Rangita de Silva-de Alwis, S.J.D.

Senior Scholar

LL.B, University of Colombo; LL.M. and S.J.D., Harvard Law School

Works with networks of global institutions, civil society and government organizations to develop human rights initiatives.

Rangita de Silva-de Alwis is a senior scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW). She was the director of international human rights policy programs at WCW until 2012 where she took the lead on new global human rights initiatives for the organization. A well-known human rights lawyer and scholar with her LL.M. and S.J.D. (doctorate in law) from Harvard Law School, Rangita was previously a research fellow at the Women and Public Policy Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and brought a wealth of experiences working with women’s groups in Asia on the rights of women and children. She was the inaugural Susan McGee Bailey Research Scholar, 2011-2012.

Rangita served as the director of international programs at a legal research and consulting firm based in Massachusetts specializing in improving justice programs. Responsible for all aspects of international programming, she conceptualized, developed, and carried out programs to strengthen the rule of law and human rights framework in China, Vietnam, Pakistan, and programs with a regional focus in Asia. Rangita also assisted the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in reviewing and implementing the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in China, and wrote a 16-country study on girl child labor for UNICEF. She has served as a consultant to other UN agencies and offices committed to children, human rights, and social advancement, and as a senior advisor to the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University Law School. Rangita’s work has been published in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism and Texas Law School Women's Law Journal.

Rangita led WCW projects on women’s rights issues in China, regional law reform in Asia, and the Women’s Leadership Network: Women’s Political, Public, and Economic Participation in the Muslim World. She organized and facilitated the Women Leading Change in the Muslim World Rabat Round Table held in spring 2011, bringing together the transnational network of women change agents from more than 12 countries to share information, strategies and scholarship. She developed a seminal Asia regional conference in 2007 on women's and children's rights working with colleagues from UNICEF, as well as CEDAW and CRC treaty bodies. Under the auspices of the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute, Rangita developed innovative and groundbreaking programs on the intersections of the rights of women’s, children’s, and persons with disabilities. She conducted a mapping on Asia's Human Rights organizations for the Ford Foundation. Out of this report and recommendations to Ford Foundation grew the Asia Cause Lawyer Network that Rangita helped set up in India.

Prior to this, Rangita conducted a training program for the staff of the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SCRPD) and other agencies at the United Nations. During the program, she shared tools and a theoretical framework on human rights-based approaches within a gender equality framework in order to support effective program development domestically, regionally, and internationally, and to help operationalize the new convention. Additionally, Rangita was selected to serve as a member of the UN Evaluation Group Task Force on Evaluation Guidance-Human Rights and Gender Equality. This high-level advisory group has worked to develop a guidance document for incorporating a human rights and gender equality perspective in all UN agency evaluations. She participated in a workshop to review the draft guidelines and to strategize on moving them forward.

In conjunction with the 2010 ECOSOC session, Rangita presented at the U.N. on the occasion of the 2010 High-Level Segment of Economic and Social Council Session at the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs/United Nations at the Ministerial Meeting on ICTs and Women with Disabilities at the United Nations Headquarters, New York and on the intersections of the CEDAW and CRPD with the the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations at the UN Headquarters.

A collaboration between the Asian University for Women (AUW) and WCW resulted in the design of a year-long gender studies course, Women Shaping Society. A requirement for all second-year students at AUW, Women Shaping Society provided an alternative discourse to challenge prevailing gender norms in Asia and help students become a vital part of the region’s new role in global, social, and economic development. Rangita developed a multi-volume course design complete with reading materials, questions, and suggested student projects for the course. (Please see page 10 of the AUW newsletter for more details on this collaboration.)