Who We Are

Journalism Initiative on Gender-Based Violence Team


Krishanti Dharmaraj, executive director, is a feminist and human rights activist with over 25 years of experience working to advance the rights of women and girls. She is the founder of the Dignity Index, a human rights measurement tool utilized to ensure equity and inclusion to reduce identity-based discrimination. Previously, Ms. Dharmaraj was the Western Regional Spokesperson for Amnesty International USA. She is also the co-founder of WILD for Human Rights (Women’s Institute for Leadership Development) and the Sri Lanka Children’s Fund.

Ms. Dharmaraj serves on the Steering Committee for the Feminist Alliance for Rights and the Board of Directors of IDEX; is a member of the Spotlight Civil Society Global Reference Group; a Trustee of THIRST (The International Roundtable for Sustainable Tea) and the North East Women’s Network in Sri Lanka; and is on the Advisory Boards of Amnesty International, the Human Rights Project of the Urban Justice Center, South Asia Democracy Watch, and Machik (an organization enhancing the wellbeing of those living in Tibet). She has also served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International; Women, Law and Development; Horizons Foundation; and the Center for Asian Pacific Women.

Under her leadership, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to pass legislation implementing an international human rights treaty. As a result of passing CEDAW in San Francisco, the city implemented a gender analysis in departments that assessed employment, programming and service delivery, and resource allocation. Currently, this public policy strategy is being implemented in cities across the United States. She has received numerous awards for her cutting-edge work, conducted training and lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad.

Ms. Dharmaraj has an MBA from the Haas School of Business, University of California, at Berkeley.


Cathy Otten is the Senior Program Lead for CWGL's Journalism Initiative on Gender-Based Violence. Cathy is an award-winning British journalist and author of With Ash On Their Faces: Yezidi Women and the Islamic State (OR books 2017). The Los Angeles Review of Books described With Ash on Their Faces as: "The best kind of humanist journalism: lucid, transparent, grimly realistic.… (N)o book has covered it better.” Cathy worked as a reporter in the UK, and then as a correspondent in Iraq for the Independent and others. In her book-length work, Cathy wrote about trans generational resistance to slavery among Iraq’s Yezidis, and presented a political economy for Sinjar in the years before the IS massacres in 2014. In 2018, she won the One World Media New Voice Award and was a finalist for the Kurt Schork Memorial Award for courage in journalism. Since then, Cathy has published a series of investigations into corruption at Balad airbase in Iraq, and an investigative feature into the murder of a prominent female activist in Baghdad. Her journalism has been supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Carey Institute in New York, where she was a Nonfiction Writing Fellow in Spring 2018. Portrait by Alice Martins.


Melissa Upreti, Senior Director, Program and Global Advocacy. Melissa is a human rights lawyer and women’s rights advocate who has spent nearly two decades advocating for the recognition and fulfillment of women’s rights through the use of national, regional, and international law and mechanisms. She has led fact-finding missions, undertaken strategic litigation, built the capacity of civil society organizations and provided technical support for law reform to governments in Asia.

Ms. Upreti started her career working for a feminist legal advocacy organization and The Asia Foundation in Nepal. Upon receiving her LL.M. from Columbia Law School in the United States, she joined the Center for Reproductive Rights where she was the founding attorney of the Asia program. Building on the success of a series of capacity building initiatives on strategic litigation in India and Nepal focusing on maternal mortality and access to safe abortion, she led the conceptualization and launch of the South Asia Reproductive Justice and Accountability Initiative which has resulted in precedent setting cases on contraceptive access and obstetric fistula in Asia. She actively facilitated and participated in the first CEDAW Special Inquiry in Asia in 2012 and was co-petitioner in the landmark case, Lakshmi Dhikta v. NepaI, which recognized access to abortion as a constitutionally protected right. She has worked closely with regional mechanisms to advance women's reproductive rights including the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to strengthen regional commitments to end child marriage and played a key role in bringing about the adoption of the Kathmandu Call for Action to End Child Marriage in South Asia in 2014. Ms. Upreti has written and lectured extensively about women’s reproductive rights and the importance of legal accountability. Her articles and other publications on women's reproductive rights and discriminatory practices such as child marriage have been used by activists to develop legal strategies and in courses on human rights.

Ms. Upreti is a Fellow in the University of Toronto Law Faculty's International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program and currently Senior Director of Program and Global Advocacy at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University in the United States. At CWGL, she oversees and provides strategic guidance on the development and implementation of program initiatives and advocacy strategies. She is currently Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls.


Global Journalism Initiative Advisory Group



  • Nupur Basu (Independent journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker, India)
  • Evi Mariani (Co-founder and chief editor of Project Multatuli, a journalism initiative focusing on serving the marginalized in Indonesia. Former Managing Editor at the Jakarta Post)


  • Lorena Allam (Indigenous Affairs Editor, The Guardian Australia)
  • Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki (Former radio and TV presenter and producer, Tonga)


  • Milia Eidmouni (Independent journalist and media & gender trainer, co- founder of the Syrian Female Journalists Network)


  • Aimee Vega Montiel (Chair of UNESCO Global Alliance on Media and Gender; Women’s human rights and media scholar, Nayional Autonomous University of Mexico)
  • Mona Lisa Dourado (Former reporter and executive editor at the Jornal do Commercio Communication System of Pernambuco, Brazil)


  • Liz Ford (Deputy Editor of The Guardian’s Global development website, London)


  • Tarisai Nyamweda (Media and Communications Manager, Gender Links, Johannesburg-based Southern Africa NGO)


Partner Organizations