During Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are celebrating AANHPI leaders in the anti-violence movement who are using their voice and platform to create a lasting impact for survivors.

Chanchanit Martorell 

Originally from Thailand, Chanchanit Martorell is a social activist and community leader based in Los Angeles. Seeing the need for cultural adjustment and economic empowerment services in the Thai community, Chanchanit founded the Thai Community Development Center (CDC) in 1994. The following year, Chanchanit and the Thai CDC worked with other service providers in Los Angeles on behalf of a large group of Thai garment workers who were subjected to labor trafficking. This case brought significant awareness to the issue of what is now known as labor trafficking and influenced the passing of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Today, Chanchanit continues to be a powerful voice and community advocate for human trafficking survivors, immigrant rights, the Thai and Asian communities, and neighborhood revitalization.  

Learn more about Chanchanit here: https://thaicdc.org/about/staff/

Val Kalei Kanuha 

Born and raised in a rural town in Hawai’i to a Native Hawaiian father and Nisei mother, Dr. Val Kalei Kanuha is the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the University of Washington. Dr. Kanuha is an indigenous, feminist, activist-practitioner scholar with a focus on violence against women and children, and the intersection of race/ethnicity and gender and sexual identity. For the past 45 years, she has worked as a community-based researcher and lectures on violence against women and social justice issues. Her research and community activism include using indigenous, culturally based interventions for family and domestic violence; intimate violence in same-sex and queer relationships; and alternative, community-based justice interventions to address interpersonal and community violence. Dr. Kanuha is truly a leader in the anti-violence movement, bringing awareness and understanding to intersectional violence prevention.  

Learn more about Dr. Kanuha here: https://socialwork.uw.edu/faculty/teaching-professors/val-kalei-kanuha

Cecilia Chung  

Cecilia Chung is the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives and Evaluation of Transgender Law Center, an internationally recognized human rights activist, and a transgender woman openly living with HIV. An immigrant from Hong Kong, Cecilia has called San Francisco home for nearly 40 years. She has worked locally and nationally to advance equality and justice, advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, anti-violence, social justice, and those living with HIV. Cecilia’s activism began because of her experience coming out as a transgender woman, and the prejudice and isolation she faced during this time. Without a safety net or support system, Cecilia turned to sex work to survive. During this time, she experienced sexual assault, gender-based violence, and other forms of discrimination. Because of this experience, Cecilia has dedicated herself to ending stigma, discrimination, and violence in all communities and is creating pathways for LGBTQ+ communities to have futures free from violence.  

Learn more about Cecilia here: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/cecilia-chung

Kavita Mehra  

Kavita Mehra is the Executive Director of Sakhi for South Asian Survivors, a nonprofit organization that represents the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean diaspora living in America in a survivor-led movement for gender-justice. Kavita has served as the executive director of Sakhi since 2017, and under her leadership, the organization has grown over 800% and has launched a trauma-informed mental health program, a housing program, and a food justice program for survivors in the community. Kavita is also a cofounder of South Asian SOAR, a collective, national movement for joy, healing, and justice in the South Asian diaspora, that represents over 40 organizations serving South Asian survivors that launched in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout her two decades of service in the nonprofit sector, Kavita has demonstrated time and again her commitment to social justice and providing safety and security for survivors of gender-based violence.  

Learn more about Kavita here: https://sakhi.org/our-team/

Ai-jen Poo  

Ai-jen Poo is a nationally recognized organizer, writer, and a leading voice in the movement to protect and advocate for domestic workers, currently serving as the President of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). A second generation Taiwanese American, Ai-jen’s parents instilled her with strong values and a sense of social justice. Recognizing the overlooked needs of domestic workers, Ai-jen got involved in organizing domestic workers in the 1990s and has been part of the NDWA since its inception in 2007. Domestic workers are an essential part of our economy and society, but historically, they have had few protections and often face low wages and exploitation, including abuse and human trafficking. Under Ai-jen’s leadership, the NDWA has passed 12 Domestic Worker Bills of Rights, which is legislation that guarantees basic labor rights and protections to domestic workers. Ai-jen’s advocacy has led to critical policy change, in effect impacting over two million domestic workers across the United States.  

Learn more about Ai-jen here: https://www.domesticworkers.org/press/spokespersons/ai-jen-poo/