Board of Directors

Urgent Action Fund is led by an activist Board of Directors, who represent communities around the world. Urgent Action Fund’s decision-making is grounded in an international, feminist framework. Board members play a critical role in advising the Rapid Response Grants program as well as guiding the strategic direction of the organization.

Patricia Viseur Sellers, Chair

United States and Belgium

profpattisellersPatricia is the Special Advisor on Sexual and Gender-based Violence to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and a Visiting Fellow at Kellogg College at the University of Oxford. Ms. Sellers is widely published on sexual violence in armed conflict and advises governments, international organizations, and civil society groups on international criminal law. From 1994-2007, she served as Prosecutor and Legal Advisor for Gender at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She was the chief legal strategist in the landmark cases of Furundzija, Akayesu, and Kunarac—cases that recognized rape and sexual violence as war crimes. She was honored with the American Society of International Law’s Prominent Women in International Law Award. Recently, she consulted on the PBS series, Women, War, and Peace.

Maryam Al-Khawaja, Vice Chair


Maryam Al-KhawajaMaryam Al-Khawaja works as a Special Advisor on Human Rights with NGOs and is on the Board of the International Service for Human Rights. She previously served as the Co-Director for the Gulf Center for Human Rights and as the Acting President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights Maryam played an instrumental role in the democratic protests taking place in Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout in February 2011, which triggered a government response of widespread extrajudicial killings, arrests, and torture. Due to her work, she has been subjected to assault, threats, defamation campaigns, imprisonment, and an unfair trial. 

A leading voice for human rights and political reform in Bahrain and the Gulf region, Maryam has been influential in shaping official responses to the atrocities in Bahrain around the world by engaging with prominent European and American policymakers. Maryam has received numerous awards for her human rights work, including the Rafto Prize. The Al-Khawaja family was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013Maryam talks about all things #HRDs on Twitter and Facebook.

Dorianna Blitt, Treasurer

United States

Dorianna Blitt is a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study where she concentrated on the intersection of neoliberalism and human rights. During her time at NYU Dorianna conducted research internationally on women’s human rights Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with a focus on economic rights. This has informed her current involvement in the field of impact investing. Dorianna had an internship with Urgent Action Fund in 2014 and she currently serves on the UAF investment committee.

Charlotte Bunch, Secretary

United States

CharlotteBunch.bioAn activist, author, and organizer in women’s and human rights movements for over four decades, Charlotte is the Founding Director and Senior Scholar at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University. She is the author of numerous essays and books and has edited or co-edited nine anthologies including the Center’s reports on the UN Beijing Plus 5 Review and the World Conference Against Racism. Charlotte’s contributions to women’s human rights movement have been recognized by many. She is a recipient of the White House Eleanor Roosevelt Award, a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and was one of the “1000 Women PeaceMakers” nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ruth Baldacchino, Board Member


Ruth Baldacchino is a trans, queer and feminist activist from Malta with extensive experience in community organizing, international LGBTIQ activism, and LGBTIQ research. Their human rights work started with the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement. Ruth is currently ILGA World Co-Secretary General and has served on a number of boards including IGLYO, ILGA World, and ILGA-Europe.

Ruth leads the Intersex Human Rights Fund at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for 

Justice. Prior to joining Astraea, Ruth worked on passing the groundbreaking global comprehensive law banning intersex ‘normalizing’ surgeries and treatments (including intersex genital mutilation) Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sex Characteristics Act (GIGESC Act). Ruth also worked on trans, intersex, migrants integration in Malta and co-developed an education policy for trans, gender diverse and intersex children in Malta, making Malta the first country in Europe to publish a comprehensive education policy focusing specifically on trans and intersex children. Ruth holds an M.A. in Women’s

Studies from University College Dublin and a B.A. (Honours) in Sociology from the University of Malta. They are a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology/Gender Studies and lecture Queer Studies at the University of Malta.

Paola Salwan Daher, Board Member


Photo of Paola Salwan DeharPaola Salwan Daher is the global advocacy adviser at the Geneva Office of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy organization that uses the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right. Her work focuses on advocacy with the Human Rights Council and on issues of sexual and reproductive health and the rights of women and girls affected by conflict. Prior to joining the Center for Reproductive Rights, Paola worked on human rights in the MENA region as a UN Advocacy Representative at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and as a Policy Officer at the Collective for Training on Development- Action in Beirut.

A feminist activist, Paola was a member of the Feminist Collective Nasawiya in Lebanon, where she worked on many initiatives pertaining to sexual and reproductive rights, violence against women, and refugees and migrant women’s rights in Lebanon. She is also a writer and has contributed to many outlets such as Sawt Al NiswaYoung Feminist Wire, Solidarités, Al Akhbar, and others. Paola has also published two novels.

Val Napoleon, Board Member


Dr. Val Napoleon is a Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria where she established and directs the Indigenous Law Research Unit, and dual JD and Indigenous law degree program. Val’s current research focuses on Indigenous legal traditions, legal theories, feminisms, citizenship, self-determination, and governance. Val is a Provost’s Engaged Community Scholar, Law Foundation Chair of Aboriginal Justice and Governance, and from Saulteau First Nation (BC Treaty 8). She is also an adopted member of the House of Luuxhon, Ganada, from Gitanyow (northern Gitxsan).

Val works with Indigenous community partners across Canada on a range of Indigenous law research projects ranging from Indigenous water law, harms and injuries, gender in Indigenous law, and lands and resources. She also works with several national and international Indigenous law research initiatives. Val is an internationally published and acclaimed author, artist, and lecturer on Indigenous feminist legal studies, transsystemic property, Indigenous legal theories, and Indigenous legal methodologies.

Wanda Nowicka, Board Member


Wanda Nowicka is a Polish activist in the field of women’s rights and health, especially human rights since the beginning of the 1990s. During 2011-2015, Nowicka served as an elected Member of the Polish Parliament (Sejm) and its Deputy Speaker. Since 2012, Nowicka has been a member of the High-Level Task Force for the UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), co-chaired by former Presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Tarja Halonen of Finland.

She is a co-founding member of the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning – a pro-choice Polish NGO advocating for reproductive rights. Currently, she is the Honorary President of the Federation. Nowicka is also a founding member of ASTRA – Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. She is the author of many articles and papers on women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health, and rights published in Poland and internationally. In 2008, Nowicka was awarded the University-in-Exile Award by the New School in recognition for her engagement in the struggle for women’s reproductive rights. In the academic year, 2017-18  Nowicka studied bioethics, medical law, and philosophy at Warsaw University, where she also lectures, and at Sorbonne, Paris.

Milena Abrahamyan, Board Member


Milena Abrahamyan is a feminist peace and justice activist based in Armenia. In the past, she has worked with a number of civil society organizations focusing on women’s rights and advocacy, peace-building, conflict transformation, and philanthropy. She has published research on topics related to feminist peace, the culture of peace, women’s NGOs, and militarized masculinity. Some of the projects she is most passionate about including the feminist solidarity and trust-building initiative she co-founded in 2012 with Turkish, Kurdish, and Armenian peers and all previous projects she has been involved in, which used performance art, healing modalities, and body movement as methods to build a more collective context. Milena holds a Bachelor’s degree in Women and Gender Studies and a Master’s in Peace and Conflict Research and has been the recipient of the Rotary Peace Fellowship as well as the Atlantic Fellowship for Social and Economic Equity.

Former Board Members

Mariam Gagoshashvili, former Urgent Action Fund Board Member

Sunila Abeysekera, former Urgent Action Fund Board Chair
Sri Lanka

Chela Blitt, former Urgent Action Fund Board Member
United States of America

Ariane Brunet, Urgent Action Fund Co-founder

Kamala Chandrakirana, former Urgent Action Fund Vice Chair

Hope Chigudu, former Chair of the Board Urgent Action Fund-Africa

Jelena Dordevic, former Urgent Action Fund Board Secretary

Eleanor Douglas, former Executive Director Urgent Action Fund-Latin America

Marta Drury, former Urgent Action Fund Board Member,
United States

Amalia Fischer, former Urgent Action Fund Board Vice Chair

Terry Greenblatt, former Urgent Action Fund Executive Director
Israel/United States

Xiaopei He, former Urgent Action Fund Board Member

Anissa Helie, former Urgent Action Fund Board Vice Chair
Algeria and France

Rachel-Alouki Labbé, former Urgent Action Fund Board Member,
First Nations of Canada – Abenaki

Kaari Betty Murungi, former Urgent Action Fund-Africa Executive Director

Nadine Moawad, former Urgent Action Fund Board Member

Vahida Nainar, current Board Member Urgent Action Fund-Africa

Indai Lourdes Sajor, former Urgent Action Fund Board Member

Margaret Schink, Urgent Action Fund Co-founder
United States of America

Julie Shaw, Urgent Action Fund Co-founder and former Urgent Action Fund Executive Director
United States of America

Rita Thapa, former Urgent Action Fund Board Member

Rachel Wareham, former Urgent Action Fund Board Member

“An activist fund is one that speaks truth to power, and is able to prioritise and represent trends and colours from women who are often excluded from being heard because of language/culture/class/ethnic differences.”

-Rachel Wareham, Former Board Member