Kate Kroeger | Executive Director
On sabbatical 15 June – 15 September
Kate joined Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights as Executive Director in 2012, fulfilling a lifelong dream of pursuing her feminist activism at an organization dedicated to supporting women’s human rights defenders around the world. Kate is a seasoned advocate, grantmaker and strategist, bringing two decades of experience with grassroots human rights work and social justice philanthropy to her leadership of UAF.
Kate learned about grassroots activism in India, where she was a fellow with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada in rural Rajasthan and later worked in the Tansa Valley of Maharashtra. She then moved to New York City, where she spent twelve years funding human rights and social justice work globally, at NetAid (now part of Mercy Corps) and American Jewish World Service (AJWS), where she oversaw grants to over 450 grassroots organizations in 36 countries. Under her leadership, AJWS deepened its commitment to funding women’s rights activism, including support to young women, LBT women, indigenous women and ethnic and racial minorities. In an earlier incarnation as a policy wonk in the US government, Kate worked in the Department of Health and Human Services, and in the House of Representatives, where she focused on U.S. foreign policy in Asia and the Pacific.
Kate has earned degrees from McGill University, the London School of Economics, and New York University, and most recently received her Master’s in International Human Rights Law with Distinction from the University of Oxford. A board member of Prospera (the international network of women’s funds) and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, she speaks French and Hindi. She is a proud Canadian, and watches her country closely through rose colo(u)red binoculars, from her perch south of its border.
Shalini Eddens | Director of Programs
Acting Executive Director
Shalini’s passion for women’s health and rights is grounded in her deep belief for justice and equity. Shalini’s African American/India heritage and her strong sense of community and family are the compass by which she approaches her work. She has an extensive background in women’s health and rights, with over 15 years of leadership experience in the grassroots public health sector providing direct services, training, education and advocacy for women living with and affected by HIV. Previously, Shalini served as a Program Officer for the UN Foundation in Washington, D.C. where she oversaw a portfolio focused on advocacy and reproductive health. Shalini has spent most of her career working with HIV/AIDS civil society organizations domestically including; Project Inform, where she developed a curriculum for faith based leaders on HIV Science and Treatment and Women Organized to Respond to Life Threatening Diseases, she developed a national peer education and training program for women living with HIV that was replicated in domestically and globally. Shalini has expertise in training and capacity building, program monitoring and evaluation, and curriculum design. She has worked with women’s organizations globally in India, South Africa, and Mozambique to provide technical assistance on women centered HIV/AIDS programming. She holds a bachelor’s in sociology with a minor in African American studies from the University of California Davis and an M.P.H. from Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.
Nathalie Margi | Senior Advocacy Officer
On maternity leave until November 2019
Passionate about feminism and social justice, Nathalie is deeply committed to supporting grassroots human rights defenders and ensuring that global priorities are defined and driven by their experiences. Half-Polish and half-Lebanese, Nathalie was born and raised in Paris and has worked in France, the UK, the US, Tanzania, Vietnam, Haiti, Lebanon, and the DRC. She has engaged in international policy advocacy for women’s rights in NY with the Center for Women’s Leadership, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. With Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights, she managed projects on LGBTI rights and women’s leadership in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and launched programs in Lebanon to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in the context of the Syrian crisis. She also worked with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, taught an intensive college course on the UN, and helped organize workshops in the DRC to implement UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security at the local level. Nathalie earned an LL.M. in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law from the University of Essex and an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University.
Elsa Saade | Temporary Program Officer
Elsa Saade (Lebanon) is the current temporary Program Officer at Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights. She is also a student at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center pursuing a Masters’ Degree in Middle Eastern Studies with a focus on History, Media and Anthropology.
In parallel to her day to day work, Elsa is an Independent researcher, Independent Consultant and Digital Rights Trainer. A social and political activist working in the fields of campaigning, humanitarian assistance, advocacy, digital rights and capacity building, she is a Consultant at Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), and Generic Names Supporting Organization Councilor representing the Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group at ICANN.
She has also been active for several years in Lebanese civil society starting with grassroots activism in her university campus. Currently, she is engaging in several campaigns related to women’s rights and feminist movement building, war reconciliation with a particular emphasis on the case of the disappeared in Lebanon. Elsa has also gained well-founded experience in monitoring national and regional elections from Beirut with an independent observer organization, in youth leadership through capacity building and skills training, as well as peace-building.
Elsa is a member of several national, regional as well as international coalitions and communities such as the Feminist Network, the Women’s Network, the MENA coalition for WHRDs, and the Internet Society ambassadors, amongst others. Her passion and commitment to a wide range of human rights issues is driven by her dream for strategic and collective change in her region.
Huong Nguyen | Senior Learning & Impact Officer
Huong brings over 15 years of experience in community economic development, sexual and reproductive health, gender and philanthropy. Deeply influenced by her bi-cultural upbringing in the suburbs of New Orleans, Huong’s passion for social, economic and gender equality was shaped through the lens of growing up as a political refugee and immigrant from Vietnam within the complexities of local Louisiana politics. From experiencing first-hand the difficulties in a new country as a refugee to tutoring female prisoners in New Orleans as an undergrad student volunteer, these experiences inflamed her desire to work on gender and social justice issues. Huong has worked with different communities in the US and globally, including supporting Vietnamese refugees and immigrants in Boston to achieve economic self-sufficiency, partnering with grantees in South Asia to increase access to reproductive health and family planning and providing access to funding to local women’s groups to advance women’s rights. She has worked at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation as a Research Associate and Global Fund for Women as a Program Officer. Huong holds two graduate degrees from Boston University School of Public Health and the London School of Economics.
Raisa Borshchigova | Program Officer
Raisa, a Chechen born and raised human rights activist is hugely passionate, dedicated, and committed to working towards women’s safety, security, empowerment, and liberation from violence, persecution, and harm. Prior to joining UAF, Raisa worked for the North Caucasus’s largest civil society project, the Young Women’s Development Group, providing education to teenage girls. In 2016, she was awarded the Galina Starovoitova Fellowship at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in Washington, DC, where she took residence. There, she began to synthesize years of work on women’s and girl’s rights and LGBT rights as she embarked on transforming her first-hand experiences into academic research
Her teenage years coincided with two devastating wars that hit the Chechen region in 1994 and 1999. She studied French language and literature at the Chechen State University. As a student, she helped coordinate foreign journalists’ news coverage throughout Chechnya. In 2010 Raisa campaigned to stop attacks on women who were shot with rubber bullets and paintball guns by local armed men in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, for not wearing headscarves, falling victim to such attacks herself. During this time, she also wrote articles about women’s rights in the North Caucasus for the publication Open Democracy, a UK-based online media outlet.
Raisa has conducted various training sessions on integrated security for activists in the Northern Caucasus covering all aspects of defender security, devising strategies, and emergency grant application. She is focused on fighting for adolescent girls protection and empowerment; international advocacy on violence against women and girls and providing direct assistance as it pertains to women’s safety and security.
Belguun “Bella” Bat-Erdene | Grantmaking Coordinator
Belguun’s passion for human rights and feminism is deeply influenced by the strong women in her life. From a young age, she learned great life lessons from her grandmother’s and her single mother’s experience and became committed to advocating for economic, political and social equality for women all over the world. Belguun’s immigrant and minority women identity drives her to create sustainable social change where women and girls have the right to self-determination. She dreams of creating safe space for women in Mongolia and advancing gender equality.
Prior to joining the UAF, Belguun worked as a program manager for the largest ethnic chamber of commerce in California, the CalAsian Chamber of Commerce. She advocated for policies and legislation that support the minority communities and women-owned enterprises. She interned at the Consulate General of Mongolia, San Francisco researching strategies of economic and political development.
Belguun earned her M.A. in International Studies, focusing on Human Development from the University of San Francisco and B.A. in International Relations, focusing on Peace Keeping and Security from the University of California, Davis.
Kathleen Klock | Director of Partnerships
Kathleen has worked in nonprofit development for 15 years, helping to support and resource organizations working in New York City and nationally on issues including LGBTQI rights, empowerment for women and girls, opportunities for low-income youth, voting rights, and money in politics. At Lambda Legal, Kathleen supported LGBTQI legal advocacy and had an inside view of the marriage equality movement including the final victory at the US Supreme Court. In her formative years in non-profit development, Kathleen led fundraising for Row New York, a small nonprofit empowering and uplifting girls and young women through sports participation and academic support.
Kathleen’s roots are in the American Midwest, where she spent her childhood in Illinois farm country and later enjoyed short-term residency in Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Kathleen spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English to public school students in the eastern Himalayan foothills and later moved to Hokkaido, Japan to continue teaching English through the JET Program. These intense experiences of other cultures deeply inform Kathleen’s views on gender roles, gender equity, and global human rights.
Currently, Kathleen resides with her wife and two cats in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood, surrounded by parks. She holds a BA in rhetoric and cultural anthropology from the University of Illinois and an MFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University.
Laura Smith | Director of Finance & Operations
Laura has spent the past fifteen years supporting social justice activism through fiscal sponsorship and donor-advised giving. She is determined to continue that theme in her life and work, providing operational and system support to movements that are working for equity and supporting activists. Born in the Bay Area and raised in Central California, Laura feels privileged to live and work in a beautiful place with a thriving nonprofit sector committed to permanent social change.
Laura received a BA in Communications/Dramatic Arts from California State University, Fresno and an MFA in Theatre Directing from UC Davis. After a stint as Director of Operations for a small graphic design firm during the dot com boom, she decided her “day job” needed to be in service to more than money, and made a change to the nonprofit sector. She had the great fortune of work at the Tides Foundation, first as a Project Coordinator and eventually as Director of Operations, then lastly in a more program-focused role as Senior Director of Program Services for Community Initiatives.
Laura has also proudly supported new and independent theatre, serving as the Volunteer Coordinator for the SF International Fringe Festival, and as a board member for the Playwrights Center of San Francisco.
Alex Holy | Senior Finance Officer
Alex has worked to advance women’s human rights, civic engagement, and economic freedom for the past ten years. She was first inspired by seeing the microfinance movement’s impact on women entrepreneurs, and the immense power of investing in economically marginalized communities, using local knowledge to activate regional and global change.
She started her career interning for an international women’s human rights advocacy organization in Washington, DC, and an NGO promoting civic participation and education in Argentina. She has also studied in Egypt and worked in Ireland. Before joining UAF, Alex spent several years working closer to home in community development finance, both with microlenders and with larger institutions structuring investments in nonprofits that bring necessary services – like healthcare, education, and affordable housing – to historically redlined and underrepresented neighborhoods in the Bay Area and nationwide.
She is happy to return to the work of directly supporting gender-inclusive movements for justice worldwide. Alex holds an MBA/MPP from Mills College in Oakland, where she studied socially responsible finance and public policy.
Mahie Solomon | Operations Associate
Mahlet “Mahie” Solomon identifies as a Black/Ethiopian-American revolutionary intersectional feminist fairy. She pays homage to her mother, grandmother, younger sister, two brothers, uncles, and family, as she gives thanks to them for being her inspiration and light and evoking her energy for transformative justice.
Through the creation of her own community organization, she raised funds and awareness to stem the tide of child brides in her home country Ethiopia and throughout the global south. Channeling creative resilience she took an active role in strategizing how to eliminate gender inequalities, end domestic violence and uphold reproductive justice for young girls and womxn. In San Diego, CA—on Kumeyaay Land—as a Coordinator with Alliance for African Assistance, she acted as an advocate for refugee/asylum seekers. In her time at the University of San Diego she worked as a Teaching Assistant with youth of color and as a Community Organizer tackling issues of racial injustice, institutional racism, environmental racism, the school to prison pipeline, with speaking up for immigrant rights and showcasing that migration is beautiful—especially in the context of cross-border relations. Bringing the first Afrikan Union to her campus she cultivated a space for folks of the Afrikan diaspora (and allies) to come together and feel respected, valued and heard on campus and in the community.
Mahie studied International Relations and Ethnic Studies at the University of San Diego, and she is grateful to be a part of the UAF team and support the work of empowering human right’s defenders on a global scale dedicated to eradicating all forms of oppression and injustice. Basking in a radical realm of raised consciousness, she aspires to keep learning, listening, reigning resilient alongside black and brown queens sparking the revolution.