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Anjali Sarker

Nationality: Bangladeshi

Living in: Dhaka, Bangladesh

Senior Manager, BRAC

 
 

Anjali is a social innovation expert and development practitioner with seven years’ experience in leading projects that empower the underprivileged population, with a special focus on youth and women. Her journey in the development sector started at the age of 20 when she co-founded a social enterprise to provide affordable, accessible and eco-friendly sanitation solutions in the rural areas.

After running her enterprise for two years, she joined Ashoka to launch its operations in Bangladesh. As the launch leader, she worked with local entrepreneurs and supported them to increase their impact. Later she joined BRAC, one of the largest development organisations in the world, in its social innovation lab. At the lab, she had designed, developed and implemented multiple cross-country projects in South Asia and East Africa. Currently, she leads the Innovation Fund for Mobile Money, a project in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to bring digital financial services to one million rural women in Bangladesh.

In addition to her work as a development practitioner, she serves as a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum and is a New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute. She was invited to two TEDx events in Hong Kong and in the Netherlands to speak about social innovation and entrepreneurship. Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Courier magazine, recognised her as one of the Top 99 leaders under the age of 33.

Her previous independent work included serving as an advisor in several start-ups, working as a freelance journalist and providing consultancy support to organisations on ‘Human Centered Design’. She holds a bachelor’s in Business Administration from Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka and a Diploma in Social Innovation from Lund University.

 

Personal Statement

My career in the development sector took me to a wide range of places - from the broken hut of an widow to the stage of TEDx. I have met with people who are deeply affected by inequalities and have come across people who do not even know that inequality exists. While leading a countrywide financial inclusion project for rural women, I experienced how gender norms and inequality connect. At times, I felt ecstatic to see how development interventions can bring incredible changes in society’s power dynamics and empower women to take control of their lives. Other times, I saw development professionals reinventing the wheel and wasting massive amount of resources; ultimately failing to achieve their desired impact. In a nutshell, after spending seven years in the sector, I have more questions than answers.

Now I am on an intellectual quest to find the answers through research. I am most interested to explore the underlying reasons and consequences of inequality, and how system-level interventions can be designed to fight inequality. I believe this programme will allow me to reflect on development from an academic perspective and push my intellectual boundaries to make me a better practitioner.

Working for one of the largest non-government organisations in the world has given me a unique exposure to a wide range of development projects taking place in South Asia and East Africa. I have seen that solutions are often found in the most unexpected places, in the most unexpected manner. Therefore, in addition to my interest in inequality, I am also curious to find out what the development sector in Bangladesh can learn from other parts of the world. Being able to explore these complex issues with a diverse group of experienced professionals will enable me to understand inequalities better and apply that understanding in my work after coming back to Bangladesh. With the right kind of guidance and resources offered by the AFSEE programme, I hope to develop myself in a way that will complement my past experience and add new dimensions to it.

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Taylor Downs

Nationality: American

Living in: Abdijan, Côte d'Ivoire

Founder & Core Contributor, Open Function

 

Taylor is the founder of Open Function, an integration-platform-as-a-service company that serves to make the critical technologies employed by international development projects easier to automate and combine. He received the first annual Harvard SECON Social Impact Award and the 2017 Pizzigati Prize for Software Development in the Public Interest. He was named to Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 list, is a 2012 Echoing Green Fellow, a 2014 Rainer Arnhold Fellow, and a 2015 PopTech Social Innovation Fellow.

Previously, Taylor co-founded and served as CEO of Vera Solutions. From offices in Boston, Washington DC, Cape Town, Mumbai, and Geneva, Vera has now served more than 250 impact-first organisations and employs 50 technology-for-development consultants around the world.

Before Vera, he lived in Southern Africa while working for Grassroot Soccer (a public-health implementer focused on the HIV epidemic) and consulted on intervention design and training NGOs in the region. He holds a BA in Religious Studies with a focus on Tibetan Buddhism from Amherst College.

 

Personal Statement

I applied to the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity programme because I feel that my current perspective (and potential impact) is limited without a formal academic introduction to economics and inequality. While I do think that the perspective I bring to policy conversations is important - and I hope that these conversations are always grounded in practical, implementable solutions that hold up in the field - I worry that it’s less useful without a background in theory.

My professional background is in technology, my first job was in the field of HIV prevention, my undergraduate studies focused on Tibetan Buddhism and I am, above all else, excited about the highly-multidisciplinary approach that the fellowship offers.

One area of inequality in which I’m particularly interested is how it is influenced by technology, specifically automation and artificial intelligence. Advances in technology have, historically, reduced labour’s bargaining power as capital owners relied less and less on workers to produce goods and services. General AI may be a long way off, but privately-owned IP is already reducing the demand for certain types of labour at an alarming rate.

A few years ago, a New York Times opinion piece by Paul Krugman on the subject of automation sparked an interesting public conversation. A blogger for the Economist, relying heavily on Tyler Cowen’s response, eventually wrote that a “society of adequately shared prosperity not based on constant, disruptive, inefficient redistributive intervention will need to be based on universal ownership of claims to the output of robots.” This has stuck with me and I think it is possible to envision a future with very different concepts of capital ownership. We are breaking new ground when it comes to intellectual property and artificial intelligence. I want to explore that space, the legal and ethical ramifications of various positions, and the role of governance and democracy in a fast accelerating technological landscape.

Another area of inequality that interests me is the effect that mobile devices and incessant advertising have on the brain - particularly on stress and loneliness. While the wealthy may have the ability to engage in more expensive ad-free and even technology-free activities, this is not a realistic option for many people.

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Allison Corkery

Nationality: Australian

Living in: New York, USA

Program Director, Rights Claiming and Accountability, Center for Economic and Social Rights

 
 

Allison is the Director of the Rights Claiming and Accountability Program at the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), an international NGO based in New York. Working in collaboration with partners around the world, CESR uses international human rights law as a tool to challenge unjust economic policies that systematically undermine rights enjoyment and thereby fuel inequalities.

Her work focuses on how to strengthen research in order to support more strategic and evidence-based advocacy on rights deprivations and inequalities. She works with human rights activists to build up the knowledge and skills needed to adopt a more interdisciplinary outlook and to incorporate more quantitative approaches in their work. The projects that she has supported have addressed issues as varied as post-earthquake housing in New Zealand, mental healthcare services in Kenya, educational resources in South Africa, social security reform in Scotland, and macroeconomic policy in post-revolutionary Egypt.

Allison played a leading role in developing ‘OPERA’, an innovative model framework that supports human rights activists to design metrics for monitoring socioeconomic rights. She has written extensively about the need to expand human rights research methods in both academic and non-academic publications.

She first joined CESR in 2010 as a recipient of the David W. Leebron Human Rights Fellowship from Columbia Law School. The fellowship supported a joint project with the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights, which focused on strengthening the capacity of national human rights institutions to monitor socioeconomic rights. This project built on Allison’s long-standing interest in the unique role that national human rights institutions can play in advancing rights-based policymaking; in previous positions she worked with the National Institutions Unit of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva and the Australian Human Rights Commission in Sydney.

Allison holds a BA and LLB from the University of New South Wales and a LLM from Columbia Law School.

 

Personal Statement

My work to date has given me an overview of the global economic trends that create, perpetuate, and exacerbate inequalities in the distribution of power and resources, and the consequences that this has for people’s rights at the local level. Across the globe, deprivations of socioeconomic rights - a category that encompasses education, health, food, water, housing, work, and other rights essential to human dignity - are both a cause and consequence of inequalities. Yet, their deep-rooted, structural nature means establishing responsibility for them is challenging.

I strongly believe that research on the deprivations of human rights and of inequalities shouldn’t be the exclusive domain of lawyers, social scientists, economists, and other experts. Research methods can, and should, be simplified and adapted to be used by communities who are affected and the activists that work to support them. Thinking about how best to do this has prompted me to critically reflect on the strengths and the weaknesses of human rights as a framework for challenging inequality. On the one hand, human rights codify universal values such as fairness, dignity, and social justice, offering an inclusive narrative for reimagining economic models that advance equality. On the other, the theory of change behind much human rights activism has often been quite linear: by exposing violations, those responsible will be pressured to change.

Of course, bringing sufficient pressure to bear to influence systemic policy change is anything but linear! For this reason, as human rights activists we need to think more creatively, explore new ways to approach our work, experiment with different tools, and push the boundaries of innovation. But a breadth of expertise is needed to effectively do so.

My interest in the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity stems from a desire to deepen my theoretical understanding of inequality and to expand my analytical skills to be able to better analyse the interrelations between the economic, political and social systems that cause inequalities. This, I believe, is key to advancing a more multi-dimensional approach to rights advocacy focused on challenging inequality. The opportunity that the fellowship presents to connect with an international network of scholars and practitioners committed to challenging inequality and exchange ideas, debate problems and collaborate on finding solutions is especially exciting. I hope to both gain from, and contribute to, new perspectives and new ways of thinking about inequality and to translate theoretical knowledge into practical action.

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Craig Dube

Nationality: Zimbabwean

Living in: Harare, Zimbabwe

Regional Field Officer, Champions For Life

 
 

Craig’s academic and professional career is mainly influenced by his work to help improve the quality of life faced by adolescents living with HIV in southern and east Africa on a voluntary basis.

Craig has been involved with Champions For Life, an organisation that provides psychosocial support to adolescents living with HIV in 13 countries since for the past nine years as a Regional Field Officer (among other roles). Although he is HIV negative, he has been able to identify with his adolescent peers who are living with HIV and has been able to help them through his own life story. He is also research-oriented, his first academic thesis was on HIV self-testing.

At just 24 years of age, Craig has helped Champions for Life develop evaluation tools and screen for psychosocial challenges faced by adolescents living with HIV, and advocates for connecting them to facilities that can help them on an individual basis. He has also spoken at various change platforms that push for policy change in areas that disadvantage young people living with HIV. Some of these platforms include ICASA 2015, AIDS 2016, Namibia AIDS conference, Paediatric & Adolescent HIV prevention care treatment support symposium, and the Children & HIV: Equity Now! among others.

Craig holds a BSc. Psychology (hons.) from Midlands State University, Zimbabwe.

 

Personal Statement

Inequality is a phenomenon widely experienced in my part of Africa but underreported and often swept under the covers of corruption, abuse and violence. There is a vast number of inequalities that cut across social class, gender, health, and economic access and if inequality is spoken of we are quick to look at the people that are responsible for it. However, during my work with the Atlantic Fellows programme I hope to look at how inequality is caused by health factors and other ‘non-human’ proponents of inequality

I grew up in a poor community that had no veils to cover up inequality if you were poor (like in my case). You were poor, and could not access certain services, especially when enrolling in a good school. For my high school education, I ended up learning at a school with an enrolment of almost 3,000 students and the teacher-pupil ratio was extremely unfavourable. Despite being a bright student, I failed my first attempt at my GCE O level examinations.

At home I really saw the injustice of HIV first hand. My father died from HIV-related illnesses and my community refused to offer us any help, we were often subjected to ridicule and fought a lot of stigma. Due to my background I developed an interest in finding ways to break out of my situation and as I got older I began to see that there were so many young people in worse situations than mine, that the status quo has forced them to accept their living conditions, and that very few break the cycles of poverty and disease that is prevalent in the majority of our communities.

My academic interests are in the field of HIV, addressing gaps that cause inequality through sexual reproductive health and the burden of the disease. Through the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity programme, I look forward to being empowered to practically tackle issues in this area. I also look forward to explore how emerging technologies can be harnessed to bring equity in different setting but mainly looking at addressing the inequality of access to health care mainly faced by key populations highly affected by chronic diseases in Africa.

One of my goals is to become a public health expert dealing with the injustice caused by health problems that create inequality in the future and this opportunity is a big stepping stone to achieving that.

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Kripa Basnyat

Nationality: Nepalese

Living in: Kathmandu, Nepal

Programme Manager, The Asia Foundation

 
 

Having worked with national and international organisations in Nepal and India, Kripa has gained extensive experience in the areas of women’s economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), peacebuilding and reconciliation, gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) through collective movement building, leadership development and capacity strengthening in the global south.

Kripa is working as a Programme Manager for CM-GESI at The Asia Foundation (TAF) in mitigating conflict through effective implementation of GESI policies and programmes in Nepal. The programme reduces conflicts between different identities mainly focusing on women and Dalits through ‘People-to-People’ approach, a peacebuilding intervention to build trust and strengthen social ties for establishing equality and justice.

Between September 2015 and February 2017, Kripa served as an Executive Director of Hamro Chahana Nepal (HCN), a women-led feminist human rights organisation, which works holistically on women’s learning and knowledge production, bodily integrity, access to economic justice, rapid response system, and collective movement building. HCN embarks on empowering the most marginalised and excluded young women in Nepal to take leadership of their own lives, bodies and economy. Different initiatives were taken in the most earthquake-affected district to achieve alternative livelihoods opportunities, education and health services in a holistic way.

Between June 2011 and April 2015, as Programme Manager and Programme Officer with Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PWESCR), Kripa managed the Leadership Development Programmes and built the capacities of leaders from the Global South. Kripa organised four Leadership Institutes in Women’s ESC Rights along with many short trainings which focused on regional and international human rights mechanisms. Kripa organised more than 28 training sessions and trained more than 700 participants which included developing learning tools and manuals.

Whilst working as the Programme Officer in Himalayan Human Rights Monitors (HimRights), Kripa worked with conflict affected children, youth and women in peacebuilding and reconciliation process through trauma healing, awareness on government provisions, building capacities on the affected communities to advocate for right to access to justice. Kripa was coordinating six conflict affected districts in Nepal to reconcile warring parties in post conflict situation. She is a founding member of South Asian Feminist Alliance for ESCR (SAFA for ESCR) and Young Feminist Circle (YFC).

She graduated with an MA in Politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) along with B.Com (Hons) from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University.

 

Personal Statement

I am a staunch and passionate activist fighting for equality and inclusion for the most marginalised communities. By nature, I consider myself a curious person who is constantly questioning the status quo, challenging the structures of inequalities, and troubled by all injustices. The discrimination that my mother faced after becoming a widow during my childhood is still fresh in my mind. This triggered me to become an advocate of gender equality and social justice through voicing my opinions fiercely. Similarly, my work on substantive equality led me to realise the importance to uphold the dignity of the Dalit community. It is difficult to challenge the historically set gender and caste values and norms. For the same reason, I chose to continue fighting against these injustices, by uprooting the causes of gender and caste-based discrimination.

I was gradually and naturally attracted to working with the social justice sector, having initially sought to work in the management sector. The shift started happening as soon as I graduated, I started volunteering to raise funds in Delhi after the tsunami. I was always interested in philanthropic work and the interest was sealed after the association with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where I acquired my MA in Politics. I am interested in further pushing the envelope to learn more about equality, equity, and inclusion at all spheres.

Various experience of working at feminist human rights organisations and development agencies led to my transformation from within, and a self-introspection which helped me discover the passion and rigor to work on gender-related issues. I have been engaged with different regional networks working to uphold rights and justice. I have recently come to realise I want to work with young women from the most marginalised communities, who are deprived of the opportunities to learn about the rights-based approach, advocacy, self-care, and leadership development.

Leadership Development and capacity strengthening has helped to build critical mass from the Global South to advocate for human rights. I have been involved in designing new programmes, creating new modules and executing them in an innovation manner.

Nepal is undergoing tremendous changes nationally and the shift in the governing bodies would not automatically lead to shift in public opinion. I want to pursue my research on the best practices of adopting policies and programmes to ensure equality and inclusion of the most marginalised communities.

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Lauren Burke

Nationality: American

Living in: Washington DC, USA

Organizing Consultant, Labor Network for Sustainability

 

As a young person, Lauren volunteered with No More Deaths, a group providing water and humanitarian aid for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border through the Sonoran Desert. These memories shaped her experiences at Yale University, where she ultimately wrote her undergraduate thesis about the US Sanctuary Movement that arose in response to the Central American refugee crisis of the 1980s.

However, it was outside of the classroom where Lauren learned the most important lessons in her political education. In September of 2002, Lauren stood among the 800 people who occupied the intersection of College and Elm Streets - the largest act of civil disobedience in history of New Haven, CT. This location had long marked the historic boundary separating the largely white elite of Yale University from the economically struggling African American and Latino communities of New Haven. Her experience standing shoulder to shoulder with students, professors, janitors, cooks, secretaries, and community residents showed her how interracial, cross-class solidarity can create real social change. That campaign ultimately succeeded in both winning better union contracts for campus workers and pushing Yale towards a more equitable development strategy in New Haven.

Upon graduation, Lauren joined the labour movement as an organiser with UNITE HERE, where she eventually organised and led campaigns that won union recognition for over 1,400 hotel and food service workers. Most of her work with UNITE HERE was focused on getting people to face their fears, believe in themselves, and take the risks necessary to demand from their employers either union recognition or a better labour contract. Lauren has recruited and trained scores of grassroots leaders; she has taught organisers how to replicate this recruitment and training with other workers. She has designed and led campaigns so that these risks actually lead to concrete and defensible improvements in workers' lives.

In 2012, Lauren led the ‘Real Food Real Jobs’ campaign at five Washington, D.C.-area universities. This campaign linked the provision of healthy and sustainable food in university cafeterias with access to healthy and affordable food in the communities where university workers lived. The success of ‘Real Food Real Jobs’ depended upon recognising cooks and food service workers as the authorities on providing healthy sustainable food to their communities. In the end, the campaign translated workers' pride in their jobs into power that they mobilised against the deskilling of their labour.

Most recently, her interest in the centrality of workers' voices to issues of ecological sustainability has led Lauren to work with the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS), which seeks to challenge the US labour movement to become part of the solution to the climate crisis. With LNS she has worked on highlighting worker experiences as part of a national Transit Equity Day and is laying the foundation for building labour-led initiatives on climate jobs.

 

Personal Statement

More than a decade of experience organising service sector workers has given me a unique perspective on how low-income communities of colour are impacted by climate change. As an organiser for UNITE HERE, I have organised hotel and food service workers from all over the world - as economic refugees from Mexico, as political refugees from Iraq, or as climate refugees from Ethiopia - to join an overwhelmingly African-American workforce in the United States. I have witnessed how these workers already bear the brunt of man-made climate change. In the desert of Phoenix, Arizona, where hotel workers often work outside, or in very hot kitchens, shop-floor struggles commonly centre on campaigns relating to their work environment, such as contractually guaranteed access to cold water and air conditioning, or even the right to wear sunglasses. These experiences helped me understand how only an organised workforce could ensure environmental justice in the workplace. I also came to understand that, as places like Phoenix continue to warm, climate change will exacerbate inequality and ultimately make these cities unliveable for all but the most privileged.

The political climate following Trump's victory has challenged me to think more expansively about how to create a just and equitable society beyond my work on union campaigns. I have begun to make connections between issues of workplace democracy, public health, and the environment that had once seemed only indirectly related. As an Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity I will deepen my understanding of these connections, learn about approaches to social change very different from the labour organising perspective I know so intimately, and develop new ideas about how to build a better world.

I plan to lead campaigns to engage workers in "just transition" campaigns in the food, transport, and energy industries. If humanity is to survive the next century, these resource-intensive industries are where we must focus our efforts on reducing carbon emissions. Further, given the centrality of each of these industries to the functioning of the global economy, laying a foundation for a "just transition" here will offer a model for the creation of stable, sustainable, and far more equitable economy.

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Tanya Charles

Nationality: Zimbabwean

Living in: Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Gender and Women's Rights Consultant

 
 

Tanya’s professional and academic focus is on freeing society from the limitations of gender and sexuality stereotypes. As such, she currently works as an independent gender and human rights consultant for non-profits in Southern Africa, providing a range of services from designing bespoke training sessions on gender equality in the mining sector to forming strategies on how to tackle gender-based violence nationally.

Tanya has written about violence against women for Huffpost Women, published research reports on the linkages between policy and sexuality with the Institute of Development Studies in the U.K, and is currently a voluntary Founding Board Member of Vuka Zimbabwe, an NGO that exists to unlock the potential of Zimbabwe’s youth through training and skills development. Tanya is also a member of the Rotary Club of Belmont in Zimbabwe, where she dedicates her time to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in her immediate locale.

Tanya holds an MPhil in Justice and Transformation from the University of Cape Town, as well as undergraduate and honours degrees in Social Anthropology and Media Studies.

 

Personal Statement

As a feminist activist who has worked in the non-profit sector over the last eight years, I have come to realise that women’s economic empowerment is critical to our enjoyment of other fundamental human rights. This was crystallised when I met a number of small-scale rural women miners who are currently earning a good living in this male-dominated industry, a contrary picture to the one I have become accustomed to seeing of unemployed women in rural areas struggling against great odds to survive.

These oppositional images have led me to one salient insight; that putting financial and material resources in women’s hands can have a more immediate and transformative impact on their lives than other pathways to realising gender equality, such as in legislative reform. The Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity affords me with multiple opportunities to think more fully about how economics affects women’s lives. Through the MSc in Inequality and Social Sciences, I will be able to lay the theoretical and methodological groundwork that will be necessary for exploring questions of economy and its gendered dimensions and impacts on health, equipping me to investigate my own research interests, which centre on women in the extractives industry and the manifestations of their agency as a result of economic (in)stability. I believe there is much to learn from women who are marginally located but who manage to leverage the global capitalist market for their own betterment.

Because inequity is a global phenomenon, the global nature of the fellowship means that our learning will not be limited to the formal classroom space but through robust engagements with dynamic individuals already working to tackle disparity in their own contexts. I am looking forward to being challenged to think differently by individuals who take novel approaches to addressing inequality all over the world.

As a result of the formal and informal spaces of learning and engagement, I hope to emerge a feminist activist with significantly more than a surface understanding of inequity and how it can be addressed from several vantage points. My ultimate aim is to emerge as a feminist activist who is able to influence economic and development policies that after decades of lobbying, remain one of the least transformed arenas in achieving gender justice.