Kate Kroeger | Executive Director
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 member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former fellow at the Aspen Institute, 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
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, strong sense of community and family are the compass to how 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. Previoulsy, Shalini served as a Program Officer for the UN Foundation in Washington, D.C. where she oversees a portfolio focusing 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.
Caitlin Stanton | Director of Partnerships
Caitlin works to increase the quality and quantity of resources available to frontline advocates for the human rights of women and girls. Previously, she held several positions with the Global Fund for Women, including launching its learning and evaluation program and working on the successful $20 million Investing in Women campaign. She previously served on the Board of Directors of IDEX, a funder of sustainable economic justice, and as an Advisor for Akili Dada, a Kenya/US based leadership program for girls. She holds a BA from Mills College and an MPA from San Francisco State University and also completed the School for International Training’s program in South Africa. Caitlin tweets about nonprofits, evaluation, data, and philanthropy at @caitstan.
Meerim Ilyas | Senior Program Officer
Meerim brings with her a diverse range of experiences, including indigenous rights, environmental justice and women’s access to land title. She joins Urgent Action Fund from her role as a researcher at Landesa, a non-profit organization based in Seattle, which advocates for land rights for the world’s poorest families. She previously worked at Pacific Environment, where she partnered with indigenous communities in Alaska and Russia to help them mitigate the impacts of natural resource extraction projects. In 2008 she moved to Timor-Leste, where she spent two years working with the Alola Foundation, a local women’s organization, and as an environmental specialist at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Meerim has a particular interest in addressing gender-based impacts of climate change, as well as finding tangible, locally driven solutions to improving the status of women in the Muslim world. Meerim is originally from Kyrgyzstan, and speaks fluent Russian and Kyrgyz. She holds a Master’s of Public Affairs from the University of Washington and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of San Francisco.
Nathalie Margi | Senior Advocacy Officer
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.
Huong Nguyen | Sr. 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.
Soo K. Uhm | Sr. Leadership Giving Officer
Soo’s understanding of feminism is integrally tied to growing up as one of five daughters in a traditional immigrant family in a small town in Maryland. Ultimately, she rebelled and went on to create her own major in women’s studies at St. Mary’s College (Maryland) where she received her Bachelor’s degree. Soon after graduation, she moved to Korea and among other positions, worked as a refugee coordinator with a local NGO in conjunction with the UNHCR. She received a master’s degree in international development from The Graduate School of International Studies, Ewha Women’s University.
Soo has taught English as a second language, facilitated leadership programs for middle school students in Washington D.C. and worked closely with clients in the finance sector in New York. She is currently studying acupuncture part-time at the Tri-State College of Acupuncture in the hopes to help more individuals find some tranquility in mind and body. She is a proud sister to her amazing siblings and a proud daughter to one of the toughest and bravest moms around, as well to a dad that provided her the spirit of activism.
Olivia Trabysh | Development & Communications Coordinator
Olivia’s exposure to women’s human rights began with her own dichotomous heritage. She hails from both a Canadian metropolis with Eastern European roots and a small, isolated city in Northern Texas with the largest per capita refugee population in the state. As the product of such experiences and as a daughter of an American mother and adoptive Ukrainian Canadian father, Olivia has been consumed with deconstructing layers of privilege and holding space for diverse voices for much of her life. Olivia comes to the Urgent Action Fund from the Amarillo Area Foundation, a community foundation focused on improving quality of life in the 26 northernmost counties of the Panhandle of Texas. She also served the Amarillo community as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in the foster care system, sexual assault advocate for Northwest Texas Hospital, and member of various committees and boards dedicated to celebrating and protecting LGBTQ youth, women’s reproductive rights, and members of marginalized communities.
Olivia holds a Bachelor’s of English Literature with an emphasis in Political Science and Art History from West Texas A&M University. She also studied in Rwanda and Uganda to learn more about the sociopolitical complexities impeding the stabilization of the East African Great Lakes Region.
Laura Smith | Finance & Human Resources Manager
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.
Yvonne Leland | Operations Manager
Yvonne comes to UAF with a solid background in activism. Yvonne started out as a volunteer for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in New York City. Soon after, she joined the staff of United for Peace and Justice, the peace coalition responsible for organizing worldwide anti-war demonstrations, on February 15, 2003. Yvonne remained with UFPJ for four years as the Manager of Finances before taking a position at the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO), where she continued with finance and administration work, supporting the global peace process. Finally saying goodbye to the Big Apple, Yvonne relocated in Portland, Oregon, where she worked for the University of Oregon for four years. Alas, her Bay Area roots called her back home. Yvonne holds a Master’s of Public Administration, geared towards non-profit management, and a passion for peace and social justice.