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2019 Speakers

DAY 1 — Monday, October 28 


The opening day will focus on global perspectives within authoritarian regimes and is developed in partnership with the Human Rights Foundation, producer of the Oslo Freedom Forum.


Evgeniya Chirikova mobilized her fellow citizens to reroute a highway that would bisect Moscow’s protected Khimki Forest. Known as the green lungs of Moscow,” Khimki Forest comprises 2,500 acres of federally protected parkland in a northern suburb of Moscow. It is one of he region’s last old-growth forests, and home to an abundance of wildlife, including numerous threatened plant and animal species. The forest’s walking and hiking trails also provide much-needed respite from heavy urbanization and air pollution to thousands of greater Moscow residents.In 2007, the Russian government announced plans to construct a highway that would connect Moscow and St. Petersburg. With no public involvement in the decision-making process, the government selected a route that would bisect Khimki Forest, ignoring alternatives that would have left the forest intact. The proposed route stands to yield significant profit from timber and development on open land close to the expensive and densely populated areas of Moscow, while doing little to relieve the notorious traffic congestion in the region.

Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, known as Tutul, is a publisher, writer, and editor from Bangladesh. In 1990, Chowdhury began publishing and editing Shuddhashar (“Pure Voice”), a magazine that soon became a platform for young and unconventional writers in Bangladesh. Chowdhury opened his own publishing house in Dhaka in 2004 under the same name, where he primarily printed works of open-minded and progressive Bangladeshi writers. In 2013, the publishing house was awarded the Shaheed Munir Chowdhury Award for publishing the highest number of best-sellers in Bangladesh and is considered one of the most important publishing houses in the country. In October 2015, Chowdhury was a victim of a coordinated machete attack on publishers of secular authors. Chowdhury had received direct death threats from Islamists and was among the main targets of the attack. Despite these threats, Chowdhury continues to publish, including books written by Avijit Roy, who was murdered in February 2015. Chowdhury currently lives in exile in Norway.

Leyla Hussein is a psychotherapist specializing in supporting survivors of sexual abuse. She is an international lecturer on female genital mutilation (FGM) and gender rights. Hussein is recognized as one of the key experts on this issue globally and her work has been presented at universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Columbia, Harvard, and Georgetown. She is the founder of The Dahlia Project, the UK’s first specialist therapeutic service for FGM survivors, and the co-founder of the anti-FGM charity, Daughters of Eve. She created the ground-breaking Face of Defiance project, which is a series of photographic portraits and interviews with FGM survivors. She is currently a senior consultant and global ambassador for The Girl Generation Movement, which is working to end FGM globally.

Asma Khalifa is a Libyan activist and researcher who has worked on human rights, women’s rights, and youth empowerment since 2011. Growing up as a non-Arab, Amazigh Libyan under the rule of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, Khalifa witnessed the negative impact of discrimination and violence against women. She has spent her career contributing to the building of Libya’s civil society and has recently worked on peacebuilding and conflict transformation in the country. For her efforts, Khalifa received the 2016 Luxembourg Peace Prize during the World Peace Forum in the European Parliament and, in 2017, she was named one of the “100 Most Influential Young Africans” by the Africa Youth Awards. Khalifa is also the co-founder of Tamazight Women’s Movement, a think/do tank working on gender equality and research on the indigenous women.

Jerry Sesanga is a Ugandan author, journalist, filmmaker, and human rights activist. He has used art, both literature and film, to advocate for gender equality and access to health services and information to youth, to fight child marriage and domestic violence, and to demand political freedom. As a student at East Africa’s most prestigious institution Makerere University, his writing success earned him a scholarship to study in New York, which prompted his decision to study mass communication at St. Lawrence University. Sesanga self-published his first book in 2014, and later signed a five-year contract with Longhorn Publishers. He has now published twelve books, selling more than 30,000 copies. He seeks to tell authentic Ugandan stories to a global audience through film. He created ULLYWOOD, which he hopes will develop into the Ugandan cinema industry, and he recently produced a short film entitled “The Baby Bride” to raise awareness about child marriage. Sesanga is involved with Plan International Uganda, where he started as a sponsored child and works with the organization as a member of its new Sponsored Child Alumni Association and Goodwill ambassador.

Andrew Zolli is an American writer, PopTech leader, and a strategic advisor for the Impact Initiatives team at Planet Labs, an Earth imaging company based in San Francisco. He focuses on the intersection of innovation, social change, and technology, steering his audience to more sustainable and creative solutions around world issues. At Planet Labs, Zolli has helped lead the company to major breakthroughs in space and AI by deploying the largest-ever constellation of satellites to observe Earth. In his book, “Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back,” Zolli has further shaped conversations on creating new strategies to combat a range of topics including urban issues, organizational problems, and climate change. Zolli chairs the Garrison Institute, which works to further address social, environmental, and public health issues around the globe.


DAY 2 — Tuesday, October 29   


Our second day will feature will feature an exciting line-up of new voices and changemakers working on human rights, both in the U.S. and abroad (including Palestine, Mexico, and Central America). Workshops on Day 2 will provide participants with hands-on training on human rights advocacy and civil rights.


Ambassador Kåre R. Aas’ distinguished career with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs began in 1983. He was accredited as Norway’s Ambassador to the United States in 2013, and included in his diplomatic accomplishments are his roles as Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo, Norway’s Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Director General in the Department for Security Policy and the Arctic, and he served as Norway’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) Board of Governor. His diplomacy has emphasized education, good governance, rural development, and civil society collaborations. He was responsible for Norwegian security policy and Norway’s strategic cooperation with European and Transatlantic partners, including NATO and Norway’s participation in international operations. Furthermore, Amb. Aas chaired and was a member of various international nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and international peacekeeping operations. His career has included posts in Chile, Norway’s Permanent Delegation to NATO in Brussels, and the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations in Geneva.

Nadine Bloch is currently Training Director for Beautiful Trouble. She is an innovative artist, nonviolent practitioner, political organizer, direct-action trainer, and puppetista. Her work explores the potent intersection of art and politics; where creative cultural resistance is not only effective political action, but also a powerful way to reclaim agency over our own lives, fight oppressive systems, and invest in our communities. Her affiliations include work with Greenpeace, Labor Heritage Foundation, Nonviolence International, Ruckus Society, HealthGAP and Housing Works, and Bread & Puppet Theater. She is a contributor to Beautiful Trouble and We Are Many, Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation. Bloch has a monthly column on WagingNonviolence, “The Arts of Protest.”

Fred de Sam Lazaro is the executive director and founder of the Under-Told Stories Project, a program that combines international journalism and teaching at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. He has served as a correspondent for the PBS NewsHour since 1985 and was a regular contributor and substitute anchor for PBS’ Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. He also directed films from India and the Democratic Republic of Congo for the acclaimed documentary series, Wide Angle. De Sam Lazaro has reported from 65 countries, focusing on stories that are under-reported in the mainstream U.S. media, from global health and human trafficking to the myriad issues related to poverty.  Where possible, the Project seeks a solutions-oriented approach in its reporting, with a key emphasis on social entrepreneurship. He is the recipient of two honorary doctorates, numerous journalism awards and media fellowships from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Michigan. He was a trustee at the College of St. Scholastica, in Duluth, MN, and serves on the board of Minnpost, an online non-profit Minnesota based news service.

Theresa Dykoschak is a Pro Bono Counsel for the Advocates for Human Rights. Dykoschak promotes volunteer engagement with the organization and increases their capacity to leverage contributions from hundreds of volunteers on an annual basis. Dykoschak also is a member of The Advocates’ team to combat human trafficking in Minnesota and has co-authored protocols on labor trafficking. Prior to Pro Bono Counsel, Dykoschak was a Staff Attorney in the Women’s Human Rights Program, specializing in the international and regional legal frameworks on violence against women. She reported on and advocated to UN human rights mechanisms on violence against women issues from around the world; co-authored reports on violence against women; conducted fact-finding missions in Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands; and developed curricula and trained professionals in Eastern Europe on best practices and responses to domestic violence. Dykoschak received her law degree cum laude from the University of Wisconsin Law School and is admitted to practice law in Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

Emily Hutchinson leads the global New Tactics program at the Center for Victims of Torture and is responsible for strategic planning, development and management. Hutchinson is an attorney with significant management experience in the U.S., Middle East, North Africa, and the Balkans. She has worked with governments and civil society organizations on a wide range of human rights, transitional justice, and post-conflict governance issues. Hutchinson previously served as Counsel at the Public International Law and Policy Group, as well as the regional program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Businesswomen’s Network. She has managed campaigns for state-wide election and served as the first executive director of Mill City Commons, a non-profit health and wellness organization headquartered in Minneapolis. Hutchinson holds a J.D. magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School, and an M.A. in Middle East Studies and International Economics from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

Namira Islam is a lawyer and graphic designer. She is the Co-Founder and Community Engagement Director of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), an organization which provides racial justice education and training. She previously practiced in poverty law in Flint, Michigan; worked in prisoners’ rights litigation; and interned in international criminal law and war crimes for the United Nations in The Hague, The Netherlands. Her legal background includes research on racism, global education standards, and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training. Islam has served on the boards of multiple Muslim student organizations and has fundraised and led crowdfunding efforts on behalf of Islamic Relief and charity: water, as well as for other causes, since 2008. She is an advisor to her late father’s organization, Diversified Educational Foundation (DEF), which invests in Bangladeshi orphans. She has nearly a decade of experience as a tutor and e-mentor for low-income students. As a graphic designer, Islam specializes in print design and has designed for the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network. She has been freelancing for diverse clients in the United States and abroad since 2007.  She has written for multiple publications and provided commentary and analysis on identity, current events, and social justice narratives for radio shows, documentary films, and other media worldwide. Islam is an alumna of the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and the Michigan State University College of Law.

Brent Jensen is the online community coordinator for New Tactics in Human Rights with the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT). He is responsible for overseeing the program’s online presence, including website, social media channels, online community, web applications and e-learning platform. Together with an outside developer, Jensen conceptualized and steered the creation of the Tactical Mapping Tool. Prior to joining CVT, Jensen worked in marketing and communications with People to People International of Kansas City, Missouri, and IN Food Marketing and Design in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With a partner, Jensen also founded a graphic design studio in Des Moines, Iowa. He has also consulted for a variety of organizations. Jensen holds a master’s degree in global and international education from Drexel University.

Maggie Lemere is a filmmaker, oral historian and storytelling and social change strategist who has worked across the U.S., Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Lemere is the co-founder of Rhiza, a women-led collective that uses storytelling, healing, organizing, and research to support social transformation and environmental justice and is on the leadership team of Tuyo Media, equipping, connecting and supporting a new, more representative generation of journalists. Lemere is currently directing and producing independent documentary films in the Middle East and Southeast Asia that explore communities’ efforts to protect the environment. Her work also includes founding and hosting the podcast, Bad Feminists Making Films, leading Storytelling for Changemakers workshops globally with Ashoka; acting as oral historian for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the DC Oral History Collaborative; and working as storytelling strategist for Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security. Lemere previously published Nowhere to Be Home: Narratives from Burma’s Military Regime. She is passionate about expanding voice and representation in storytelling and film and creating frameworks for high-quality and high-impact collaborative filmmaking.

Madeline Lohman is a Senior Researcher with The Advocates for Human Rights. She conducts research, community education and outreach, and legislative advocacy on immigrant rights in Minnesota. She also specializes in trainings and technical assistance on human rights advocacy for social justice organizations, as well as international monitoring and reporting. She recently published a report on labor trafficking and exploitation in Minnesota and is part of The Advocates’ team on combating Minnesota’s human trafficking. She has convened a working group of government experts to design a self-assessment card for labor trafficking victims as well as trainings and materials to accompany the card. Her previous work with The Advocates included researching and writing a report on immigrant rights in Minnesota, building on several years of organizing and managing partnerships with community organizations through Minnesota to combat anti-immigrant bias. As part of her work on immigrant rights, Lohman collaborated with local governments and community organizations to conduct local-level immigrant integration initiatives as well as conducting advocacy at the Minnesota legislature.

Miriam Miranda is an environmental human rights defender dedicated to protecting the land rights and resources of the Garífuna people in Honduras. She was born in Santa Fe, Colon, a small Garífuna village located near Trujillo on the north coast of Honduras. Miranda’s activism was inspired by her time as a university student in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. There she fought for women’s rights in the city’s slum where she witnessed shortages of basic needs and extreme violence against women. Miranda has since then continued her struggles to ensure that the Garífuna people’s land and culture are protected, despite death threats, imprisonment, and attacks. Under her leadership, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) defended their ownership rights to court and won. Their victory serves as a model for indigenous communities around the world. She continues to work around the world, building ties between movements and people.

Danny Noonan is an attorney at Our Children’s Trust, where he primarily supports staff attorneys with coordinating global legal actions. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Noonan previously clerked with Our Children’s Trust in Fall 2015. Prior to re-joining Our Children’s Trust in 2017, Noonan worked in the class actions department of a major Australian plaintiff law firm, where he gained experience with toxic torts, securities and product liability class actions. Noonan has also previously interned with attorneys in the native title and public interest environmental law sectors in Australia, and with a micro-finance non-profit. He graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and French in 2013, and with a J.D. in 2017. Noonan is admitted as a lawyer in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia.

Nancy Pearson is the Training Manager at the Center for Victims of Torture. She has been a member of the New Tactics in Human Rights team from 2003 to the present, serving as the Project Manager from 2006 through 2011, and the New Tactics Training Manager since 2012. Pearson has provided extensive trainings – face-to-face as well as virtual online courses – using the New Tactics Strategic Effectiveness Method to strengthen and build the strategic and tactical thinking capacity of human rights advocates. Her New Tactics trainings have extended into over 20 countries reaching audiences that have included human rights activists; under-graduate, graduate and post-graduate level students; United Nations, governmental and nongovernmental organizations. As a direct service social worker at CVT, Pearson also provided torture treatment and rehabilitation related training to many diverse audiences in addition to direct service provision to survivors of torture. She holds a Master of Social Welfare from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jennifer Prestholdt is the deputy director of The Advocates for Human Rights, and  assists in fundraising for and directing organizational operations. As the director of the organization’s International Justice Program, she supervises the program’s development and programming.  Prior to becoming deputy director, Prestholdt practiced asylum law for five years as the organization’s director of the Refugee and Immigrant Program. She has also taught International Human Rights Law as an adjunct faculty member at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Prestholdt  has worked on refugee and asylum issues for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland. She has also interned for the Reebok Human Rights Program and the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination Against and Protection of Minorities. Prestholdt has a M.A.L.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she studied international human rights law and international refugee policy. She graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School.


Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb is the Founder and President of Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem. The most widely published Palestinian theologian to date, Raheb is the author of 16 books including: Das Reformatorische Erbe unter den Palaestinensern, I am a Palestinian Christian, Bethlehem Besieged, and Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes. His books and numerous articles have been translated so far into eleven languages. A social entrepreneur, Raheb has founded several NGOs, including Dar annadwa Cultural and Conference Center, Dar al Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, in addition to several other civic initiatives on national, regional, and international levels. In 2015, Dr. Raheb received the Olof Palme Prize for his courageous and indefatigable fight against occupation and violence, and for a future Middle East characterized by peaceful coexistence and equality for all. In 2012 the German Media Prize was awarded to Raheb for his “tireless work in creating room for hope for his people, who are living under Israeli Occupation, through founding and building institutions of excellence in education, culture and health.”

Roger Reeves’s poems have appeared in journals such as Poetry, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, and Tin House, among others. Kim Addonizio selected “Kletic of Walt Whitman” for the Best New Poets 2009 anthology. He was awarded a 2013 NEA Fellowship, Ruth Lilly Fellowship by the Poetry Foundation in 2008, two Bread Loaf Scholarships, an Alberta H. Walker Scholarship from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and two Cave Canem Fellowships. Reeves earned his PhD from the University of Texas-Austin, where he is now Assistant Professor in the English Department. His first publication, King Me, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2013.


Arianna Schindle is an educator, organizer, and healer whose projects focus on building the capacities for resilience and resistance of communities and social movements. She has worked in a variety of settings across the United States, Asia, and Central America ranging from urban public schools, mental health clinics, nonprofit organizations, worker’s centers and labor unions, to private and public foundations, and has more than 10 years of experience as a facilitator conducting workshops on the trauma of oppression, community organizing, and creative campaigning. As a healer, she has worked with individuals and communities struggling from the impacts of interpersonal and structural violence, displacement, and racial injustice. She is a part of the Rhiza Collective, a women-led collective that uses storytelling, healing, organizing, and research to support social transformation and environmental justice. Schindle received her graduate certificates in urban public health and clinical social work at Hunter College.

Eric Schwartz became President of Refugees International in June 2017. He has had a three-decade career focused on humanitarian and human rights issues. Between 2009 and 2011, Schwartz served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. As Assistant Secretary, he was credited with strengthening the State Department’s humanitarian advocacy around the world, initiating and implementing critical enhancements to the U.S. refugee resettlement program and raising the profile of global migration issues in U.S. foreign policy. He was the senior human rights and humanitarian official at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, managing humanitarian responses to crises in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. He also served as the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery after the 2004 Asian Tsunami; as Washington Director of Asia Watch (now the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch); and Staff Consultant to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs. Prior, Schwartz served a six-year term as Dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. He holds a Master of Public Affairs degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and a law degree from New York University School of Law.

Fernanda Soto Joya is an anthropologist who has worked on issues of political memory, rural identities and indigenous peoples’ territorial struggles in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. She has served as a lecturer and researcher on gender, development and de-colonial critiques in Central America. Soto is a member of Augsburg’s Center for Global Education and Experience (CGEE) and The Winds of Peace Foundation (WPF) from where she merges the principles of critical pedagogy and research to support rural initiatives that challenge dominant economic and social arrangements in Central American societies.


Vishnu Laalitha Surapaneni is a physician from India with a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is currently an assistant professor in the General Internal Medicine Department at the University of Minnesota. Surapaneni is a science communicator who has testified for the Maryland Department of Environment on the environmental justice impacts of a local incinerator and was also part of a campaign that worked to pass landmark climate legislation to limit crude oil trains passing through Baltimore city. In Minnesota, she has given health expert testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Climate Finance on the public health impacts of climate change and is currently working on advocating for clean energy and zero-carbon transportation legislation with a focus on equity.

Raziel Valiño is a medical and cultural anthropologist who has worked on issues related to youth, gender, sexuality, identity, violence and policy, and transnational mobility between the states of Morelos, Mexico and Minnesota, United States. She has also been involved with the Latino community in New York City, researching their access to medical care and breast cancer screening, as well as the impact of mobility on HIV care and treatment. Valiño is member of Augsburg’s Center of Global Education and Experience (CGEE) and the coordinator of Red Migrāre (UNAM), where she works specifically with Central and South American mobility and Mexicans that have returned to Mexico. Valiño earned her graduate degree from Columbia University. 

Sherrie Flynt Wallington is a tenure-track assistant professor and health disparities researcher specializing in oncology in the Policy, Populations and Systems department. Wallington teaches and conducts research on health communication, social determinants of health, and community-based participatory research strategies that focus on prevention, health disparities, and clinical trial recruitment and engagement. She has a particular interest in cancer, particularly prostate, breast, and HPV-associated cancers. The American Cancer Society, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Cancer Institute support her research. She has authored several peer-reviewed publications and serves as a scientific grant reviewer for the NIH and other national foundations. In addition, she is a program evaluator and consultant on NIH-funded, governmental, and foundation grant awards.

Olivia Williams is a Cultural History Interpretative Aide at McLeod Plantation Historic Site where she interprets the History of Slavery. Williams graduated from the College of Charleston in 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Arts in History and African American Studies. She is beginning graduate school at the College of Charleston pursuing a Master’s in Public History. Williams will complete a graduate assistantship at Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. In 2016, Williams, began her career at McLeod, and while there, she became a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association of Interpretation.