Jan Peterson - Global Chair/Director
Jan Peterson serves as the Chair of the Coordinating Council of the Huairou Commission. Her current role comes from 30 years of working in community development. She has been a groundbreaking leader in producing innovative community structures led by grassroots women. In Brooklyn, New York, she founded numerous community-based organizations and developed a Leadership Support Process to help grassroots women to build leadership while working across ethnic and racial lines. Supporting the knowledge and contributions of grassroots women, she also ran the national Institute for Women and Community Development and the Neighborhood Women College Program. Her experience spans from local and national to global work work; in the United States she founded the National Congress of Neighborhood Women. She moved from national to global work, playing a founding role in GROOTS International and then the Huairou Commission. She has taught in the faculty of Adelphi University School of Social Work, the Pratt Institute, LaGuardia Community College and more recently at the New School Graduate Program in International Affairs. Under the Carter administration, she worked as the Associate Director in the office of public liaison in the White House, as well as the Office of Policy and Planning and Action, with Peace Corps and Vista.
Ms. Peterson was awarded the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honor in September 2009 for her work that spans four decades of commitment to improving grassroots women's lives globally. Because of her strong advocacy, Jan has ensured that the global women's movement incorporates grassroots women's groups and that it takes heed of community development priorities for sustainable human settlements. In addition to raising more than USD 4 million for work with grassroots women, Jan has supported pioneering initiatives such as the Grassroots Academies held at each World Urban Forum and the Local to Local Dialogue Process.
Sandra Schilen - Strategic Director
Sandy Schilen is the Strategic Director of the Huairou Commission and Global Facilitator of GROOTS International (Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood), a global network of grassroots women's organizations. A community organizer with advanced degrees in political economy, Sandy's life and work reflect the rare capacity to bridge the divide between grassroots realities and global policies, between academic and activist, between North and South, and between values and practice. Through her work with the National Congress of Neighborhood Women (NCNW), a U.S. network of grassroots women's groups from poor communities, and with GROOTS International, Sandy has two decades of experience in enabling grassroots women's groups to replicate and mainstream their community development approaches and governance interventions through peer-to-peer learning exchanges and local, national, regional and global advocacy. She has facilitated GROOTS members to access local and national governments, multilateral institutions, donors, researchers, policymakers, and mainstream NGOs, in order to challenge and change their institutional cultures, policies and perspectives.
Sandy is based in New York City, United States.
(In Alphabetical Order)
Katia Araujo - Deputy Director of Programs, Community Resilience, Land and Housing Campaigns
As Deputy Director of Programs with a specific focus on Community Resilience, Land and Housing, Katia Araujo provides leadership in the realization of the organization’s mission through strategic planning with member organizations for the development of programs based on strategies and advocacy actions responding to women's identified priorities. She focuses on the strategic planning and enhancement of grassroots women’s alliance building, leadership, and skills transfer across the regions. Ms. Araujo joined the Huairou Commission and GROOTS International in 2008 as Coordinator for Latin America in order to expand and enhance the organizing and network building of grassroots women's groups and NGO partners working in the context of security of tenure, livelihoods and resilience. As the Global Coordinator of the Land and Housing Campaign from 2010 to 2012, she has built on the regionally based platforms in Africa (WLLA) and in Latin America and Asia to develop the global strategy Women, Land and Development (WDL) to form a multi-stakeholder platform and to promote policy innovation and operational accountability. Prior to coming to Huairou, Katia conducted field research, analysis and evaluation on specific women's issues for various NGOs, including the International Rescue Committee, African Services Committee, and the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce. She also coordinated fundraising activities to POMPA in partnership with Institute Steve Biko, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, a youth leadership development project, to train Afro-Brazilian youth for public service and social entrepreneurship. Ms. Araujo holds an M.A. in International Affairs with concentration on Governance and Human Rights from The New School University and a B.A. in African Studies with a minor in Political Science from Hunter College in New York.
Becca Asaki -Program Associate for the AIDS Campaign
Rebecca (Becca) Asaki received her BA in Interdiciplinary Studies with a concentration in Gender and Conflict Studies from the Global College of Long Island University. During this time she spent over three years studying and working with community-based organizations in Central America, East, South and Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Southern Africa where she solidified her belief that real social change can only be acheived through empowerment of women at the grassroots level. The strength and courage of women she has learned from and worked with around that world drives her commitment to supporting the empowerment of women and communities. She first joined the Huairou and GROOTS team as an intern for the AIDS Campaign in 2009 and as since been hired full time as Program Associate for the AIDS Campaign.
Katie Gillett - Communications Coordinator
Katie Gillett is the Communications Coordinator for the Huairou Commission. She is interested in how storytelling and technology can support grassroots organizing. She is also an independent filmmaker, whose documentary “Groundwater Up,” exploring the social, environmental, and economic impacts of the water crisis in Delhi, India, has been screened at film festivals internationally and in universities and classrooms across the U.S. She studied International Development & Multimedia Journalism at Boston University, where she received a grant from the Latin American Studies department to study the disproportionate effects of armed conflict on women in Colombia, and to document the efforts of internally displaced women in Turbaco to rebuild their lives through a community housing project. Prior to joining the Huairou Commission, Katie worked in media research and advocacy for sexual health and immigrant rights' organizations in New York, and as a solidarity organizer with farm worker and immigrant communities in her hometown of Orlando, Florida.
Suranjana Gupta - Senior Specialist and Adviser for Community Resilience, Land and Housing Campaigns
Suranjana Gupta coordinates the Global Campaign on Community Resilience of Huairou Commission, and its member network GROOTS International from Mumbai and New York. Her responsibilities include fundraising, strategic planning, policy advocacy promoting grassroots women's leadership facilitating transfer of effective practice and alliance building. She is also involved in developing the Campaign's Community Disaster Resilience Fund and the Community Practitioners' Platform. In addition to working for GROOTS and the Huairou Commission, Suranjana taught at the New School University's Graduate Program of International Affairs from 2002-2004. From 1995-2000, Suranjana worked for Swayam Shikshan Prayog in India, on facilitating and documenting women's empowerment processes in the context of credit, livelihoods, governance and post-disaster recovery. Suranjana Gupta holds an M.Sc. in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Mumbai.
Carolina Pinheiro - Governance Campaign Coordinator
Carolina Pinheiro was born in Brasília, Brazil, where she graduated with a degree in Law in 2006. In Brazil she worked as an attorney representing indigenous populations, mostly in litigious land ownership cases, and collaborated in workshops to and with indigenous peoples on traditional knowledge and intellectual property. In New York, she received her Master's degree in International Affairs at the New School, where she focused on human rights and governance studies. She has been working at the Huairou Commission since 2010, and in her current position as the Coordinator for the Governance Campaign she has built on important results of the MDG 3 Initiative to further grassroots women's strategies to decrease corruption and develop their leadership at local and global levels. Recently, she collaborated on a study commissioned by UNDP on the impact of corruption on grassroots women and is coordinating the new phase of this program focused on action-oriented projects at the local level, movement and partnership building at the global level. Under the Governance Campaign, Ms. Pinheiro also has worked to give visibility to grassroots women’s approach to Safer Cities programs, as to emphasize community leaders’ holistic view on building safer neighborhoods in rural and urban areas.
Regina Pritchett- Global Organizer, Community Resilience, Land and Housing Campaigns
Regina Pritchett is currently serving as the Global Organizer for the Community Resilience, Land and Housing Campaign, coordinating the campaign's work in the African region, facilitating the development of the Community Practitioners Platform for Resilience (CPPR) and anchoring programmatic development that reflects our members' priorities and practices. Prior to this, Ms. Pritchett worked with Huairou Commission member group Espaço Feminista in Recife, Brazil. Over a two year span she documented grassroots women’s hard-fought advancement of a participatory land regularization process for their own center city informal settlement. As an activist in her own right, she has been a community organizer in a number of grassroots groups and community-based organizations to advance community-led development, participatory governance, restorative justice practices and youth development in Harlem/Bronx, New York; Boston, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; and Champaign, Illinois. Regina holds a Master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Illinois where she concentrated in transnational planning and community development for social justice and two Bachelors’ degrees, in policy, planning and management and neuroscience, from University of Southern California. She is fluent in English and Portuguese.
Katherine Tess Shelley- Program Associate, Community Resilience, Land and Housing Campaigns
Katherine Shelley is a Program Associate at the Huairou Commission. She holds a B.A. in International Relations and Community Health from Tufts University, where she was a Tisch College Citizenship and Public Service Scholar. In 2011 she traveled to Ghana as part of the Canadian International Development Agency International Youth Internship Program, where she worked with WiLDAF-Ghana (Women in Law and Development in Africa) conducting research on women’s participation in local government. She joined the Huairou Commission in 2012, and recently co-coordinated the Expert Group Meeting on Women’s Economic Empowerment in collaboration with UN-HABITAT. Her current work focuses on the mapping of informal justice systems that grassroots women’s groups operate within, and showcasing the impacts of grassroots women’s tools and strategies on these systems. She was born in Washington State, USA and raised in British Columbia, Canada.
(in Alphabetical Order)
Kyle Dowley - Network Administrator
Kyle Dowley is the Network Administrator and Technical Support Specialist for the Huairou Commission providing systems management and technical support for the Secretariat staff. Through his work improving the technical capabilities and user experience for the Huairou Commission he has combined is personal interest in Information Technology and his experience in international affairs. He spent three years living and working in China where he gained fluency in Mandarin. He also works as a Technical Consultant for the internet start-up Totsy.com.
Juanita Orengo - Office and Administrative Manager
Juantia Orengo has been a community activist in Brooklyn for 28 years. She is a member of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women (NCNW), the Neighborhood Women of Williamsburg and Greenpoint (NWWG), GROOTS International, and the Huairou Commission. As a community organizer, she has worked to better the school systems in her community through collective action including the Eastern District High School Boycott and serving as Principal and Executive Director of the YouCan Community School for 10 years. She has received many awards from city council members and other government officials for her dedication to improving the public school system in New York City. Juanita graduated from the National Congress of Neighborhood Women College Program through Long Island University and received an AA in Social Work, BA in Education, and MA in Public Administration. She also has a degree in Fashion Design from Manhattan 7th Ave and was trained as a hair stylist in Puerto Rico- two passions she continues today. She is currently the Office and Administrative Manager where her work is informed by her passion to encourage and support young women to be leaders in their communities.
Sabrina Salahuddin- Associate Office Manager
Li Zhong - Financial Officer
Li Zhong received her MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona and her BA in Accounting from the Capital University of Business and Economics. Her international finance experience working as an Accounting Department Supervisor in Beijing and her growing interest in women's empowerment and leadership informs her work managing the Huairou Commission finances. She is also fluent in Mandarin and English.
Lisel Burns- Facilitation and Leadership Support Process
Lisel Burns is clergy Leader Emeritus of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture and links Leadership and Legacy Projects of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women USA to the global efforts of GROOTS International and other networks in Huairou Commission's grassroots campaigns. She helps link local social and economic justice efforts to grassroots-led community development initiatives around the world.
Shannon Hayes - Adviser to the AIDS Campaign
Shannon Hayes moved to New York City from Southern California in 2003 to pursue a Master of Arts in International Affairs at the New School. In the summer of 2004, she traveled to Kenya for 2 months to participate in a Community AIDS Watch, documenting the work of GROOTS Kenya. The experience sparked her dedication to supporting grassroots-driven development, with a particular interest in processes through which grassroots women are leading the creation of healthy and democratic communities. Since she returned from that trip, she has been working at the Huairou Commission - first as an intern, as AIDS Campaign Coordinator and now as an advisor to the AIDS Campaign supporting various organizing processes in Africa including the Home-Based Care Alliance. Shannon's work and life are motivated by a deep belief that all beings are equal, and a commitment to creating the life circumstances and contexts through which we can all fully realize our best selves. Shannon is also a trained doula and is currently attending nursing school.
Sri Sofjan - Adviser
Sri Husnaini Sofjan joined Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC) as their first Chief Executive Officer in January 2012. She was trained in economics, political science and public administration and has worked for 20 years in the field of human settlements, gender equality and new information technologies. Prior to joining PWDC, Sri served as a Senior Fellow for Programme Coordination and Development at the Huairou Commission, a New York basedglobal membership and partnership coalition that empowers grassroots women's organizations, for a total of 4 years from mid 2004 to mid 2006 and from Jan 2010 to Dec 2011. She was the Programme Manager of the United Nations Women’s Development Fund (UNIFEM), now known as UN Women) project in Aceh, Indonesia from mid- 2006 to April 2009, leading an initiative that promote women’s legal rights in the province during the reconstruction period after the 2004 Tsunami and the signing of the Peace Agreement. Sri was programme officer at a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) regional project, Urban Management Programme for Asia and the Pacific (UMPAP) from 1993 to 1998, and was the Regional Programme Manager of another UNDP regional project, The Urban Governance Initiative (TUGI), from Oct 2002 to March 2004. At TUGI, she facilitated the introduction of the Good Governance Report Card on Gender and Governance, as well as the Local-to-Local Dialogue that opened space for inclusion and participation of urban poor women and their communities in local governance processes. Sri is currently a member of the Advisory Group on Gender Issues (AGGI) of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and also a member of the UNDP’s Local Governance and Local Development global working group.
 A state-funded body established by the Government of Penang, Malaysia to mainstream gender into the policies and programmes of the public and private sector, and work towards gender and social justice.
Cathy Toledo - Strategic Planning Consultant
Cathy Toledo has worked in the political arena for more than 25 years in campaign management, advocacy and grassroots organizing. She has also worked with associations to increase their participation in policy-making space. More recently, she managed a mayoral race in Fort Worth, Texas. Prior to the campaign, she co-developed a program and website, Fort Worth Ideas, ultimately increasing participation in the democratic process. In 2008, she was hired by the government of the Maldives to create and implement a voter education program for the country’s first democratic presidential election. She spent two months working with a local team to develop a program culturally sensitive to the local Muslim population, insuring this team was trained in the principles and process of voter education so they could continue developing the program with minimal support after she left.
Ms. Toledo has been working with the Huairou Commission since January 2013—first to learn about its work to empower grassroots women’s organizations to increase their participation in governance and policy decision-making around the world; now, she is assisting the organization with their future planning in order to continue their effectiveness in the changing development world.
Cathy has lived overseas and traveled extensively. She has a master’s in public policy and administration from Northwestern University, and prior to that graduated from Stanford University. She has a 29 year-old daughter who is getting her master’s in International Relations and Strategic Communications at Seton Hall University.