The Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist (TFVSA) Program brings to CEW+ a social justice activist whose work affects women and recognizes gender equity issues. One goal of the program is to build the capacity and effectiveness of social activists. This is accomplished by giving the TFVSA time, space, and support to work on a project that would not be possible under the activist’s usual working circumstances.

Learn more about the TFVSA Program

Caroline R. Mwochi: 2023-24

Caroline Rucah

Caroline R. Mwochi is a 36-year-old feminist and a human rights defender advocating for safe spaces and access for all persons including LGBTQ+ persons. As a pansexual, non-binary person, they center intersectional feminism at the core of all their advocacy actions. Caroline is currently a co-founder and Executive Director of LETS BE TESTED QUEENS also known as Western Kenya LBQT Feminist Forum – WKLFF.

Caroline has over 16 years of experience in working on human rights for all and has vast experience in movement building, mental health, sexual reproductive health and rights, policy advocacy, building public support, media engagement, working with national, regional, and international mechanisms, needs assessment, program and project management, financial management, project development, and resource mobilization.

She has engaged with regional and international instruments including the International Conference for Population Development (ICPD), the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), the UN, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). She has also had several engagements with the Dutch, Belgian, Canadian, Danish, Swedish, and Finnish governments as well as the EU parliament.

She is the current chairperson for the Western Kenya LBQ Organizations Collective and is the chairperson emeritus of the Right Here Right Now One (RHRN 1) platform in Kenya. She has been involved in the development of the National AIDS and HIV Control Program (NASCOP), Standard Operating Procedures and Manual for Religious Leaders Engagement, and the development of a mental health manualized program (WEMA) for sexual and gender minorities. She was also part of a research by the William Institute School of Law – Sexual and Gender Minorities in Western Kenya. She is one of the publishers and brains behind the conception for ‘Herdithi’ a heart-wired publication for lived reality stories of LBQITGNC persons in western Kenya. Caroline is also one of the publishers of Mental Health Challenges and Needs among Sexual and Gender Minority People in Western Kenya: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/18/3/1311/pdf.

The following video highlights the impact of being named the 2024 CEW+ Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist (TFVSA). Listen and watch as Caroline Rucah shares highlights from her month-long visit to Ann Arbor. To learn more about the Western Kenya LBQT Feminist Forum, follow them on Instagram at @wklff.lbqt.

Click here to view:

Hyeladzira James Mshelia: 2022-23

HyeladziraHyeladzira James Mshelia is based in Abuja, Nigeria, and is a Programs Associate at Connected Development (CODE) with technical and programmatic management skills in designing and implementing gender equality, environmental and climate-related projects, policy influencing, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene campaigns across Africa. Motivated by her background in leading strategic campaigns, her role at CODE spurs transparency and accountability in governance while urging citizens to track and monitor government projects in their communities. In CODE, she has prioritized leading campaigns that address issues affecting women and girls including gender-responsive budgeting, girl-child education campaigns, and campaigns to eliminate all forms of violence targeted toward women and girls. Her activism is focused on Women’s Rights to position African women’s rights globally through building a Gender Advocate Movement in Africa (GAMA) with the goal of achieving the United Nations Sustainable Goal 5: gender equality and empowering all women and girls. While in residence in Ann Arbor Hyeladzira will work on a campaign to provide a coherent framework and digital platform that seeks to mobilize and empower 500 Gender Advocates (GA) across Africa to consolidate, collaborate, educate, learn and engage on local issues affecting them. View the Gender Advocate Toolkit here.

Autumn R. Green: 2022-23

Autumn GreenDr. Autumn R. Green has worked conducting research to inform advocacy for two decades, building her professional reputation as a groundbreaking scholar-activist and national leader in postsecondary access and success for pregnant and parenting students. She currently leads research and impact projects as a fellow at the Urban Institute and teaches an intergenerational learning seminar at College Unbound. Her work has been widely honored, receiving national awards from the Russell Sage Foundation, the American Association of University Women, Sociologists for Women in Society, the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, the Patsy Takemoto Mink Legacy Award, and multiple institutional recognitions. She is co-leading the launch of the SPARK Collaborative (Student Parent Action through Research Knowledge), a decentralized national partnership that aims to accelerate transformational field-level change for student caregivers through strategic coordination, knowledge sharing, data, and information resources, and by building a body of new research that centralizes and centers lived experience as critical expertise to change educational equity and opportunity systems for students with kids. During her residency in Ann Arbor, Dr. Green will leverage her expertise to advise CEW+ on how to enhance their work advocating and supporting student caregivers through research partnerships, exchanging wisdom with U-M student caregivers and CEW+ communities, and seeking input about SPARK’s nationwide strategies.

Theresa Anderson: 2021-22

Dr. Theresa Anderson is a senior researcher at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social policy research organization located in Washington, DC. Dr. Anderson has led teams for over 10 years conducting mixed-methods research on important policy issues with the goals of reducing social inequity and promoting social justice. She is building a body of work on parenting students to inform policies that help support family well-being as parents pursue and achieve their education goals. She earned her MPP and PhD from George Washington University and is an Ann Arbor native.

Dr. Anderson will examine how resources, supports, and policies in areas like higher education, the social safety net, tax policy, child care, the labor market, and PK-12 education account for and serve Michigan families in which a parent is pursuing a college degree. From this work, she will provide insights on policy and practice changes that would make it easier for parenting students in the state and specifically in the U-M system to meet their education goals.


Click here to view Dr. Anderson’s capstone presentation given at the 2022 CEW+ Annual Advocacy Symposium.

Dessa Cosma: 2019-21

Circular portrait of Dessa sitting in her wheelchair in front of a mural with different color pinks & blues in pattern. She smiles in a black tee shirt with blue dangling earrings. She has long blonde hair and light skin. Her arms come together in front of her lap with her fingers interlaced.Dessa Cosma grew up in the Deep South, splitting her time between New Orleans, LA, and Augusta, GA. She’s been a social justice activist for as long as she can remember, starting her environmental, LGBTQ, and reproductive justice efforts in high school. She attended the University of Georgia and earned bachelor’s degrees in International Affairs, Women’s Studies, and Anthropology. After graduation, Dessa moved to Detroit to work as the Senior Field Organizer for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan.

In 2014, Dessa graduated with a Masters in Social Justice from Marygrove College. At that time, she was the Michigan Program Director for the Center for Progressive Leadership, training hundreds of activists, candidates, and campaign managers across the state. She then became the Executive Director of the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan, which she helped to start in collaboration with some of Detroit’s most dedicated economic and racial justice champions. Since 2017, Dessa has been a facilitator with Allies for Change, which provides anti-oppression education, training, and resources for individuals and organizations committed to social change. She was a University of Michigan Center for the Education of Women+ Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist from 2017-2021 and is a founding design team member of the Transforming Power Fund.

In 2018, Dessa started Detroit Disability Power to grow the organizing power of the disability community and to continue bridging the gap between the disability community and larger social justice movements. She has particular interest in disability-focused political work that is grounded in anti-racism and economic justice. Click here to read more about Dessa.

During Dessa’s time as a Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist, she came to the University of Michigan Museum of Art in January 2020 to discuss the Japanese artist Mari Katayama, whose work was on display at UMMA, click here to read about the event.

Wai Wai Nu: 2018-19

Wai Wai NuWai Wai Nu is the director and founder of Women Peace Network. Nu was a political prisoner for seven years under the Burmese military government and emerged to serve as a national – and international – voice for Burma’s human rights and democracy movement.

In 2012, she was released under a presidential amnesty. Nu was deeply moved by the escalated violence she encountered upon her release from prison. As a result, she formed the Women’s Peace Network, as a platform to build peace and mutual understanding between Myanmar’s different ethnicities and to empower and advocate for the rights of marginalized women in Arakan and Myanmar. Through the Women’s Peace Network she has been campaigning for women’s rights. Nu has been working to reduce discrimination and hatred among Buddhist and Muslim communities and improve the human rights situation of her people, Rohingya. Nu has conducted women’s empowerment training, offered legal education seminars, and organized human rights and peacebuilding activities.

In 2014, after completion of her law degree, she founded Justice for Women, which operates as a network of female lawyers providing legal consultation and education for the women of Burma. She also organized a campaign called the My Friend Campaign with youth from different communities to promote tolerance and to reduce discrimination among diverse groups. In 2016, Nu founded the Yangon Youth Leadership Center where young people can learn and explore their ideas and promote leadership in social, political and peace-building.

She was awarded the N-Peace award (peace generation) and selected as one of the 100 Top Women by the BBC in 2014. She was named a Democracy Courage Tribute in 2015 by World Movement for Democracy. Nu was also recognized as one of the 100 inspiring women by Salt Magazine and one of the 100 Global Thinkers in 2015 by Foreign Policy Magazine respectively. She was listed as one of the Next Generation Leaders in the world by Time Magazine in March 2017. Nu was most recently awarded the 2017 Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security by Georgetown University Institute of Women Peace and Security.  (Read more here)

Amber Arellano: 2017-18

Amber ArellanoAmber Arellano is the founding executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. Founded in 2010, today Ed Trust-Midwest is widely recognized as a leading voice for non-partisan data, research and policy expertise. Under her leadership, Ed Trust-Midwest led the cross-sector development of Michigan’s first statewide educator support and evaluation system. In partnership with the Steelcase Foundation, Arellano also founded the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to bring proven best practices from leading education states to Michigan’s high-poverty schools. At the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she helped develop cross-country public engagement campaigns. A veteran journalist, Arellano earned national awards including the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Commentator of the Year award for her influential work on behalf of Michigan’s vulnerable students. Arellano earned her Master of Public Policy at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy and her Bachelor’s in secondary education from Michigan State University. A former public high school teacher, she is a first-generation college graduate. She serves on the board of the Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation and the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy Alumni Board.

Susan Eisenberg: 2016-17

A multidisciplinary artist and educator, Susan Eisenberg re-imagines the everyday, playing with scale and juxtaposition to investigate issues of power and social policy. She is a Resident Artist/Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University, where she focuses on projects that address patient-centered medical care and employment equity.

Ms. Eisenberg directs the On Equal Terms Project, a traveling exhibit that celebrates the craft and experiences of women in the male-dominated construction and skilled trades industries. Despite regulations in 1978 that should have opened up roughly 25% of skilled trades jobs to women, women have held only 2.5% of construction jobs since 1981. One cause for women’s reduced participation is the “Dangerous Sexism” documented in the exhibit and described in ColorLines magazine. For her VSA project, Eisenberg is transforming her three-dimensional exhibit into a more broadly available website exhibit.

“Stella” is a life-sized representation of a woman line worker in the On Equal Terms exhibit

While in Michigan, Eisenberg also interviewed women line-workers in the utility industry for a nonfiction book entitled High Voltage Women: Power Lines and the Legacy of Men’s Work.  This book will update and deepen findings from an earlier work entitled We’ll Call You If We Need You.

Audiences Enjoyed These Special VSA Events:

In a presentation co-hosted by the Institute for Research on Women & Gender, the Women in Science & Engineering Program, and the Women’s Studies department, Eisenberg demonstrated how art can be used to renew public and political interest in this topic of economic importance to women and the nation.

IRWG Director Sarah Fenstermaker with Susan Eisenberg

Tags show derogatory comments made by coworkers about women in the skilled trades.

Cheryl Mayes, a UM staff member from Plant Operations, asks a question.











In a separate event co-sponsored by IRWG, Eisenberg read from her latest book of poetry and photography, Perpetual Care.

After being diagnosed with lupus, Eisenberg describes “finding her voice and sense of humor” again as she created 3-D art installations using her own medication bottles set against the lush vistas and historic monuments of a nearby Victorian cemetery. Perpetual Care captures a wide array of emotions experienced by patients with chronic illness in the modern health care system.

To explore more of Susan Eisenberg’s poems, books, essays and art, visit  http://susaneisenberg.com/books

Sophie Kruz: 2015-16

“I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone.” — Alice Paul
Sophie Kruz, EMMY® Award-winning documentary producer, director and TEDx speaker

In October 2015, the VSA fellowship supported Sophie Kruz, a graduate of the University’s Screen Arts and Culture program, as she edited her documentary “Little Stones.” The movie features four courageous female artists from Brazil, India, Senegal and the U.S. as they use graffiti, dance, music and fashion design to create a more just, secure, and beautiful world. The film explores 21st-century barriers to gender equity, including human trafficking, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and extreme poverty. Through the eyes of the four featured artists, viewers experience the transformative power of art, and how it can be tapped to empower women and girls globally.


Kruz used her fellowship to create partnerships with faculty in the UM School of Education.  Advisors there are developing curricula and film screening discussion kits for use with high school, college and older audiences. High school students from Ann Arbor and Detroit assisted in this process by viewing a special screening of the film, providing feedback and then engaging in discussions and visual art projects during a day-long workshop.


Kruz also met with students in the University’s Global Scholars learning community.  They provided early feedback on the film preview and discussed change initiatives of interest to this very diverse group of undergraduates.

Recent UM graduate Juliana Roth interviewed Kruz for Pulp, the online magazine about arts around Ann Arbor. Read the short interview, which provides a personal view of the filmmaker and her ties to the local community.

Nancy Duff Campbell: 2014-15

Nancy Duff Campbell, Co-President, National Women’s Law Center
When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: Why We Need a Women’s Economic Agenda

This September 2014 program was co-sponsored by CEW+, Social Work Learning Community on Poverty and Inequality, Rackham Office of Graduate Student Success, LS&A Women’s Studies, the Law School, Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, Women Law Students Association, Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.


During September 2014, CEW hosted the founder and co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, Nancy Duff Campbell, as our Visiting Social Activist.  During her fellowship, Ms. Campbell worked to develop an agenda for advancing women’s economic security that can be used by state-level advocates.  In conjunction with staff at NWLC, she produced the report Our Moment:  An Economic Agenda for Women.

 As part of her visit, Ms. Campbell met with students in Professor Anna Kirkland’s “Gender and the Law” class (Women’s Studies 270).  In discussion sections, students engaged in a reflective learning exercise to explore gender equity in a more personal context.  The Ginsberg Center‘s Shari Robinson-Lynk facilitated these exercises.


Ms. Campbell met informally with members of the Women Law Students Association. WLSA officer Emma Notis-McConarty introduced Ms. Campbell at her public lecture on September 23rd.



A recognized expert on women’s law and public policy issues for over forty years, Nancy Duff Campbell has participated in the development and implementation of key legislative initiatives and litigation protecting women’s rights, with a particular emphasis on issues affecting low-income women and their families.

Ms. Campbell’s accomplishments include participation in successful Supreme Court litigation establishing that two-parent families with unemployed mothers are entitled to AFDC benefits; organization and leadership of the Coalition on Women and Taxes, whose analyses and advocacy led to expanded tax assistance for single heads of household and the removal of six million low-income families from the tax rolls; the establishment of a uniform right to child support enforcement services for all custodial parents without regard to income; a central role in drafting and pressing a national agenda on child care, culminating in 1990 with the first comprehensive child care legislation since World War II and several improvements in succeeding years;  and expansion of the rights and remedies of military women facing sexual harassment, unfair family policies, and stereotyped limitations on their jobs and ability to serve in combat, through congressional legislation and Department of Defense policies. She is also the author of numerous articles on women’s legal issues.

Ms. Campbell was named by Working Woman magazine as one of the top 25 heroines whose actions over the last 25 years have advanced women in the workplace.  She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for her work to improve child support enforcement.  She was recognized by Online Colleges as one of “20 Influential Female Lawyers Every Law Student Should Know” and was selected for inclusion in Who’s Who in AmericaWho’s Who of American Women, and Wikipedia.

Diana Copeland: 2013-14

Diana Copeland, Co-Director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council

In the fall of 2013, Diana Copeland developed an eco-feminist curriculum for youth that addresses urban environmental issues. A key part of the curriculum is “Detroit Women Speak:  A Community Film on Race, Environmental Justice, Leadership and Gender in Detroit.”  Copeland worked with U-M Screen Arts & Culture alum Anna Terebelo to produce the film.

As Co-Director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC), Copeland is familiar with providing environmental justice leadership and civic engagement training to residents of Southeast Michigan.  Since 2007, EMEAC has worked with U-M and the Detroit Public Schools to run the Greener Schools program.  This interdisciplinary arts and environmental education program engages high school students in redesigning their schoolyards and elements inside the buildings.  By improving the school environment, students gain a sense of ownership and worth.

Download a copy of the Detroit Women Speak Curriculum Guide

Copeland’s new curricula builds on this model by including filmed interviews of Detroit women and teens, reflecting on how place has shaped their view of self and why having a strong sense of womanliness is important. EMEAC has trained three young women who will take the new curriculum to the schools. Each woman will be organizing a community group that they will facilitate throughout 2014.

“Detroit Women Speak” is a 60-minute look at how Detroit — and the women who call it home — have changed over time. The film explores and challenges issues of gender, environmentalism, feminism, place, race and what it means to be a leader. We meet fifteen women, ranging in age from 7 to 70, who all grew up in and currently live, work and play in the city of Detroit. The women discuss how their time growing up in Detroit affected the way they view themselves in the world and their trials and triumphs in leadership.

The women come from all over the city and identify with a variety of natural, built and toxic environments within the city, as well as a variety of cultural and racial backgrounds that are reflective of the Detroit demographic landscape. They are mothers, friends, professionals, daughters, granddaughters, artists, teachers, scholars, mentors, mentees and all lovers and defenders of the place they call home.

Two women interviewed in the film — Halima Cassel and Siwatu Salama-Ra — joined Diana Copeland for the film’s Ann Arbor premier and a panel discussion. (Salama-Ra provided support to Copeland’s creation of the Guide.) Roughly 100 students, faculty, staff and community members attended the event, which was hosted by the U-M School of Natural Resources & the Environment.  In addition to CEW and SNRE, other event co-sponsors were the School of Literature Science & the Art’s departments of Afroamerican & African Studies and Women’s Studies, the schools of Education and Social Work, and the Ginsberg Center for Community Service Learning.

In addition to this public event, Diana Copeland met with students in Dr. Stephen Ward’s “Urban & Community Studies” class.  They discussed Copeland’s activist experience as a UM student at the School of Natural Resources & the Environment and her more recent work as a community organizer.  Of particular interest to students was the “town/gown” dichotomy that sometimes causes friction between community members and academic scholars.  A reflective learning exercise facilitated by Shari Robinson-Lynk of the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning complemented the student’s discussion.

Ms. Copeland also spent time with members of ECO Girls, a community group sponsored by Dr. Tiya Miles.  ECO Girls encourages girls to integrate environmentalism into their lives, share environmental knowledge with their communities, and contribute to environmental problem solving as future thinkers and leaders.


Christine Ahn: 2012-2013

Christine Ahn, Executive Director of the Korea Policy Institute

In April 2013, CEW+ hosted Christine Ahn, Executive Director of the Korea Policy Institute. KPI is an independent research and educational institute providing timely analyses of United States policies toward Korea and developments on the Korean peninsula. At the time, Ms. Ahn also held positions as Senior Research and Policy Analyst at the Global Fund for Women, Senior Fellow with the Oakland Institute, and consultant to the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance.

For her Visiting Social Activist project, Ahn examined women’s movements that transgress political and social norms by using direct action to break down barriers and cross boundaries. She researched the stories of women who have lived this experience, including women from the Korean peninsula and diaspora, as well as women on the Israel-Palestine border. She examined transnational feminist ideas, the challenges these women faced, and lessons they learned. The second component of her project was to build on that knowledge as she discussed plans with Korean women and their diaspora about marching across Korea’s de-militarized zone in order to prevent patriarchal regimes from destroying the region.

In May 2015, Ms. Ahn was one of thirty international women peacemakers from around the world who walked with thousands of Korean women, north and south, to call for an end to the Korean War, reunification of families and women’s leadership in the peace process. They held international peace symposiums in Pyongyang and Seoul where they listened to Korean women and shared experiences and ideas of mobilizing women to bring an end to war and violent conflict. On May 24, International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, they successfully crossed the 2-mile wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) that separates millions of Korean families as a symbolic act of peace.

See photos from the successful May 24, 2015 march and related activities.

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem (4th from left, front row) walks with Christine Ahn (5th from left) & others

Christine & a Korean Pearl Diver

Ahn Speaking to Students at U-M’s Nam Center for Korean Studies

Mistinguette Smith: 2011-12

Mistinguette Smith, Executive Director of the Black/Land Project

Mistinguette Smith, Executive Director of the Black/Land Project, spent October 2011 interviewing black women in Michigan. She asked: “What stories do black women have to tell about relationship to land and place that are valuable and unique?”  From these interviews and others she conducted across the U.S., she created a short video entitled Black/Land: Women’s Voices, which was shown as part of three workshops held in Detroit and Ann Arbor.  Smith’s workshops highlighted the powerful traditions of resourcefulness, resilience and regeneration evident in many black communities today.
Looking forward, Smith continues to collect stories and hopes to convene a national conference to celebrate the connections between black people, land and place, and to grapple with important policy issues. Her research findings and community-based efforts reveal a number of complex and overlapping aspects of black life in America, encompassing historical and current perspectives, urban and rural settings, emotional and pragmatic responses, and policy and practice implications.  The Black/Land stories can serve as a framework for bringing together community representatives, land use planners, environmentalists, academics, business leaders and governmental actors in order to resolve critical land use issues facing Americans today.
  • Watch the Black/Land: Women’s Voices video and share your story with the Black/Land Project.
  • Enjoy photos from workshops held at U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.



Kim Bobo: 2010-11

Kim Bobo, Founder and Director of Interfaith Worker Justice

Kim Bobo  (March 2011)
Kim Bobo founded and directs Interfaith Worker Justice, an organization representing more than 70 interfaith committees, workers’ centers and student groups across the United States.  Since 1996, IWJ has educated and mobilized the religious community on issues and campaigns that will improve wages, benefits, and conditions for workers.While Ms. Bobo was in town, she met with Professor Leseliey Welch’s “Women in the Community” class to talk about the everyday life of an activist. Students asked questions about her path from student to community organizer.  She shared with them her personal tips for sustainable activism.  She also met with students and clergy from local religious groups to inform them about wage theft and how their organizations could fight it.

For her Visiting Social Activist project, Bobo revised and updated her 2008 book Wage Theft in America:  Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid – And What We Can Do About It.  Wage Theft includes violations of minimum wage laws; not paying overtime pay or forcing workers to work off the clock; denying workers their final paychecks; misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage, overtime, and the employers’ share of FICA tax; and not paying workers at all.
Order the new edition of Wage Theft in America and start addressing the problem in your own community.  The Micah Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, organized book groups to read Wage Theft, then helped establish a Mayoral Task Force on the topic.  Task force members surveyed low-wage workers to demonstrate the extent of the problem and invited Kim Bobo to join local community leaders in proposing a change in city contracting practices before the City Commission.  For more details, read this story on MLive.com.  Unfortunately, Grand Rapids in not unique in having wage theft problems, but this example shows how a small group of committed people can make a positive change in their community.

Ai-jen Poo: 2009-10

Ai-jen Poo, Co-founder and former Director of Domestic Workers United

We’re so proud of Ai-jen, who was named a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellow! For coverage of the award, see: http://www.macfound.org/fellows/924

In 2012, Ai-jen was named to the “100 Most Influential People in the World” list by TIME Magazine. Check out this profile and short video about her efforts organizing domestic workers to achieve their employment rights.

Ai-jen Poo is co-founder and former director of Domestic Workers United, a New York-based advocacy organization of over 2,100 nannies, housekeepers and caregivers for the elderly. DWU mobilized a statewide campaign for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Ms. Poo wrote about the lessons learned by Domestic Workers United regarding coalition building, promoting policy statewide, expanding membership and developing the leadership skills of its volunteers.

Her paper about the organizing campaign was given to 1,000 activists who attended the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit in June 2010. Later that summer, New York Governor David Paterson signed the bill into law. In June 2011, the International Labor Organization adopted the first-ever global rule recognizing domestic workers and setting international labor standards to protect their rights. Since then, the states of California, Massachusetts and Hawaii.  Learn more about the growing national and international movements to protect domestic workers’ rights.

Ms. Poo now heads the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). In April 2012, Ms. Poo was named to TIME Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” for her leadership of domestic worker campaigns across the U.S.  Her profile in TIME was one of just a handful made into a video, which you can view here.

In conjunction with Barnard College Center for Research on Women, NDWA will host Justice in the Home:  Domestic Work Past, Present and Future at Barnard College October 16-18, 2014. This historic conference brings together leading scholars in the field of low-wage work, women’s studies and the economy along with organizers and domestic workers. Together, scholars, activists and domestic workers will take stock of the field and establish priorities for further research. This kind of research has been critical to the success of domestic worker Bill of Rights campaigns.

Mallika Dutt: 2008-09

Mallika Dutt, Executive Director of Breakthrough

Mallika Dutt is the Executive Director of Breakthrough, an international human rights organization that uses education and popular culture to promote values of dignity, equality, and justice. It addresses women’s rights, sexual and reproductive rights, immigrant rights, racial, ethnic and caste equality and religion and peace. Breakthrough’s video game – ICED – puts players in the shoes of an immigrant to illustrate how unfair immigration laws deny due process and violate human rights. The organization’s album Mann Ke Manjeere: An Album of Women’s Dreams topped India’s music charts for five months, and a music video from the album won India’s Screen Awards. Breakthrough’s latest campaign “Bell Bajao” (Ring the Bell), urges men to take a stand against domestic violence.

Prior to creating Breakthrough, Ms. Dutt directed the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and later worked for the Ford Foundation as a Program Officer for Human Rights. She has served on such boards as Human Rights Watch Women’s Rights Project, Sister Fund, and WITNESS.

For her TFVSA project, Ms. Dutt wrote a paper about Breakthrough’s theory of social change and the ways in which it builds a culture of human rights. This paper has been circulated to a wide variety of rights organizations in order to inform and inspire their efforts. It has been useful to Breakthrough’s staff and board as they created their strategic plan for organizational growth over the next 5- 10 years.

Linda Burnham: 2007-08

Linda Burnham, Founder, Women of Color Resource Center 

For more than twenty years, the Women of Color Resource Center (WCRC) promoted an agenda that recognized the interconnections between anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic organizing. Co-founded by Ms. Burnham in 1990, it worked in Oakland California and nationally to oppose war, protect civil rights, and advance immigrant rights. As a community-based organization, it trained women of color to work on social justice issues, linking activists with scholars, and provided analysis and information on the social and political issues affecting most women of color. In her capacity as Director of WCRC, Ms. Burnham organized and led a 2001 delegation of 25 women of color activists and scholars to the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. In 2004, she led “Count Every Vote,” a human rights project that trained citizens to monitor the polls in the southern United States.

During Ms. Burnham’s 2008 stay in Ann Arbor, she met with over a dozen UM faculty whose research focused on political participation and feminism, gender-conscious leadership training models, and social movement building. She also interviewed eleven social justice leaders and reflected on her own organizing experiences. The result was a paper entitled: “The Absence of a Gender Justice Framework in Social Justice Organizing.” In it, she explains why many activists working in low-income communities have no framework for understanding how gender dynamics play out in their communities, among their members and constituents, or within their organizations. This, she notes, is despite their having fairly sophisticated understandings of the dynamics of racism and class privilege. Her TFVSA paper offers social justice organizations several recommendations for increasing their understanding of, and commitment to, women’s human rights and gender justice.

Ms. Burnham also met with students in the “Women in the Community” class offered by Professor Laura Wernick. She discussed the history of the Women of Color Resource Center and why a center focusing particularly on the needs of women of color was necessary.

Ms. Burnham currently consults with organizations that are committed to intentionally and systematically integrating racial justice and gender justice frameworks and values into their organizing, advocacy and communications.  She also serves as National Research Coordinator for the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Following publication of the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, then COO of Facebook, Burnham wrote a critique of the Lean In initiative.  Her analysis dissects the “brand of feminism” espoused by Sandberg, helping readers to decide whether or not this is the kind of social movement that will serve their needs.

Anne Ladky: 2006-07

Anne Ladky, Executive Director of Women Employed

Despite the progress of the last thirty years, approximately one-third of women working full time earn less than $25,000 per year. Many have no sick leave or paid time off for family needs, cope with unpredictable work schedules, and have limited access to benefits such as health insurance. As Executive Director of Women Employed, Anne Ladky has developed and directed innovative advocacy and training programs designed to improve women’s economic status. She is a nationally recognized expert on women’s employment issues, equal opportunity, workforce development and career advancement. She holds appointments to the Illinois Workforce Investment Board, the Chicago Workforce Board, and the Community Advisory Board of the Junior League of Chicago.

During her stay at CEW+, she met with faculty experts in business, public policy, economics, and labor & industrial relations to develop a persuasive business case showing how businesses can save money (e.g., in recruitment and retraining, customer satisfaction and repeat business) by providing low-wage workers with adequate wages, sick time and health insurance, and greater scheduling predictability. Based on those conversations and her CEW+ research, she outlined a business case to show how investing in low-wage workers is good for businesses, good for workers and good for society. That business case is now being promoted through her organization’s Investors for Change program, which brings together women corporate and civic leaders to advocate for improved policies and employment practices for low-wage women workers.

Connie Evans: 2005-06

Connie Evans, Inaugural Academic Year  2005-06  

As founder of the Women’s Self-Employment Project, she created the largest microenterprise program in the country assisting low-income urban women. Ms. Evans has also played an active role in global efforts to encourage investments that support human rights. During her stay, Ms. Evans consulted with University researchers and then convened town meetings with local African American women to learn how they spent, saved and managed their money. Her findings are summarized in the report: The Intersection of Gender, Race and Culture as Influencers on African American Women’s Financial Fitness, Asset Accumulation, and Wealth Attainment.

As the first President of the Women’s Self-Employment Project (WSEP), Ms. Evans was an early advocate for Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) for Illinois welfare recipients. After IDA legislation was passed and implemented there, IDAs went on to become a nationally popular vehicle for personal savings. The microcredit program she led at WSEP won numerous awards, including the first Presidential Award for Excellence in Microenterprise Development. Ms. Evans has influenced decision making about development investments at home and abroad through her board memberships on such organizations as the Federal Reserve Bank, the Global Fund for Women, and the Social Venture Network.

Following her experience as a Visiting Social Activist, Ms. Evans created a business plan for a web-based financial lifestyle company to provide culturally appropriate financial tools for women of color. Unfortunately, bank lending to small businesses was already becoming limited by the time she required seed money and therefore the business opportunity was lost.

Since that time, Ms. Evans became President and CEO of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity. AEO is the only national membership association committed to microenterprise development as an effective economic development strategy and a powerful poverty alleviation tool. By providing cutting edge training, knowledge sharing, Federal and State public policy and advocacy, AEO empowers its member organizations to be effective in serving the needs of microentrepreneurs who do not have access to traditional sources of business education or capital.

Past VSA Projects

“Our Moment: An Economic Agenda for Women and Families”
Policy Report
Nancy Duff Campbell, President of the National Women’s Law Center

“Detroit Women Speak: A Community Film on Race, Environmental Justice, Leadership and Gender in Detroit”
Video & Curriculum Guide
Diana Copeland, Co-Director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council

Women’s Peace March Across the Korean De-Militarized Zone, May 24, 2015
Civic Action
Christine Ahn, Foreign Policy in Focus Columnist

“Black/Land: Women’s Voices”
Mistinguette Smith, Executive Director of the Black/Land Project

“Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid – And What We Can Do About It”
Kim Bobo, Director of Interfaith Worker Justice

“Organizing with Love: Lessons from the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Campaign”
Ai-jen Poo, Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance

“On Building Human Rights Culture: Breakthrough’s Vision, Mission and Strategy”
Mallika Dutt, Executive Director of Breakthrough

“The Absence of a Gender Justice Framework in Social Justice Organizing”
Linda Burnham, National Research Coordinator for National Domestic Workers Alliance

“The Intersection of Gender, Race and Culture as Influencers on African American Women’s Financial Fitness, Asset Accumulation, and Wealth Attainment”
Connie Evans, President & CEO of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity