Catalina Devandas, Executive Director (She/Her)
Catalina is the Executive Director of the Disability Rights Fund and Disability Rights Advocacy Fund since August 2022. She rejoins the organization after having worked there from 2009-2014 supporting organizations of persons with disabilities from the Global South, including Indigenous Peoples, to influence national and international processes through their interactions with local authorities, national governments, and the UN system.
Appointed as the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina served in this role from 2014-2020. She conducted several country visits, including the first official visit as an expert on human rights to the Democratic Republic of North Korea. During her tenure, she led the process that culminated in the adoption by the Secretary General of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS), a cross-cutting strategy for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the organization under the commitment of the Sustainable Development Goals to leave no one behind.
In her last role as Ambassador Permanent Representative of Costa Rica, Catalina successfully led multilateral negotiations, resulting in the universal recognition of the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment by the Human Rights Council, and in an important budget reform of the International Organization on Migration.
Earlier in her career, Catalina worked as a Human Rights Officer at the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York and worked for the World Bank, advising Latin American states on social inclusion. She currently serves on the Ford Foundation Board of Trustees. Catalina identifies as a woman with a disability; she is married and is a mother of three daughters.
Dwi Ariyani, Acting Co-Director of Programs (She/Her)
Dwi Ariyani is the Acting Co-Director of Programs for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund.
Previously, Dwi was the Regional Head of Programs, Asia, for DRF/DRAF. She works closely with the program team and serves as a liaison between the Funds and grantees in Indonesia. Dwi is a disability rights activist, working for over twenty years in Indonesia on disability rights and movement building. She has worked with grassroots and national organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) to promote persons with disabilities rights and provide technical assistance for OPDs and work with them to achieve their advocacy agenda through legislation reform and budgetary advocacy, building a bridge across the movement. Prior to joining the DRF, Dwi worked as the Inclusion Programme Advisor Rights Project for Humanity Inclusion Indonesia & Timor Leste. Dwi gained on-the-ground experience conducting field surveys, focus groups, and assessments to collect data for evidence-based research on the rights of persons with disabilities. This research was used to advocate for better laws and to produce an advocacy handbook for OPDs and community-based organizations. With local OPDs, Dwi experiences worked in an earthquake-affected area to establish an inclusive children’s centre to provide psychosocial support to children with disabilities and promote access to relief services by humanitarian NGOs working in disaster relief. She holds a diploma in computer technology. Dwi received the 2020 Women of Distinction Award—NGO Committee on the Status of Woman, New York.
Jen Bokoff, Director of Development (She/Her)
Jen Bokoff is the Director of Development for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. She is on the Management Team and cultivates partnerships with donors.
Jen has dedicated her career to elevating marginalized voices, supporting community-centered solutions, and driving equity and effectiveness. Through frequent writing, public speaking, and facilitation, she enjoys naming tensions and connecting people to resources, ideas, and one another. Jen worked at Candid for seven years, where she developed partnerships, communications, resources, and insights to power the work of the philanthropic sector. There, she led research on participatory grantmaking that featured DRF’s work. Previously, Jen was a client advocate for a community-based organization and later a grantmaker at a private foundation focused on supporting healthy food systems and the arts. She was also a paralegal for the Internal Revenue Service, which taught her the power of active listening and offered unique insight into people’s lived experiences. Jen was identified by Onalytica in 2019 as a top 10 charity industry influencer and by Submittable in 2020 as a top 15 grantmaking-shaper.
A graduate of Tufts University, Jen studied community health and sociology and now serves on the Alumni Council. She is also a member of Disability Lead and serves on the boards of Rhize and Human Rights Funders Network. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, watching theater, aunting, and playing board games and bridge. She lives in Chicago with her husband and dog Bowser.
Rucha Chitnis, Director of Communications (She/Her)
Rucha Chitnis is the Director of Communications at the Disability Rights Fund and Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. She also serves on the management team, leading the Funds’ communications strategy that centers the power and solutions of grassroots groups and movements led by persons with disabilities who are advocating for human rights and inclusion globally.
Rucha is a communications strategist, photojournalist, and an emerging filmmaker. As a documentarian, her stories center the counter narratives of grassroots feminists and frontline movements rising and advocating for systemic shifts in the face of climate chaos and economic inequities, flipping the script of the dominant culture that erases and dehumanizes. Rucha is a fellow at the International Women’s Media Foundation and the producer of In the Land of My Ancestors, an award-winning documentary short that celebrates the living legacy of beloved Ohlone elder, Ann Marie Sayers.
A graduate of the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, Rucha serves as an adviser to Vikalp Sangam (meaning a confluence of alternatives in Hindi), a network of over 70 grassroots groups and people’s movements in India that amplifies stories of alternative economies, food and climate justice.
Esohe Evbuomwan, Finance Systems Manager (She/Her)
Esohe has over five years of international development finance and management experience with many years of continuous experience on complex and large international development and humanitarian projects. Before joining DRF/DRAF, Esohe worked with organizations that managed projects funded by multiple donors like FCDO, USAid, WHO, and World Bank. In 2021, she completed a twelve-month humanitarian mission in Sierra Leone with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) as a Project Management Manager. While at Medecins Sans Frontieres, she successfully implemented mobile money as part of the financial process, eliminating overreliance on cash at the project level. In previous roles, Esohe ensured the overall financial health of the organization, supported management of organizational operations, donor requirements, and team members on related financial administration.
When Esohe is not working, she enjoys a good TV binge, but you can also catch her biking, hiking, or traveling. Esohe graduated with a Master’s degree from the University College of London (UCL) in Management and with a Bachelor in Honors degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Hertfordshire both from England, United Kingdom.
Jo-Ann Garnier, Program Officer for Haiti (She/Her)
Jo-Ann Garnier is the Program Officer for Haiti for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. She works closely with the program team and serves as a liaison between the Funds and grantees in Haiti.
Jo-Ann brings over a decade of experience supporting Haitian civil society to promote the rights of children, including children with disabilities, and to provide technical support to civil society and the government on rights and inclusion of marginalized groups. Prior to DRF, as Executive Director for enpaK, a Haitian NGO promoting the rights of children, she worked with multi-stakeholders on strategies realizing the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure all children are included in education and social development programs. She also worked with the Secretary of State’s office on a communication strategy to popularize the Law on the Integration of Persons with Disabilities, including a child-friendly version in French and Creole. As Plan International’s Country Director, she built strong relationships with civil society, government, and donor agencies. She is on several national platforms for rights and development issues in Haiti and has traveled extensively throughout the country meeting with rural, grassroots community groups. She is fluent in French, Kreyol, English, and Spanish.
Jo-Ann has a law degree from the Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Krishna Gahatraj, Program Officer, Nepal (He/Him)
Krishna is an experienced development practitioner with more than 10 years of expertise on human rights, disability-inclusive development, inclusive humanitarian action, and inclusive project cycle management. Krishna is a person with physical impairment belonging to the Dalit community of Nepal. Before joining DRF, he worked at United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Nepal country office as a monitoring and evaluation officer for disability inclusion under the National Specialist category for United Nations Volunteer Program. Previously, he did his fellowship with International Disability Alliance for Inclusive Humanitarian Action focusing on supporting the capacity building of humanitarian actors and organizations of persons with disabilities. He had served at the Christian Blind Mission for 4 years and 5 months as a program officer for disability inclusion.
Krishna has pursued his Master’s Degree in International Cooperation and Development from Mid-West University of Nepal and is currently pursuing another Master’s Degree in Gender Studies from Tribhuwan University of Nepal. He has a bachelor’s degree in Humanities and Social Science, majoring in sociology, anthropology and rural development.
Antoinette Harris, Director of Grants Management (She/Her)
Antoinette Harris is Director of Grants Management at the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. She is an experienced grants management professional with fifteen years of experience in philanthropy.
Antoinette has worked for major funders including: the Harry B. and Leona M. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Michael J. Fox Foundation and most notably the NoVo Foundation, where for six years, she managed a $250 million dollar grant portfolio in support of their work ending violence against women and girls, and amplifying the voices of indigenous people.
She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French Language and Literature with a concentration in International Relations from the State University of New York at Geneseo.
Aapurv Jain, Associate Director, Bilateral Relations (He/Him)
Aapurv Jain is the Associate Director of Bilateral Relations at the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. He manages and cultivates relationships with bilateral donors.
Aapurv is passionate about mobilizing resources and building cross-sectoral partnerships to shift power to the hands of historically marginalized groups. He brings a depth of experience in cultivating relationships, leading proposal development, and managing grants funded by bilateral and multilateral donor agencies and philanthropic foundations. He has over eight years of experience in the international development sector across Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, North America, and Europe. Prior to joining DRF/DRAF, Aapurv led the Business Development and Grants Unit for Restless Development’s Uganda Hub, where he designed multi-country programs to strengthen youth civil society across Sub-Saharan Africa. He has previously managed programs and partnerships for BBC Media Action. He has also worked with Partners for Law in Development, a feminist legal resource group, and the International Commission of Jurists to strengthen access to justice for women, girls, and LGBTI communities in India and across South Asia. Aapurv is also a member of the UN Women’s Civil Society Advisory Group.
Aapurv holds a Master’s degree in Gender and Sexuality from SOAS, the University of London as a Felix Scholar, and has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Delhi, India. When not chasing proposal deadlines and funding flows, he spends his time listening to podcasts and music, reading books, working out, cooking, and baking.
Melanie Kawano-Chiu, Evaluation & Learning Director (She/Her)
Melanie Kawano-Chiu is the Evaluation & Learning Director for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. She is responsible for supporting and monitoring a multi-year partnership project.
Melanie’s two-decade career has included creating a global monitoring and evaluation consortium; building multi-stakeholder partnerships; teaching at international and domestic higher education institutions, and designing qualitative and quantitative research and evaluations. Prior to this position, she was the Director of Learning and Evaluation at the Alliance for Peacebuilding, where she led an international consortium to improve evaluation practices and policies. She also cultivated and managed relationships with over 300 private and institutional donors and led communication efforts to gain new audiences. Earlier in her career, she oversaw grants for Fortune 20 companies at the American Red Cross. She has authored publications on the evaluation and impact of peacebuilding, as well as on post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan. Melanie developed a curriculum for the first monitoring and evaluation online certificate course for New York University. She was an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University Department of Global Studies.
Melanie has a Master’s in Political Theory and Conflict Resolution and a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology and International and Intercultural Studies.
Jack Kretzmer, Development Associate (He/Them)
Jack Kretzmer is the Development Associate for the Disability Rights Fund and Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. They provide support to and work collaboratively with the Development and Finance teams.
Highly experienced in the provision of crucial programs and resources to older adults and the disability community, Jack has a strong social services orientation and is dedicated to empowering underrepresented communities. Jack has previously approached this goal as a critical support to corps of both social workers and service volunteers. Prior to joining DRF/DRAF, Jack specialized in data management, information and referral, and event and volunteer management.
A graduate of Arizona State University, Jack studied sociology and gender studies, examining culture through a social justice lens and guiding fellow students as an undergraduate teaching assistant. Jack is currently working towards a Master’s of Science in nonprofit management at Northeastern University. Their anticipated graduation date is March of 2024. Jack aspires to utilize their education and experience to meaningfully contribute to DRF/DRAF’s mission. While not working or studying, Jack enjoys participating in civic engagement activities, connecting with family and friends, and visiting new coffee shops.
Victoria Lee, Rights Advocacy Director (She/Her)
Victoria Lee is the Rights Advocacy Director of the Disability Rights Fund and Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, where she is responsible for leading advocacy that draws on the work of organizations of persons with disabilities on the ground and captures synergies across national, regional, and global spaces, with a particular focus on cross-movement solidarity.
Previously, Victoria worked in the human rights and disability team of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and was Senior Human Rights Adviser at the International Disability Alliance. She has extensive experience in civil society organizations leading advocacy and supporting the participation of organizations of persons with disabilities before the UN, regional, and national human rights mechanisms. Victoria has also conducted strategic litigation at the national, regional, and international levels on behalf of women, persons with disabilities, migrants, survivors of torture and ill-treatment, and persons at the intersections of these and other underrepresented groups.
Having acquired her law degree in Australia, she was admitted as legal practitioner to the NSW Supreme Court and obtained her Masters in Human Rights Law at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Européennes of the University of Strasbourg, France.
Jorge Manhique, Senior Program Officer (He/Him)
Jorge is the Senior Program Officer for Disability Rights Fund and Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. As Senior PO, he is responsible for our strategic partnerships and for pursuing other emergent opportunities for innovative grantmaking beyond the rounds (e.g., non-target country, regional and global). He works closely with key teams to identify and prioritize opportunities, ensuring that DRF/DRAF grantmaking outside of the usual rounds is well-aligned, executed, and evaluated.
Jorge has over a decade of experience working on disability rights issues in developing countries, especially in Africa. Prior, he worked for DRF/DRAF as program officer for Africa, overseeing grantmaking in Malawi, Rwanda, and Uganda. He acted as an advisor representing DRF/DRAF in the ‘Making it Work Initiative’ implemented by Humanity and Inclusion, where over two years he conducted documentation of several projects implementing innovative solutions to tackle gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities across Africa. Jorge worked for the Forum of Mozambican Organizations of Disabled People (FAMOD), coordinating work to advance the implementation of the CRPD in Mozambique. He has published journal articles and book chapters and has served as a consultant for various NGOs and OPDs on issues ranging from law reform, advocacy, community mobilization, program performance evaluation and project design and fundraising.
Jorge has an LLM in International and Comparative Disability Law and Policy from the Centre of Disability Law and Policy at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is currently pursuing PhD in Social Policy at Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Politicas (ISCSP), University of Lisbon. His research focuses on inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in international cooperation development programs. Jorge is fluent in Portuguese (native speaker), English, and has a fair communication and understanding of French.
Federico Martire, Acting Chief Operations Officer (He/Him)
Federico is a European international cooperation practitioner based in Spain. He specializes in disability-inclusive development. Before his current engagement with DRF, he worked and collaborated, among others, with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Disability Forum, the International Disability Alliance, and FIIAPP—Spanish Cooperation, where he managed an EU-funded project, “Bridging the Gap.”
Theophilus Odaudu, Program Manager, Holding Rights, Leading for Rights (He/Him)
Theophilus Odaudu is the Program Officer for Nigeria for the Disability Rights Fund and Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. In this role, he is responsible for grantmaking, grants oversight, and technical support to disabled persons organizations in Nigeria.
Over the last ten years, Theophilus served the disability community in Nigeria in different capacities. He helped in establishing and stabilizing the Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB) in Abuja (the Federal Capital Territory), serving as its Treasurer and Secretary on different occasions, and has served as the North-Central Youth Coordinator for NAB, advocating for the participation of children and youth in the affairs of the association, and inclusion of young persons with disabilities in the broader society. Theophilus has over five years’ experience working with the government of Kogi State as a Legal Officer and volunteers for NGOs serving vulnerable groups, including Cedar Seed Foundation (CSF). As Legal Adviser for CSF, Theophilus edited the disability rights bill before the National Assembly, bringing its content in compliance with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). He is a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow where he studied public management at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, at Syracuse University in New York.
Theophilus holds a Master of Laws (LLM) Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the University of Pretoria, South Africa; and an LLM from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria with an academic focus in international law.
Christina Parasyn, Technical Assistance Director
Christina Parasyn is the Technical Assistance Director for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. She is responsible for leading the implementation of DRF/DRAF’s Technical Assistance Strategy. She works with the DRF/DRAF team, grantees, and partners to ensure grantees have access to technical skills and resources to achieve their rights advocacy goals.
Christina brings 20 years of experience in international development and disability rights. She takes a principled approach to her work and partners with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, staying true to the disability movement’s motto “nothing about us without us”. She has brokered important relationships between the disability movement and key government, donor, bilateral and multilateral agencies; international, local non-government, and faith-based organizations; and the private sector. Her work has focused on CRPD and SDGs implementation, training, research, and story collection; disability policies, strategies, and guidelines development; creation of inclusive, accessible organizational systems and processes; and donor strategy, fund, and program evaluations. Christina played a key role in developing and implementing the Australian Government’s first-ever disability strategy for the aid program ‘Development for All’, which set the agenda for Australia’s investment and leadership in disability-inclusive development globally.
She has a Master of Social Science (International Development), Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy), and field experience in the Pacific and Asia.
Rebecca Rittgers, Senior Consultant
Rebecca Rittgers is Senior Consultant to the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. In 2019 she led the implementation of DRF/DRAF’s Commonwealth Leave No One Behind project, supporting disabled person’s organizations in a small group of Commonwealth countries to advocate for the implementation of their country’s Global Disability Summit 2018 commitments. In 2020, Rebecca continues to advance this funding stream in several non-pooled fund Commonwealth countries and supports the management team and program staff in various grantmaking, capacity building, and monitoring and evaluation projects.
Rebecca has dedicated her professional career to leveraging the tools of grant-making and people-led advocacy to advance human rights and social justice. She brings to DRF/DRAF expertise in the design and implementation of social justice campaigns, strategic communications strategies, advocate coalitions and donor collaboratives, and learning/ evaluation initiatives. She has worked across a spectrum of human rights issues, supporting both foundations and non-profits in the US and in Europe to reach their advocacy and funding goals. Prior to DRF, Rebecca led The Themis Fund, a donor collaborative supporting the national campaign to end the death penalty in the United States. She worked to advance LGBTI rights, as a program officer at The Arcus Foundation and as an evaluator, conducting for the Ford Foundation an assessment of the US campaign for marriage equality. From 2001 to 2010, Rebecca developed and stewarded The Atlantic Philanthropies’ US Reconciliation and Human Rights Program, supporting campaigns on immigrants and refugees, ending capital punishment, ex-felon disenfranchisement, and indigent defense reform. Since 2016, Rebecca has also served as a mentor to emerging European leaders in the migrant and refugee advocacy community for The Social Change Initiative in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Cristina Ruggiero, Human Resources Manager (She/Her)
Cristina Ruggiero is the Human Resources Manager for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. For over 15 years, Cristina has spent her career leading, mentoring, and volunteering within non-profit organizations. Working within the education, human services, and advocacy sectors, she is dedicated to facilitating change, improving outcomes, and creating opportunities for organizations, communities, and individuals to grow and thrive. Prior to joining DRF, Cristina was a consultant to various nonprofit organizations and was the Director of Behavioral Health Innovation and Learning at AHCI, a non-profit dedicated to reducing stigma and increasing awareness of mental health disorders, as well to supporting mental health providers and those in recovery. She also was the Executive Director of the National Council of Jewish Women-Pittsburgh Section, a nonprofit that strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms. Earlier in her career, she spent a decade in higher education administration and instruction at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and Chabot College in California.
Cristina holds a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University, as well as a masters and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and outside of work, she enjoys being a board member with local nonprofits, spending time with her family, traveling, cooking, and creating glass art in her kiln.
Katiya Sakala, Acting Co-Director of Programs (She/Her)
Katiya Sakala is the Acting Co-Director of Programs for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. She works closely with the Program Director and oversees our grantmaking in Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda.
Previously, Katiya was responsible for the management of grants to organizations of persons with disabilities under the “Commonwealth Leaves No One Behind” project. Katiya has ten years of experience in the area of disability rights. She has built her expertise in the disability movement by working with grassroots and national organizations for persons with disabilities in Zambia. Katiya headed the first-ever Independent Monitoring Unit under the Zambia Federation of Disability Organisations (ZAFOD) on the implementation of disability rights and contributed to the publication of a report to the government with recommendations for law reform. She also worked as National Project Officer for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on a project that promoted employment access for persons with disabilities through vocational skills training and technical support towards law reform before moving on to the Norwegian Association of Disabled (NAD) where she worked as National Project Coordinator responsible for managing grants and providing technical support to DPOs to advance their advocacy initiatives.
Katiya holds a Master of Laws Degree in International and Comparative Disability Law and Policy from the National University of Ireland, Galway, a Bachelor Arts Degree in Development Studies, and a Diploma in Social Work.
Jean Pierre Sibomana, Program Officer for Rwanda (He/Him)
Jean Pierre Sibomana is the Program Officer for Rwanda for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. He works closely with other program team members and serves as a liaison between the Funds and grantees in Rwanda.
Jean Pierre brings to DRF/DRAF a strong background in grassroots organizing to advance the rights of persons with disabilities. His work as the Co-Founder and Project Director of the Rwandan organization, Self-Advocacy Initiatives for People with Disabilities, has empowered hundreds of the most marginalized children and women with disabilities to raise awareness and decrease stigma, promote inclusion in policies and programs, and realize equal rights in areas including legal capacity, decent work and access to basic services. His efforts were recognized with a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship, which provided an opportunity to work with Access 2 Independence among other organizations.
Jean Pierre holds a Bachelor’s degree of Honor in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Development Studies from Mount Kenya University in Rwanda. He also studied at the University of Iowa in the School of Business and Entrepreneurship.
Buyung Ridwan Tanjung, Program Officer for Indonesia
Buyung Ridwan Tanjung is the Program Officer for Indonesia for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. In this role, he works closely with other program team members and serves as a liaison between the Funds and grantees in Indonesia.
Buyung Tanjung brings to DRF/DRAF a strong background as an Indonesian human rights lawyer and a disability activist. He is a co-founder of an Organisation of Person with Disability of OHANA Indonesia. In Indonesia, he has been actively involved in the drafting, advocacy, and monitoring of laws and policies relating to persons with disabilities. He has experience in counselling, education and advocacy of human rights with focus on migrant workers and labour rights issues in both International and National law systems. Therefore intersectionality issues among disability, migrant workers and indigenous people are his concern currently. He also worked for many years at the Local Ombudsman Office in Indonesia.
Buyung Ridwan Tanjung graduated in Law from the Universitas Sebelas Maret, Indonesia and holds a master of laws (LL.M) of International Law on Human Rights from the Utrecht University, the Netherlands.
Kerry Thompson, Senior Advisor, Inclusion & Accessibility (She/Her)
Kerry Thompson is the Inclusion & Accessibility Development Manager for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. In this role, Kerry develops the accessibility policies and practices of DRF/DRAF for internal stakeholders and grantees and leads efforts to demonstrate and promote to donors and others how accessibility is key to inclusion, using DRF/DRAF policies and practices as a model.
Kerry brings more than twenty years of combined experience in accessibility, analytics, business, communications, finance, and grants management for the academic, healthcare, and nonprofit sectors, including working for Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the National Institute of Health. She is an active advocate for the disability community with an emphasis on making the arts and healthcare more accessible. Her academic experience included human rights courses at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School. She is a 2014 Marshall Memorial Fellow with the German Marshall Fund for the United States. She serves as the Executive Director for Silent Rhythms Inc., a non-profit that promotes access to the arts and in society for people with disabilities. She was named a 2020 Visiting Artist to Harvard University’s Dance Center. Kerry also serves as Commissioner on the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Vice-Chair on the Massachusetts Statewide Advisory Council and on the New England Foundations for the Arts (NEFA) Advisory Council. She previously served on the board of directors for DEAF, Inc. and board liaison for DeafBlind Community Access Network.
Kerry holds a Master’s in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education with an academic focus on disability rights in the broader context of international human rights.
Faaolo Utumapu-Utailesolo, Program Officer for Pacific Island Countries (She/Her)
Faaolo Utumapu-Utailesolo is the Program Officer for the Pacific Island Countries for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. She works closely with the program team and serves as a liaison between the funds and grantees in the Pacific Island Countries.
Faaolo is an experienced disability rights advocate in the Pacific region and in her home country of Samoa. She is one of the founders of the Disability Rights Movement in Samoa, having co-founded the National Disabled People’s Organization, Nuanua o le Alofa (NOLA), in 2001. She served on various leadership roles on the Board of NOLA, has provided volunteer capacity-building support to other DPOs on a voluntary basis, and was the former president of the Samoa Blind Persons Association. Faaolo also volunteered and provided communications support for the then-emerging Deaf Association of Samoa. She also coordinated promotion and awareness campaigns for SENESE Inclusive Support Service, a provider of inclusive education services, to ensure that the message of disability-inclusive is acknowledged by the communities where children with disabilities reside. Her dedication to the disability rights movement has continued to grow as she has served on the disability sub-sector committee of the Samoan government, as well as serving as a member of the Samoa Media Council. Faaolo has taken on various leadership roles for the Pacific Disability Forum, the Regional DPO in the Pacific, including a 4-year Board term from 2013-2017.
Faaolo has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Auckland University of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand, and a Masters of Arts Degree in Media and Communications from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
Francis Xavier, Program Officer, Uganda
Francis Xavier’s two-decade career has included several years working for civil society, promoting the rights of women, older persons, and refugees, including refugees with disabilities, and working towards the inclusion of marginalized groups. Francis has built multi-stakeholder partnerships, taught at higher education institutions, and designed codes of conduct for public officers. Earlier in his career, apart from university teaching, he held several roles within the governance and anti-corruption sector and oversaw the formation of anti-corruption coalitions both in Uganda and Kenya, and supported various agencies in the design of tools, policies, and operational procedures and guidelines.
Prior to joining the Disability Rights Fund, Francis has been the Humanitarian Coordinator at DanChurchAid (DCA)—Uganda, supporting the humanitarian actors and partners working with Persons of Concern (PoCs), Persons with Specific Needs (PSNs), and mainstreaming disabilities rights in humanitarian work. Prior, he was a program manager at AVSI Foundation in Uganda for urban refugee program, managing the reception and integration of forced migrants, supporting youth capacity building through skill-building, coordinating linkages to apprenticeship programs, facilitating the provision of start-up kits for livelihoods and economic empowerment, among others. Francis was a grants coordinator at Oxfam, supporting vulnerable and marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities, women living in exploitation, abuse, and violence (WEAV), older persons and minorities rights groups. Prior to this, he was capacity development advisor for ActionAid Kenya, supporting rural based branches. Local Rights Programs (LRPs) on capacity building of grassroots advocacy organisations, including youth, women, and farmer groups on poverty alleviation programs. Francis has also worked as a university lecturer at Makerere University, Department of Philosophy and Development Studies, for six years.
Francis holds a Master’s degree in Ethics and Public Management, majoring in Ethics, Human Rights, Development, and Social Accountability from Makerere University in Uganda and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies from the Pontifical Urban University of Rome, Italy, and several postgraduate diplomas.
Chrissy Dumaduma Zimba, Program Officer for Malawi (She/Her)
Chrissy Dumaduma Zimba is the Program Officer for Malawi for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. She works closely with other program team members and serves as a liaison between the Funds and grantees in Malawi.
Chrissy is an advocate for equal employment opportunities for young people with disabilities in Africa, and brings with her 6 years of experience researching and promoting disability-inclusive, rights-based development. Prior to DRF, she worked as a Disability Inclusion Associate for the African Union Commission in Ethiopia where she was responsible for mainstreaming disability throughout the Commission’s work. She also worked as a Youth Researcher for the African Union Commission, where she contributed to the drafting of the 2018 Status of Africa Youth Report. In addition, she worked as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for the Mzuzu University Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation in Malawi, where she was responsible for monitoring all donor-funded WASH projects.
Chrissy holds a Masters in Public Policy and Governance from Africa University in Zimbabwe, a Bachelor of Science in Information and Communication Technology from Mzuzu University in Malawi, and a Certificate in Financial Accounting. In 2019, Chrissy was honored as a Mandela Washington Fellow and spent fellowship time with the American Association of People with Disabilities in Washington, D.C.