to provide health education to women and children. Under Yacoobi’s leadership AIL has established itself as a groundbreaking, visionary organization that works at the grassroots level and empowers women and communities to find ways to bring education and health services to rural and poor urban girls, women and other poor and disenfranchised Afghans.

AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women. After the Taliban closed girls’ schools in the 1990s, AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls in Afghanistan. AIL was also the first organization that opened Women’s Learning Centers for Afghan women—a concept now copied by many organizations throughout the country. Using their grassroots strategies, AIL now serves 350,000 women and children each year through its Educational Learning Centers, schools and clinics in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sameena Nazir is the founding president of Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA), a women’s rights NGO working for the promotion and protection of human rights in rural areas of Pakistan since 2007. As an international development professional, she brings over 25 years of experience in designing and implementing rights-based programs on women’s empowerment, sustainable development, leadership skills and community resilience. She specializes in linking public policy with grassroots issues to design strategy solutions.

Sameena’s work contributes to the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Her current projects include advocacy for the “Right to Legal Identity” for rural women and minorities in Pakistan (SDG 16) and the “Right to Freedom of Movement” for Afghan refugees transiting through Pakistan after August 2021. Her in-depth understanding of gender issues and sustainable development processes has roots in her own life as a community activist that motivated her to start a community school and an organic agriculture farm in her native village in Chakwal, Pakistan as a teaching model for food security, community seed bank for rural women and small farmers.

Sameena is a recipient of the Benazir Bhutto Human Rights Defenders Award (2010) and InterAction Humanitarian Award (2009). She serves as Syndicate Member of University of Chakwal in Pakistan and as Pakistan Section president for Geneva based Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF). Since 1998, Sameena has led on-the-ground humanitarian and legal literacy projects for women and children in Afghanistan, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Pakistan and Yemen. She has directed a regional comparative study on women’s economic, social and political rights in 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa published in 2005 and available here. Sameena has worked at several international organizations including Networks of Change, USA (2016-2018), National Endowment for Democracy (2017), Freedom House (2003-2006) and International Human Rights Law Group in Washington DC (1998-2003). She started her career as a journalist in 1990 with Islamabad based daily The Muslim. Her landmark reporting on a custodial rape case (Bani police station 1992) led to the first ever rape conviction of a police officer in Rawalpindi.

Sameena is a master trainer on Gender and Social Cohesion. She has moderated meetings at all levels and made presentations at national and international forums including at the United Nations in New York, Geneva and at the World Economic Forum and universities across the globe. She completed a Master’s in International Agriculture & Rural Development from Cornell University. She also has an English and Law degree from the Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan.

Saru Jayaraman is the co-founder and President of One Fair Wage and Director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley. After 9/11, together with displaced World Trade Center workers, she co-founded the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), which grew into a national movement of restaurant workers, employers and consumers. She then launched One Fair Wage as a national campaign to end all subminimum wages in the United States. The story of Saru and her co-founder’s work founding ROC has been chronicled in the book The Accidental American, and the story of the One Fair Wage campaign has been profiled in the award winning documentary, Waging Change. Saru is a graduate of Yale Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

She was profiled in The New York Times “Public Lives” section in 2005, named one of Crain’s “40 Under 40” in 2008, was 1010 Wins’ “Newsmaker of the Year” and New York Magazine’s “Influentials” of New York City. Saru was listed in CNN’s “Top10 Visionary Women” and recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House in 2014, a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award in 2015, and the SF Chronicle ‘Visionary of the Year’ in 2019. She has appeared on CNN with Soledad O’Brien, Bill Moyers Journal on PBS, Melissa Harris Perry and UP with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, the Today Show, and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Saru is also the author of four books including her latest, One Fair Wage: Ending Subminimum Pay in America (The New Press, November 2021). Additional publications include Behind the Kitchen Door (Cornell University Press, 2013), Forked: A New Standard for American Dining (Oxford University Press, 2016), and Bite Back: People Taking on Corporate Food and Winning, (UC Press, 2020). She attended the Golden Globes in January 2018 with Amy Poehler as part of the Times Up action to address sexual harassment.

Gina Clayton-Johnson is the Founder and Executive Director at Essie Justice Group, launched in 2014 to harness the collective power of women with incarcerated loved ones to end mass incarceration’s harm to women and communities.

Gina has spent more than a decade advocating for Black communities as a community organizer in Los Angeles and witnessed the impact of incarceration on women both in her personal and professional life. Through the relationships she built with her clients at The Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, Gina recognized women who have loved ones behind bars face systemic patterns of harm. When someone she loves was sentenced to 20 years in prison, Gina began to look for organizations and publications that addressed criminal justice with a focus on women with incarcerated loved ones and found none. She founded Essie Justice Group for those women. Gina returned to California and recruited the 1 in 4 women and 1 in 2 Black women who have loved ones in prison to develop a model that both heals and unlocks the powerful advocacy potential of women with incarcerated loved ones.

At Essie, Gina’s award-winning, isolation-breaking Healing to Advocacy model facilitates journeys of collective healing, provides resources that offer beams of support to women and families during crisis, and develops leadership in women with incarcerated loved ones to become fierce advocates for transformational change.

In 2018, Gina led a research team to co-author Essie’s groundbreaking report Because She’s Powerful: The Political Isolation and Resistance of Women with Incarcerated Loved Ones to answer the question, “Is mass incarceration the largest barrier to gender justice today?” The report found that the impact of incarceration on women is psychologically and physiologically damaging, and that incarceration is an undetected or ignored driver of emotional, mental, and physical health crises among women. With this expertise, Essie’s Healing to Advocacy program, and staff culture and wellness approaches underscore the power of Black feminism, community, and Sisterhood.

Gina is also a formidable policy expert as the central architect for the BREATHE Act, the largest federal civil rights bill in history, through the Movement for Black Lives. The BREATHE Act also paved the way for the People’s Response Act, co-authored by Essie.

Gina is an Equal Justice Works Fellow, a Soros Justice Fellow, an Echoing Green Global Fellow, a Harvard Public Service Venture Fellow, and a JMK Innovation Prize Awardee. Gina was named “Top 14 Women Who Rocked 2014” by Colorlines, a San Francisco Magazine Soldier of Social Change in their “Women In Power Issue,” one of the “Woke 100 Women” by Essence Magazine, and is a 2016 recipient of JustLeadershipUSA’s Redefining Justice Award. Gina is also featured in Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed Netflix documentary 13th.

Kamilah Willingham is writer, national activist, and civil rights advocate. Kamilah’s work is grounded in advancing the rights of survivors of sexual violence in prisons, schools, and beyond, highlighting the culture of silence and inequity that dominates social and systemic responses to gender-based violence. In 2016 Kamilah spearheaded the viral social media campaign, #JustSaySorry. This campaign encouraged survivors of campus sexual assaults and gender-based violence to petition for an apology from their institutions, calling attention to the resilience of survivors and the failures of schools to to submit to basic measures of accountability.

Kamilah investigates the consequences of patriarchy and misogyny, at the intersections of race and sex, and illustrates how our culture, norms and institutions are complicit in this abuse. Kamilah has trained a variety of stakeholders, from prison guards to campus officials, on their responsibilities to prevent and address sexual violence among their ranks and within their environments. Through this work, Kamilah invites audiences to explore healing from trauma as a path to resistance and revolution. Through her nuanced and personal perspective Kamilah helps audiences imagine alternative systems for healing and reconciliation outside of our justice system.

Since graduating Harvard Law School in 2011, Kamilah’s scholarship has been published in Teen Vogue, VICE, Huffpost, The Nation, The Establishment, and others. Kamilah shared her personal experience of surviving sexual assault and civil rights violations as a student at Harvard Law School in the award-winning 2015 documentary THE HUNTING GROUND. She currently sits on the board of the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition and is a mother of two.

Mónica Ramírez is a long-time advocate, organizer, and attorney fighting to eliminate gender-based violence and secure gender equity. For over two decades, she has fought for the civil and human rights of women, children, and immigrants. In 2003, Mónica created the first legal project in the United States dedicated to addressing gender discrimination against farmworker women, which she later expanded to create Esperanza: The Immigrant Women’s Legal Initiative of the Southern Poverty Law Center. In 2014, Mónica founded Justice for Migrant Women to provide technical assistance to lawyers, advocates, political leaders and law enforcement on addressing workplace sexual violence, as well as other issues confronting migrant women. She is also a co-founder of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (The National Farmworker Women’s Alliance), which is the first national farmworker women’s organization in the US.

In November 2017, Mónica wrote a letter to women in the entertainment industry on behalf of Alianza that was published in TIME magazine and has been credited with helping to spark the TIME’S UP movement. In 2018, she attended the Golden Globes with Laura Dern as a part of the TIME’S UP action. Mónica is a leader in efforts to build a cross sector movement to end workplace sexual violence. She has also been recognized as a prominent voice in advancing the rights of low-paid workers, immigrants and women in the United States.

Mónica has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work, including Harvard Kennedy School’s inaugural Gender Equity Changemaker Award, the Feminist Majority’s Global Women’s Rights Award, and Forbes Mexico included her on its 2018 list of 100 Powerful Women, among other recognitions. In November 2018, she was awarded the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award for Social Progress on behalf of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas for the “Dear Sisters” letter and their role in the TIME’S UP movement.

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda from Zimbabwe is a trained human rights lawyer with extensive experience in conflict resolution and mediation.

For some twenty years, she has worked to advance women and children’s human rights, with a special focus on crisis countries and addressing issues of violence against women, peace with justice, property rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV. Since 2007, Gumbonzvanda has been the General Secretary of the World YWCA, a global movement of 25 million women and girls in over 120 countries.

Prior to this, she served for ten years with the United Nations with UNICEF and UNIFEM and was a member of the UN Civil Society Advisory Group on 1325. She has previously worked with the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association and in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in Zimbabwe. Gumbonzvanda has a master’s degree in private law with specialisation in constitutional property law from the University of South Africa and completed postgraduate work on conflict resolution at Uppsala University, Sweden.

She serves on various boards of development organisations including Action Aid International and Save the Children UK and the steering committee for Girls Not Brides. Gumbonzvanda is also on the High Level Group on HIV Prevention and Sexual health for young people in Eastern and Southern Africa, advisor to the Dutch Government in the planning of the Human Rights Thematic Forum for ICPD+20 and currently serves as Chair of CIVICUS and the NGO Committee on the Status of Women in Geneva.