2020 Honorees

The 7th Annual Harvard Law International Women’s Day Portrait Exhibit showcases the astounding contributions of women around the world to the areas of law and policy. The honorees—each of whom were nominated by HLS students, faculty or staff—are powerful voices in their respective fields, whether they are sitting on a high court bench, standing in front of a classroom, or marching in the streets.

The International Women’s Day Exhibit Committee is honored to present our community with the 2020 honorees.

Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella

Appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004, Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella is one of Canada’s leading jurists. Her career marks the achievement of many “firsts” for female lawyers and judges: Justice Abella was the first pregnant woman to be appointed to the bench in Canada and the first woman in the British Commonwealth to head a law reform commission. Her leadership within the Canadian legal system is also undeniable. With her work on the Royal Commission Report on Equality in Employment (1984), she fundamentally influenced the fields of employment and human rights law, jurisprudence, and public policy. This Report created the concept of employment equity, a distinctly Canadian policy to address inequality in employment on the basis of gender, visible minority status, disability, and Aboriginal identity. Justice Abella’s analysis and recommendations have shaped contemporary understandings of the roots and impacts of inequality and discrimination in the workplace.

Nighat Dad

Nighat Dad is the Founder and Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation based in Pakistan, which advocates for free internet, freedom of expression, access to information, and stronger privacy policy. Dad is an accomplished lawyer and human rights activist. She is one of the pioneers who have been campaigning for access to open internet in Pakistan and globally. She has been actively campaigning and engaging at a policy level on issues focusing on Internet Freedom, Women and technology, Digital Security and Women’s empowerment. Dad also established the region's first cyber harassment helpline in Pakistan in 2016. She has been recently included in Next Generation Leaders List by TIME magazine for her work on helping women fight online harassment. Dad currently represents Meesha Shafi, a notable woman in entertainment making sexual harassment allegations against another leading celebrity in Pakistan and whose #MeToo case reflects the #TimesUp movement.

Esther Duflo

Esther Duflo is a Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT. She is the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economics (2019), and only the second woman ever to win the prize. She, along with Abhijeet Banerjee and Michael Kramer, pioneered the widespread use of Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) to test and improve social programs in the global fight against poverty. The RCTs they have promoted were described by the Royal Swedeish Academy of Sciences as having come to “entirely dominate development economics.” In addition to her contributions to economics and international development, Duflo has inspired a generation of scholars and practitioners around the world to marshal evidence to improve policy and lives worldwide.

Deepa Goraya

Deepa Goraya is a civil rights attorney who advocates for the rights of people with disabilities in transportation, accommodation, employment, education, and other areas, with a particular focus on improving accessibility of digital technology for the blind. Goraya, who is completely blind, draws from her own experience as a blind woman and represents individuals with disabilities and disability rights organizations. Her cases range from an action regarding Kohl’s stores' narrow aisles that are not accessible to people with disabilities to a lawsuit challenging Barbri’s failure to make its online bar review course and materials accessible to blind students. Goraya sits on the boards of the Disability Rights Bar Association and the National Association of Blind Lawyers and serves as Vice Chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division, Disability Rights Committee.

Nani Jansen Reventlow

In all that she does, Jansen Reventlow leads with integrity, determination, and creativity. At a time when leaders are shying away from activism and instead forging alliances with big government and even bigger tech companies, Jansen Reventlow is guiding a global movement to protect digital rights. She is not afraid to speak truth to power and to call out foundations of racism, sexism, and imperialism at the base of today’s human rights injustices. Jansen Reventlow is the founding Director of the Digital Freedom Fund, which advances digital rights through strategic litigation. Jansen Reventlow is also an Associate Tenant at Doughty Street Chambers, a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School, an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, and an advisor to HLS’s Cyberlaw Clinic. Between 2011 and 2016, Jansen Reventlow oversaw the litigation practice of the Media Legal Defence Initiative globally, representing clients before the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and several African regional forums.

Kum-Sil Kang

Kum-Sil Kang was South Korea’s first female Minister of Justice (2003-2004), and is currently the only female Managing Partner among the top 20 law firms in Korea. Kang began her career as a judge in the early 1980s when only seven judges in total were women, and served with distinction in the Korean judiciary for 13 years, including as a judge of the Seoul High Court. In addition to her many titles and accomplishments that “shattered the ceiling,” she has demonstrated her dedication to fight for gender equality. As Minister of Justice, she and her colleagues in the Ministry of Gender Equality successfully pushed for the abolition of the patriarchal family registry system called “Hoju-je,” which was replaced by an amended system in 2008. As the Managing Partner of one of the top law firms in the country, Kang is leading the effort to challenge the male-dominated culture in the Korean legal industry from the inside out.

Arundhati Katju

Arundhati Katju is an Indian lawyer who was at the forefront of the legal battle for equal protection of the rights of LGBTQI+ persons in India. She represented the lead petitioners in the historic judgment of the Indian Supreme Court in Navtej Johar v. Union of India, the decision where the Court struck down the colonial era sodomy law that criminalized consensual same sex conduct. Having graduated from National Law School of India University, Bangalore in 2005, Katju practiced at the Indian Bar for 11 years before moving to New York to pursue her Masters in Law at Columbia Law School. She was a Human Rights Fellow, James Kent Scholar, Public Interest Honoree and Herman N. Finkelstein Memorial Fellow, and is currently a JSD Candidate and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Contemporary Critical Thought at Columbia University. Her doctoral project, “From Criminal Tribe to Sexual Citizen: Creating Identities through Colonial Law, Constitutional Rights, and Global Human Rights Movements” explores the history of regulation of sexuality and gender in South Asia. Katju was named one of the 100 Most Influential People of the Year by TIME Magazine in 2019.

Alexa Koenig

Alexa Koenig is the Executive Director of the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law, which won the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. As a Lecturer at Berkeley, she teaches classes on human rights and international criminal law, with a particular focus on the impact of emerging technologies on human rights practice. She co-founded the Human Rights Investigations Lab, which trains students to use cutting-edge open-source methods for human rights advocacy. Koenig inspires students from an array of academic disciplines—including law, journalism, technology, and sociology—to consider how to work together to create new frameworks for human rights accountability. Astoundingly brilliant, fiercely passionate, and genuinely warm, Koenig has not only helped pave a path in the human rights and technology space, but has helped push those who know her to think deeper, be kinder, and do better while doing so.

Atishi Marlena

Atishi Marlena—a Rhodes scholar, a grassroots activist, an educationist, a policy reformer and most recently a popularly elected people’s representative—inspires young people to enter the muddy terrains of Indian politics. Her own entry into politics was through the India Against Corruption movement of 2011 which later culminated in the birth of a political party, the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party). Marlena is best known for her work as the advisor to the Education Minister of Delhi. She is the architect behind what is popularly called the Delhi education revolution. Her policy interventions have ensured that Delhi’s government schools are ranked highest in the country and are comparable to elite private schools. The transformation of Delhi’s public education system has given 1,600,000 children the opportunity to realize their full potential, irrespective of their family’s socio-economic background. Marlena has recently been elected as a people’s representative to Delhi’s legislative assembly.

Former Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Claire McCaskill has devoted her life to public service, serving as the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri (2007-2019), the State Auditor of Missouri (1999-2007), the first woman prosecutor in Jackson County, Missouri (1993-1998), and more. During her time in the U.S. Senate she sponsored legislation to reform the adjudication of sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, achieving significant reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In her memoir "Plenty Ladylike," she details the story of how she came to own her ambition and overcome the many challenges that face young women in the law and politics. Throughout her time in the Senate, she consistently hired and promoted women to key positions on her official and campaign staff, including Chief of Staff, Legislative Director, Scheduler, Committee Staff Director, Regional Director, and Campaign Manager. She is a true leader who inspires countless other men and women to change the world for the better.

Toby Merrill

Toby Merrill, JD’11, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, is a visionary public interest advocate. She is the Founder and Director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. Under Merrill’s inspiring leadership, the Project has shaped the field and become the preeminent advocate for low-income students who have been defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges. Individual clients are eager to put their trust in Merrill because they can see in her genuine compassion and humility combined with unparalleled expertise and talent. Through trailblazing litigation strategies that have produced national headlines, Merrill and her colleagues in the Project combat the massive fraud perpetrated against students and taxpayers by for-profit colleges and oppose the government policies that enable the predatory industry to cheat students. Moreover, Merrill is an inspiring clinical teacher. She has trained and mentored a new generation of consumer law advocates who are carrying forward the torch of public interest advocacy.

Nadia Murad

2018 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nadia Murad is the ultimate symbol of resistance and resilience. Murad is a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, and in 2014 the Islamic State (IS) launched a brutal attack on her home village. Several hundred people were massacred, including several of her family members, and girls and young women were abducted and held as sex slaves. While a captive of the IS, Murad was repeatedly subjected to rape and other abuses. After three months, she managed to escape to tell her story. She now works to help women and children who are victims of sexual violence, genocide, and human trafficking. Through her incredible—and impossibly courageous—fight against the IS, Murad has inspired a generation of young women to hold perpetrators of genocide and sexual violence worldwide to account.

Nnenna Nwakanma

Nnenna Nwakanma is a global leader in internet governance, and comes to the field with a keen understanding of how access to technology and information promotes freedom and equality. Her portfolio includes work on digital rights, sustainable development, gender disparities, innovation, open government, and more. Nwakanma is currently the Chief Web Advocate at the World Wide Web Foundation, which was founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee to advance the open web as a public good and a basic right. Earlier in her career, she co-founded the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa, and she has worked with the United Nations, the African Development Bank, the Open Source Initiative, and innumerable civil society organizations. Her passionate advocacy for marginalized voices on the international stage has changed minds and policy, bending the arc of the internet’s development toward social justice. A woman of color in a technical field dominated by white, European men, she is brilliant, eloquent, and a passionate advocate for marginalized voices.

Nnena Odim

Nnena Odim is an attorney, teacher, mediator, trainer, and consultant. Odim began her career at Harvard Law School in 1997 in the Law School’s first-in-the-nation AIDS Law Clinic. Today she leads the Family and Domestic Violence Law Clinic at The Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, which is a critical resource to victims of domestic violence, most of whom are people of color and many of whom are immigrants, and a phenomenal learning experience for countless students. In addition to her contributions as a community advocate through the Clinics, Odim has worked with the Harvard Mediation Program and Harvard Program on Negotiation to provide training for students and various community members. Odim also designed and led numerous conflict management training programs for several businesses and agencies, including Coca Cola Enterprises, the Boston Public Schools, and the Massachusetts Housing Authority. In 2013, Odim was a Top Women in the Law award recipient from Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. In 2015, she received the Harvard Law School Dean’s Award for Excellence.

Sandie Okoro

Sandie Okoro is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the World Bank Group. As the first British national and the first black woman to hold this role, Okoro is the principal advisor and spokesperson on all legal matters for the world’s leading development finance institution. She heads the Legal Vice Presidency Unit where international development legal experts provide legal services essential to World Bank activities and operations. Okoro is also an ardent defender and champion for women empowerment, gender equality, and justice for all. She uses her voice and expertise to spark personal and community-based development and push the envelope in tackling gender-based inequalities, particularly among minority groups. She engages in opportunities to spur change and move the needle in tackling issues such as gender-based violence, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, child marriage, women’s access to justice, gender equality in the judiciary, and discriminatory laws.

Sutharee Wannasiri

Sutharee Wannasiri is a human rights activist who defends the right to freedom of expression in Thailand. She documents violations against human rights defenders, particularly those working on environmental and labor rights issues. Last year, Wannasiri was charged with criminal defamation for using Twitter to amplify the voices of Myanmar migrant workers who suffered labor rights abuses at a Thai poultry farm. Her case is part of a series of spurious legal cases brought by corporations in Thailand to intimidate workers, journalists, and others who demand corporate accountability. These cases have a chilling effect on Thai civil society, but Wannasiri refuses to be silenced: “Some have advised me to simply apologize and stop talking about labor rights abuses. I will not stop. The lawsuits are designed to intimidate people who speak truth to powerful corporations. To stand trial is to reclaim our dignity and assert our rights.”