Madhumitha Ardhanari

Sustainability strategist and researcher, Forum for the Future
Nationality: Singaporean
Living in: Singapore
Fields of work: Environment/sustainable development, human rights, technology, food systems and security

“I believe lasting radical change comes from questioning why things are the way they are and envisioning how things can be done differently, and better. Inequality colours how we see the world, and questions can be powerful vehicles for change. I hold deep questions within me, from what my role in creating a more just society is, to what more ethical value distribution in agricultural supply chains could look like in the face of automation and an ageing workforce.”
— Madhumitha Ardhanari

Madhumitha Ardhanari is a sustainability strategist and researcher at Forum for the Future, with five years of experience coaching businesses and organisations to adapt to long-term sustainability challenges. She has extensive work experience in areas such as sustainable value chains and livelihoods, and radical decarbonisation. For the past two years, she has managed a first-of-its-kind pre-competitive collaboration with five palm oil manufacturers aimed at improving labour rights in the value chain. She has also designed, researched and facilitated projects exploring just and sustainable futures for sectors including shipping, energy, agriculture and textiles, in the Asia-Pacific region. 

When Madhu was seconded to Forum’s India office in 2016, she led the futures research for a scenarios project examining risks and opportunities in the linen industry in 2030. She also coordinated research on the future of decentralised renewable energy in Odisha, India. Prior to advisory work, she led on building and developing content for a sustainability futures knowledge sharing platform,

Outside work, Madhu volunteers as a facilitator at PlayMoolah, a financial literacy start-up, where she helps young people from low-income households who are in receipt of long-term financial aid to build pathways to financial security. She is a member of Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA), where she trains young people to become climate activists. She represented Singaporean civil society at the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Morocco. 

Madhu holds an honours degree in political science from the National University of Singapore, where she was part of the University Scholars Programme.

Twitter: @madhumithabla

“Tackling climate collapse and modern slavery comes with its fair share of despair and grief. What gives me hope is people’s shared conviction to fight for a better future and dismantle deeply entrenched power structures. I see this in Maori women standing in front of bulldozers to protect their forests, and in shipping executives rerouting vessels to avoid whales. Most recently, the school strikes for climate justice have given me the greatest hope: young people from Abuja and Bugoloobi to Sacramento and Medellí­n reclaiming their future. It reminds me that we are capable of flourishing and thriving, even in the most difficult times, by connecting and loving across our differences.”
— Madhumitha Ardhanari

Hobeth Martínez Carrillo

Principal researcher, Centre for the Study of Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia)
Nationality: Colombian
Living in: Bogotá, Colombia
Fields of work: law, human rights, peace and conflict, rural

“Curiosity, or having the ability to look at things differently and therefore to not accept them as immutable, is an essential value. I always want to learn new things, observe new evidence, integrate different perspectives, and try alternative paths. If you are curious enough, you may find a way. Eventually, things can and will change.”
— Hobeth Martínez Carrillo

A principal researcher in transitional justice at the Center for the Study of Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia) in Bogotá, Hobeth Martínez Carrillo has spent the past two years working on the implementation of the peace agreement signed by the Colombian government and FARC-EP in 2016. His work focuses on legal topics including the constitutional amendments and other normative changes needed to incorporate the peace agreement into the Colombian legal system, the defence of the rights of victims, and legal frameworks necessary to prosecute those who were involved in atrocious crimes during the conflict. Hobeth has also worked with local communities from some of the regions most affected by the armed conflict, where he has offered technical support in a bottom-up planning process.

Since 2017, Hobeth has been collaborating with the Essex Transitional Justice Network (ETJN) at the University of Essex on a joint research project about the accountability of third-party (economic) actors for their involvement in Colombia’s armed conflict. This partnership led to the publication of a co-authored study aimed at supporting the work of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, one of the institutions created as a result of the peace agreement. In March 2019, Hobeth spent two weeks as a fellow at the University of Essex School of Law as part of its Essex International Visiting Fellowships scheme.

Hobeth began his professional career as a researcher and legal adviser on indigenous peoples’ rights and their relationship with the Colombian penitentiary system, later expanding to encompass topics such as victims’ rights (including forced displacement, land restitution and reparations) and land issues (such as property concentration, land seizure and agrarian law).

Hobeth holds a law degree from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNAL) and an MA from the Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law (IISL), affiliated to the University of the Basque Country. He is member of the Research Committee on Sociology of Law (RCSL), and recently published Entre coacción y colaboración: Verdad judicial, actores económicos y conflicto armado en Colombia and Domando la incertidumbre: el control judicial de actos legislativos en tiempos de transición de la guerra hacia la paz (both co-authored, 2018).

Twitter: @HobethMC

“What gives me hope? Politics from below/grassroots politics; republicanism as opposed to liberal democracies.”
— Hobeth Martínez Carrillo


Esther Mwema

Founder, Safety First for Girls Outreach Foundation (SAFIGI)
Nationality: Congolese
Living in: Lusaka, Zambia
Fields of work:
gender, human rights, media/journalism, internet governance, safety

“Growing up in Mbala, a small town in Zambia, I walked over an hour to get to school. At six years old, the rain, sun, and dust were my biggest adversary. I did not have to consider I was female, black or an immigrant. These long lone walks opened my mind to imagination and questions about the fabric of the world. They drove my curiosity.

As I got older and wanted to contribute to society through volunteering, I faced many closed doors. I was too young to give back. I did not have the skills. No one wanted a teenager on their team. The rejection sparked more questions in me than it hurt me, although it hurt me a lot. I wondered why most civil societies were not inclusive or open, even though young people are the majority of the population. It made me curious as to why society’s institutions were using outdated, closed systems and expecting innovation.

At 17 years old when I started Safety First for Girls, there were three paths before me. The first: conform and develop an organisation in a tried and systematic way. The second: quit, because I did not have the money even to take a taxi home, let alone build an organisation. The third path was a ridiculous one: creating a whole new grassroots-led model, without experience, without money, and without structured support. But by taking the third path, the curious path, I had nothing to lose. Maybe I could find the answers I was looking for.”
— Esther Mwema

Esther Mwema sees safety as essential for a healthy society. At 17 years old, she founded Safety First For Girls Outreach Foundation (SAFIGI), a feminist, youth-led organisation focused on safety education, advocacy and research. Using the internet as a platform to connect and build communities, at 23 years old she became founding president of Digital Grassroots, which works to increase the representation of underserved youth in internet governance through the multi-stakeholder model.

In 2017 she was named an Internet Society Youth@IGF Fellow, and attended the Internet Governance Forum held at the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland. The following year, Digital Grassroots was invited to give a keynote speech at the closing ceremony of the Internet Governance Forum at Unesco’s offices in Paris, representing the youth stakeholder group.

Work Open, Lead Open (WOLO) has been a guiding principle for Esther’s work since she became a Mozilla Open Leader in 2018. She has served as a guest expert on open leadership, digital inclusion, and personas and pathways on the Mozilla Open Leaders programme, and has mentored young people on community-building for open and sustainable projects. She curated a communique on youth resolutions in internet governance, and as a Mozilla Festival Facilitator, co-created Digital Rights Monopoly, an adaptive game focusing on digital rights issues.

In 2019, Esther became an Internet Freedom Festival (IFF) Community Development Fellow, and curated the IFF’s Next Net theme. Also in 2019, she was named to a Kumvana Fellowship by Engineers Without Borders Canada, a programme that provides African innovators with a platform to network, collaborate and develop skills.

Esther is the recipient of a scholarship to attend Women Deliver 2019, the world’s largest conference on gender equality, where SAFIGI presented a poster on its research on issues affecting the safety of girls in the developing world. In 2018, she was invited by the Graça Machel Trust to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s centenary year as part of the Africa Youth Network.

Esther graduated summa cum laude in multimedia journalism at the Institute of International Studies at Ramkhamhaeng University in Thailand. In the 2017-18 academic year, she served as a journalism tutor in the School of Humanities at the University of Zambia.

Esther is writing her debut fantasy novel. She took part in the Regional Residency for African Women Writers 2018 held by Femrite in collaboration with Karavan and the Swedish Institute. She was the only woman of six African novelists selected for the Mawazo Africa Writing Institute’s “Writing the Novel 2” course in 2018-19. Updates on her latest adventures can be found at 

Twitter: @hadassahlouis

“Being a young black female immigrant means facing a different battle every day. It is a difficult way to live. It is an easy way to die. The very fabric of hope is tested with each waking day, with each injustice we have to accept, ignore or grow numb to.

My hope rests in the fact that I am able to shape my future much more than in the past. As marginalised communities, we defend our human dignity by creating solutions for ourselves, telling our own stories, and being allowed the independence to embrace our cultures. Although there are challenges, the future appears more open, inclusive and innovative. It is a world where a girl like me can become an Atlantic Fellow.”
— Esther Mwema


Michaela Rafferty

Youth worker, Springboard Opportunities
Nationality: Irish
Living in: Belfast, North of Ireland
Fields of work: human rights, education, peace and conflict, poverty support

“In working for change, courage is a value I hold very high. To create a more equal world, we must first identify the root cause of inequality, and it is often linked to power. When challenging inequality we are often challenging those in power, and it can be daunting.

The organisation I work for is part-funded by a government department responsible for the roll-out of welfare reform that has had a direct negative impact on the young people I work with. I recently took part in an interview where I spoke about a mandatory government employability scheme that is having a detrimental impact on unemployed young people. The interview was broadcast on national TV and across social media. I could have lost my job, as the government department running the scheme also funds the project I work on.

But I was convinced that this message needed to be heard. It took courage to speak out. The young people I work with saw the interview, and now want to share their stories on camera for people to hear, and change to come about. To me, this is activism at its core. ”
— Michaela Rafferty

“I have 12 years of experience in youth work and community development. My undergraduate degree was in community youth work at the University of Ulster. I have been working tirelessly to highlight and find ways to tackle the inequalities young people face on a daily basis.

“Over the course of my career, I have worked internationally in grassroots projects aimed at creating positive change for marginalised communities. I worked on a women’s empowerment project in Tajikistan that helped women develop the skills to create startup businesses, in a country with a high number of female-led households. I developed a youth rights project in the West Bank in Palestine, working with young people from refugee camps to educate them on their rights and capture their stories of life under occupation. I worked in refugee camps across Greece, creating services to cater for the gap in provision for refugees entering Europe. Throughout these experiences, I have found inequalities to be the undercurrent to the issues people face.

“At home in Belfast, most of my work has been with unemployed young adults from either side of the North of Ireland’s community divide. I run personal development training programmes for young people facing barriers to education and employment as a result of poverty, homelessness, drug use and mental health difficulties. I feel strongly that the voices of those most affected by social issues should be at the forefront of developing solutions to them. I am part of a Right to Work: Right to Welfare activist group and a housing campaign group, and recently have started a Youth Right to Welfare group that trains young people on a human rights approach to challenging welfare reform.

“I am a trustee with Refugees Welcome NI. We recruit local host families to provide rooms for destitute asylum seekers and refugees. This doesn’t just provide a practical solution to newcomers who are experiencing homelessness, but also helps foster a welcoming culture that promotes integration and integrity to those seeking asylum.

“As a youth worker and activist, I am committed to creating a platform where the voices of marginalised groups in our society can be heard and real change can be created.”
Michaela Rafferty

Twitter: @MichaelaRaffert

“The young people I work with give me hope every day. Their resilience and determination to get through the toughest of challenges in the hope that things will get better gives me the ability to believe that the next generation will ensure that positive change is coming, because they are creating it.”
— Michaela Rafferty


Leanne Sajor

Program Coordinator for Economic Policy and Human Rights, International Network for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net)
Nationality: Filipina
Living in: New York City, US
Fields of work: gender, human rights, migration, feminist movement building, environment/sustainable development, and amplifying and articulating socio-economic alternatives.

“Courage is integral to my commitment to working towards transformative change because challenging the status quo and taking leaps towards alternative futures requires it. Courage is essential in order to engender the justice and liberation we want to see within ourselves, interpersonally, in our communities and within institutions of power. It drives us to act, take risks and speak truth to power.

I believe that inequality is not inevitable but a result of intersecting systems of oppression designed to serve powerful financial and political interests. My parents were political prisoners during the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines, and I learned from our family and community’s experience as well as my work that courage is not only a means of survival but also a way of affirming and living our deepest values.”
— Leanne Sajor

Leanne Sajor is from the Philippines and lives in her adopted community of Queens, New York City. She has spent the past 10 years as a feminist organiser and advocate, working with grassroots groups and civil society organisations to address inequalities and amplify social justice agendas. She enjoys facilitating political education programmes, organising campaigns, designing and coordinating participatory research projects and leading strategic discussions to support feminist movement building, socio-economic justice and the rights of immigrants.

Leanne is presently Program Coordinator for Economic Policy and Human Rights at the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net). She facilitates the collective efforts of 54 member organisations towards building a shared systemic critique of the dominant economic system and articulating alternatives. She organises projects that advance mutual learning solidarity and collective action; that link diverse communities to address deepening inequalities; and that challenge dispossession amid abundance as well as environmental degradation and climate change.

Leanne was previously a Program Officer for the Feminist Development Justice programme at the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) in Thailand, working with feminist movements to promote a redistributive model of development and to place grassroots women’s voices at the centre of development policies. At APWLD she managed a campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would later grow into an initiative confronting corporate power and trade agreements.

When Leanne was 20, she co-founded the Renaissance Charter School for Innovation in East Harlem, New York City, working with parents, students, community leaders and progressive educators to build a community school and address educational inequalities. She co-designed a teaching model to address students’ academic and social needs and promote leadership, activism and experiential learning. She also founded a school-wide programme for out-of-state practicums allowing students to take knowledge from the classroom into real-world applications by connecting them with community-based social justice organisations.

Leanne is an advisor and co-facilitator for the Asia-Pacific region at FRIDA, the Young Feminist Fund, and has served on the board of the Sadie Nash Leadership Project. She holds a BA (Hons.) in political science and women’s and gender studies from the City University of New York. 

Twitter: @leannesajor

“What gives me hope are activists, especially working women, and frontline communities that are confronting and winning against powerful forces that threaten their ability to live in dignity. As an immigrant, I am inspired by movements in both the global South and the global North that are coming together despite inequalities, violent repression and shrinking civil society space to take action, build emergent strategies, break isolation and nurture deep solidarities to claim their rights.

It gives me hope that in the face of a consuming and unjust socio-economic project that promotes patriarchy, exploitation, militarism, discrimination and division, people still struggle for transformative change. Challenging inequalities requires strong movements, and I hope to contribute to the collective work to gradually shift the balance of power to those who have carried the impacts of economic and environmental injustice for far too long.”
— Leanne Sajor