Collaboration, consultation and conversation are essential components of the Women’s Building journey. In creating the Women’s Building, NoVo is advised by a circle of women leaders who bring wide-ranging skills, perspectives and experience to the project. Advisory Circle members are deeply connected to the voices, vision, and institutional memory of the diverse constituents of the global girls’ and women’s rights movement community, in New York City and worldwide. The Advisory Circle provides feedback and guidance throughout the project, from conception through design, construction, opening and beyond.
Maura is a social change facilitator, consultant, and coach. Her approach to transformative leadership development is rooted in her 20-year commitment to anti-violence and social justice movements. She has worked with myriad projects and organizations, including Move to End Violence, Core Align, the NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, and the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Program at Barnard/Columbia. She helps individuals and groups step more powerfully into their own leadership, hold complexity, and work across difference. Maura holds a master’s degree in Social-Organizational Psychology from Teacher’s College, where she is also an advanced doctoral student whose research interests include group dynamics, emotional intelligence, and racial equity. A native San Franciscan, Maura makes her home in Flatbush, Brooklyn with her partner, teenaged son, and chosen family.
Miyhosi Benton is the Associate at the Women & Justice Project (WJP), a non-profit organization that centers the leadership of women directly impacted by incarceration in its work to end mass incarceration and criminalization, and uphold the dignity and worth of all women. Prior to joining WJP in April 2016, Miyhosi worked at the NY Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents at the Osborne Association, and at Hour Children, a reentry program that supports families uniting after incarceration. Miyhosi was a leader in the campaign that successfully led the effort to pass the 2015 Anti- Shackling law banning the barbaric practice of shackling incarcerated pregnant women in New York State, the most progressive law of its kind in the nation. Miyhosi resides in Long Island City with her two children, and is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Communications. Miyhosi is a recipient of the 2015 Susan B. Anthony Award from the National Organization for Women–NYC and the 2016 Hour Children Mother of the Year Award.
Iris Bowen is a Program Coordinator for the Coming Home Program at the Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Institute for Advanced Medicine. Ms. Bowen conducts needs assessments and provides reentry services for formerly incarcerated people returning home from prison. Her services include care planning for individuals and co-facilitating substance abuse recovery groups. Ms. Bowen graduated with her MSW in May 2015, and as someone who prioritizes social justice, she uses her degree to advocate for those people that otherwise do not have a voice for themselves whether politically, socially or ethically.
Gina Cascino, Administrative Assistant and Receptionist at the Correctional Association of New York, helps with administrative duties and office flow. She goes on prison monitoring visits with the Women in Prison Project, the Prison Visiting Project and the Juvenile Justice Project. Prior to working at the CA, Gina produced television commercials and worked as production manager, location manager or line producer on movies and film projects. Her base of operation was Atlanta and New York. Her last movie credits were Spiderman and The Gift and Drumline. She began her career working in production at Bozell & Jacobs Advertising Agency in Atlanta. Gina is a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Judaline Cassidy is a member of The Women’s Building Advisory Circle and a fierce advocate for women in the trades. Judaline has been a plumber for more than twenty years and is a proud member of Plumbers Local Union No. 1 of New York City. Throughout her career, Judaline has overcome many obstacles that come with working in such a male-dominated industry. She was one of the first women accepted into Plumbers Local Union No. 371 in Staten Island and was also the first woman elected to the Examining Board of Plumbers Local Union No. 1. She also started a nonprofit organization called Tools & Tiaras, whose mission is to expose, inspire and mentor girls and women about the highly lucrative occupations available in the construction industry. Judaline’s dedication to equality extends beyond her own industry; she brings her powerful voice and passion to social and political issues that affect low-income and marginalized people across all communities. Learn more about Judaline’s hopes for The Women’s Building.
Yasmeen became the Global Executive Director of Equality Now in 2011 after serving as Deputy Executive Director and Director of Programs for three years. Previously, she was with the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women where she worked on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Secretary-General’s study on violence against women. Yasmeen clerked on the D.C. Court of Appeals (1994-1995) and practiced corporate law at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York and California (1995-2003). In 1999, Yasmeen edited Equality Now’s first report on discriminatory laws. She has served on the Council on Foreign Relations’ Advisory Board on Child Marriage, provided expert guidance to the U.N. Trust to End Violence Against Women, and advocates for the women’s rights through appearances in numerous media outlets, including CNN, Al Jazeera, the Huffington Post, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Yasmeen holds a J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School where, among other subjects, she studied Islamic law and women’s rights. She also holds a B.A., magna cum laude, in Political Science from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, USA.
Jalak Jobanputra is Founding Partner of Future\Perfect Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund in NYC focused on investing in mission-oriented entrepreneurs focused on next generation technology such as blockchain and machine learning. FPV’s portfolio includes Abra, Open Garden, Blockstream, Bitpesa, FuseMachines, and Blockchain. Jalak was awarded Institutional Investor’s Top 35 Fintech Dealmakers of 2016, which cited her focus on financial inclusion. Since founding the firm, she has spoken on blockchain at many global conferences, including the Milken Global Institute, Dutch Development Bank/FMO annual meeting, and The Economist Buttonwood Gathering. Jobanputra is also active in supporting education reform and social entrepreneurship, and served as a Trustee of Achievement First Bushwick Charter Schools (Brooklyn) and sat on the Executive Committee of the Social Investment Council of Echoing Green. She is on the Board of Directors for the Center for an Urban Future, Advisory Board of L’Oreal’s Women in Digital Initiative, member of Mayor DeBlasio’s Broadband Taskforce, and former Access to Capital Subcommittee member of the US Secretary of State Women’s Leadership Council. In 2003, she took a yearlong sabbatical from VC to consult on replication strategy for Gates Foundation funded charter schools, including the Big Picture Company. Jobanputra spent four months setting up microfinance programs and training women entrepreneurs in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania after receiving her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management in 1999. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Communications from the Annenberg School and a BSE in Finance from the Wharton School. Jobanputra has been asked to speak on entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems by the Obama White House and throughout the world, and has played a leadership role in the tech community on immigration reform. Jobanputra is a regular contributor on CNBC and BloombergTV and has been interviewed by MarketPlace Radio, Forbes, SeekingAlpha and other national publications. She can be found at @jalak or on her blog
Betty Lyons, President & Executive Director of the American Indian Law Alliance (AILA), is an Indigenous and environmental activist and citizen of the Onondaga Nation. Her native name, Gaen hia uh, meaning ‘small sky,’ was given to her by her Snipe Clan mother and has developed her love for the earth from her deep connection to her culture. Growing up Ms. Lyons learned a deep respect for the earth and the responsibility to protect it. Ms. Lyons worked together with the NOON organization (Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation) to educate and teach local communities about the culture of the Onondaga Nation to further a better understanding and to bridge the gap between the communities. Ms. Lyons sits on the advisory board of a number of organizations, including the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Seminary in NYC, the Connie Hogarth Center for Social Action at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY, the Indigenous Values Initiative located in Haudenosaunee territories, as well as the Advisory Circle of the Women’s Building in NYC. Ms. Lyons has participated and organized rallies and demonstrations pushing for a ban on fracking in New York State, until a ban was achieved in December 2014. She has worked for the Onondaga Nation for nearly twenty years and worked for many years as a paralegal in Syracuse, NY. She is also the hardworking mother of Garett and Sid Jr.
Amanda R. Matos, lifelong resident of the Bronx, New York, has devoted her work to alleviating barriers to reproductive health care and education in communities of color through capacity building, political education, and lobbying at the local, state, and federal level. She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The WomanHOOD Project (Helping Ourselves Overcome Discrimination), which is an innovative after school mentorship program for young women of color in the Bronx. Amanda serves as Co-Chair of the Young Women’s Advisory Council for the Young Women’s Initiative, launched by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in partnership with Girls for Gender Equity, as a multi-sector approach to addressing the barriers young women and girls of color face locally. Amanda also has years of experience in the reproductive rights and justice field, where she managed Planned Parenthood of New York City’s community organizing efforts across the city through an intersectional and multi-issue lens.
Teresa Mejía is a community activist, feminist, single mother, Puerto Rican and the Executive Director of The San Francisco Women’s Building, which stands in the heart of the Mission District brilliantly adorned with a mural dedicated to women, Maestrapeace. Teresa was born in a small town in Puerto Rico and was raised in a tight- knit, working class community. In 1977, Teresa’s mother, sister, and two nieces were killed by her sister’s ex-husband. Teresa buried her family and directed her energy to working with and for those experiencing domestic violence. She went on to co-found two grassroots women’s organizations. In 1992 she immigrated to San Francisco, landing at the doors of The Women’s Building in search of employment resources. Her first job here in the States was as a Latina counselor for women in abusive relationships at a San Mateo Shelter. Still a client of The Women’s Building, she learned of a job opening. For 6 years Teresa worked as the receptionist and developed the bilingual Information and Referral Program. In 1998, she became the Executive Director of The San Francisco Women’s Building, moving The Women’s Building through a $6 million dollar renovation process. She has expanded programs and under her leadership, The San Francisco Women’s Building has become financially stable. Teresa is proud of her Caribbean heritage. She loves salsa dancing, Puerto Rican food and she continues to celebrate Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s historic confirmation as the first Latina Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
Rudy Mulligan daylights as a union carpenter in New York City. She is a co-founder of the NYC Coalition for Women in Construction, a grassroots organization that aims to support and promote women in the building trades. She holds office in the NYC Council of Carpenters, representing 25,000 members, and the NYC Pride at Work chapter, an LGBT constituency group of the AFL-CIO. A Florida native, she graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2005 with a Political Science degree and moved to NYC to serve the homeless population with the Partnership for the Homeless. She is tirelessly devoted to advancing the Labor Movement and smashing the patriarchy.
Tia Oros Peters (Shiwi) has been active in grassroots community organizing, issue advocacy, and nonprofit development work for social, cultural, and environmental justice for nearly three decades. In 1993 she began working with the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, for which she serves as Executive Director. Tia has extensive experience in Indigenous policy development, international diplomacy and human rights advocacy—including as a recognized expert on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—and in Indigenous women’s leadership and alliance building as one of the founding mothers of the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus. A published writer and cultural artist, she has been recognized for her work by numerous Indigenous nations and communities throughout the world. Tia received an Executive Leadership Fellowship from the Center for Civic Partnerships, a Silver Cloud Award for community service in Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and International Advocacy, and was a Shannon Institute Leadership Fellow, among other honors and awards. She is a member of he Board of Directors of the Resist Fund.
Lori Pourier, (Oglala Lakota) President, First Peoples Fund, an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Nation in southwestern South Dakota, has served as the President of First Peoples Fund since 1999. She has nearly 30 years of experience in community economic development with a specific emphasis on native arts and culture revitalization within tribal communities. Prior to joining FPF, she served as the Executive Director of the International Indigenous Women’s Network. In addition to fellowship programs at First Peoples Fund, while at IWN she established the Indigenous Women’s emerging activist leadership program. She represented IWN at numerous international conferences at the United Nations. She also served as the marketing director of First Nation’s Development Institute for 7 years. She served on several boards of directors: Grantmakers in the Arts, Native Americans in Philanthropy and the Honor the Earth Fund. Ms. Pourier was awarded Native American’s in Philanthropy’s 2013 Louis T. Delgado Distinguished Grantmaker Award in recognition of her work in philanthropy and was awarded the Women’s World Summit Foundation’s 2013 Women’s in Creativity in Rural Life Award. She holds a Master of Science degree from New Hampshire College Graduate School of Business. She is the mother of Shahela Pourier Eyre.
Director of Client Services at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Stefanie Rivera is a long time member, consultant and former Prisoner Rights intern. Stefanie helped found the Prisoner Justice Project at SRLP and, as one of SRLP’s original members, has played a pivotal role in SRLP’s development. She is also a founder of FIERCE, an organizing group for LGBTQ youth of color. And she appears in Fenced OUT, a youth-produced documentary collaboration between FIERCE, Paper Tiger Television, and the Neutral Zone. Fenced OUT documents the struggle to save the Christopher Street pier and West Village from gentrification.
Anisah Sabur is the Project Associate for the Women in Prison Project of the Correctional Association. Anisah focuses on coordinating the Coalition for Women Prisoners, conducting community outreach, and organizing advocacy activities and events related to our various campaigns. Anisah was previously at the Harlem Community Justice Center where she worked as a case manager and family engagement coordinator. She is a long-time Coalition member and currently serves as co-chair of the Coalition’s Reentry Committee. She also graduated from WIPP’s ReConnect program in spring 2005.
Joanne N. Smith, founder and Executive Director, moves Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) closer to its mission through strategic advocacy, development, and leadership cultivation. Ms. Smith is a Haitian-American social worker born in NY. A staunch human rights advocate, Smith is co-chair of the nation’s first Young Women’s Initiative for girls of color in NYC, steering committee member of Black Girl Movement and a Movement Maker with Move to End Violence -a 10-year initiative designed to strengthen the collective capacity to end gender based violence in the United States. Joanne is an alumna of Hunter Graduate School of Social Work and Columbia Institute for Nonprofit Management. She has co-authored Hey Shorty: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Public Schools and on the Streets. Girls for Gender Equity’s work to combat sexual harassment in schools is featured in the 2014 documentary Anita: Speak Truth to Power. Smith resides in Brooklyn, NY. More information about Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) may be found at ggenyc.org.
Glennda Testone is the Executive Director of New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. Since joining The Center in 2009, she has grown its programs for youth, trans folks, woman and LGBT immigrants, ensuring all LGBT New Yorkers have an opportunity to live happy, healthy lives. Over the course of her tenure, Testone helped launch a new Center brand and website, celebrated 30 years of service by the organization and completed a $9M capital building renovation to transform the LGBT community’s home on West 13th Street. Testone previously served as Vice President at The Women’s Media Center and Senior Director of Media Programs for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
Born and raised between Mali and Senegal, Coumba Toure designs and produces education material and programs for children. She is a writer and a storyteller. She promotes social entrepreneurship in Africa through Ashoka. She is currently working on transforming education systems to raise a new generation of Changemakers. She designs popular education spaces like Changemakers hair salon, Invisible Giants Celebrations, and the Living Museum of Traditional Children’s Games. Coumba has extensive experience in public speaking, facilitating meetings, engaging young people, and designing, implementing, and evaluating training programs to promote human rights, especially for women. She has worked with organizations such as the Institute for Popular Education in Mali, the 21 st Century Youth Leadership Movement in Selma, Alabama, and Youth for Environmental Sanity in Santa Cruz, California. She a member of the African Feminist Forum. She is a board member of Trustafrica and has served as a board member to the Urgent Action Fund for Women, Africa. She is as an advisor to the Global Fund for Women and to International Development Exchange. She is a mother, a sister, and a daughter to many. Muu So, her new illustrated book for children, is coming out soon.
Nala Toussaint works with women of all identity spectrum and social and economical experiences to support their health goals and wellbeing. She also has experience working with at-risk youth as a youth mentor. Her passion to create social changes led her to be a former founder of TWOCC (Transgender Women of Color Collective) where she sat as a Co-Coordinator for Youth Empowerment. Nala has done extensive work as an outreach liaison in terms of conducting safe sex intervention activities for youth, and she has assisted in coordination of educational and job development services at renowned public service organizations serving the LGBT community. In 2015, Nala served as a Co-Chair for the Trans Young Women Advisory Council under the administration of the NYC Young Women’s initiative Council. She was able to lead and bring Trans young girls and gender non-conforming folks to the table as they all contributed to launch the #SheWillBe campaign. Nala currently serves as a part-time program coordinator at Girls for Gender Equity, where she co-facilities groups that create space for young cis and trans women and girls, and young gender non-coming folks ages 13-24, to be uplifted through kinship while learning about government policy, media and philanthropy. She is a full-time prevention coordinator for transgender services at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center where helps those within the LGBT community who are facing diverse social issues. Lastly, she serves on the Board of Directors of LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent and is the Co-Director of the Healing & Restoration Ministry of Rivers of Living Water NY.
Sharon White-Harrigan became involved with women’s advocacy during her 11 years in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for women. Once released, it became her sole purpose to become the voice of the unheard and promote social change as an advocate and activist for women in and out of prison system. Sharon is currently the Program Director of Hopper Home under the auspices of the Women’s Prison Association (WPA). She has an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts, a Bachelor’s in Social Work and Criminal Justice as a Thomas W. Smith Fellow, a Master’s Degree in Social Work , as well as her license to practice social work.
Cheryl is the Senior Director of Education and Programs at Columbia University’s Center for Justice, where her work is committed to reducing the nation’s reliance on incarceration, developing new approaches to safety and justice, and participating in the national and global conversation around developing effective criminal justice policy. Cheryl is also an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University School of Social Work, and serves as a key partner of the Women & Justice Project. Cheryl is a consultant for Healing Community Network and has been instrumental in developing the Justice in Education Prison Program, a project that facilitates Columbia University professors teaching inside Bedford Hills, Taconic and Sing Sing Correctional Facilities. Cheryl sits on the board of the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison, Community Collaborative Research Board and the Fortune Society. She is the recipient of the Brian Fischer, Davis Putter scholarship, the Sister Mary Nerney Visionary Award and the Citizens against Recidivism Awards, and holds a graduate degree in Urban Affairs.
As the Lead Organizer at the New York City Anti-Violence project (AVP), LaLa is the face and leads AVP’s public community organizing work, doing advocacy, outreach and networking on behalf of LGBTQ New Yorkers who have experienced violence. LaLa also plays a key role in AVP’s Rapid Incident Response team, which responds whenever incidents of hate violence, sexual violence or intimate partner violence impacting LGBTQ and HIV-affected New Yorkers become public. LaLa is a gifted public speaker and speechwriter who speaks out on issues related to anti-LGBTQ violence, and especially the disproportionate violence that trans and gender non- conforming people of color face. LaLa is a member of the Communities United for Police Reform, and National Coalition of Anti violence Program (NCAVP) Movement Building Committee. In additional LaLa spoke at the White House for the first trans women of color briefing for Women’s History Month, testified at the historic Congressional Forum on violence against transgender people, and made last year’s 2015 Trans 100 list for LaLa’s work with making the lives of Tran Woman of Color better. LaLa believes, “We must all be accountable to each other.”
Ai-jen Poo is the Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign. She is a 2014 MacArthur fellow and was named one of Time 100’s world’s most influential people in 2012. She began organizing immigrant women workers nearly two decades ago. In 2000 she co-founded Domestic Workers United and together with 11 other organizations, DWU launched the National Domestic Workers Alliance in 2007. After noticing an increase in the number of domestic workers originally hired as nannies and housekeepers being asked to provide home care for their employers’ aging relatives, Ai-jen co-led the launch of the Caring Across Generations campaign in 2011 to ensure access to affordable care for the nation’s aging population and access to quality jobs for the caregiving workforce. Ai-jen serves on the Board of Directors of Momsrising, National Jobs with Justice, and Working America. She is a 2013 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, one of Fortune.com’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, and author of The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America. Follow her on Twitter at @aijenpoo.
Rajasvini Bhansali is the Executive Director of International Development Exchange (IDEX) and a passionate advocate for participatory grassroots-led social change and movement building. In a wide-ranging career devoted to social and economic justice, she has led a national social enterprise, managed a public telecommunications infrastructure fund addressing digital divide issues and worked as a researcher, planner, policy analyst and strategy consultant. Vini also worked alongside community leaders as a capacity builder for youth polytechnics in rural Kenya for over two years. Born and raised in India, Vini earned a Master′s from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and two Bachelor′s degrees from UC Berkeley. Vini has been involved in community organizing and volunteer board and advisory roles for the last two decades, including with the Rockwood Leadership Institute, the Agroecology Fund, Transform Finance, the Women’s Building in New York City, and the 2016 Association of Women in Development (AWID) International Forum on Women’s Rights and Development. Vini lectures in the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and Stanford University. This year she was honored with a Leaders in Action award by Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP). Vini is also a published poet, essayist, storyteller and popular educator. When not engaged with community organizations, Vini can be found hiking, cooking and dancing with friends.