The Core Team

Kirthi Jayakumar (Founder/Chief Executive Officer)
Kirthi is from Chennai, India. She is the recipient of the US Presidential Services Medal (2012) for her services as a volunteer to Delta Women NGO, from President Barack Obama. She is the two-time recipient of the UN Online Volunteer of the Year Award (2012, 2013). Her work has been published in The Guardian and the TIME Magazine. She was recognized by EuropeAid on the "200 Women in the World of Development Wall of Fame in 2016." She received the Digital Women Award for Social Impact in 2017, from SheThePeople, Person of the Year Award, 2017 (Brew Magazine) and the Yuva Samman in 2018 (MOP Vaishnav College)     

Sharda Vishwanathan (Chief Outreach Officer)
Sharda holds a Master’s in Gender, Media and Culture from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Having worked as a communications professional in the social sector, she is extremely passionate about using the digital space for empowering the society and improving citizen participation at varied levels. Her main areas of interests are human rights, gender and governance. In her free time she loves travelling and enjoys learning new languages. 

Raakhee Suryaprakash (Chief Programming Officer)
Raakhee has a Master’s degree in International Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. Her passion remains writing and researching things that change the world for the better. Her work has been published in print and online media. Raakhee is runs a social enterprise SUNSHINE MILLENNIUM that aims to help India's off-grid rural areas achieve the Millennium Development Goals by setting up of solar-powered millennium development centres maintained by local stakeholders and funded by corporate social responsibility programmes and government schemes.

Courtney Lynn McGinn (Project Lead: Legal Research)
Courtney McGinn is a lawyer from Pennsylvania, USA. Courtney is currently studying International Human Rights and Comparative Constitutional Law in the LL.M. program at the University of Texas Law School.  In the past, Courtney has worked as a UN online volunteer, assisted survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and worked in the area of refugee law. Currently, Courtney processes cases and submits petitions to the UN. Most of her work now focuses on gender equality, reproductive rights, immigration (asylum seekers), and anti-slavery advocacy.

Manasa Ramraj (Project Lead: Legal Research)
Manasa is a lawyer from Christ University, Bangalore. Currently, she works with a child right and protection organisation based out of Mumbai. She has keen interest in working around children and gender, international law and peace. As a researcher in law and a helpless bystander of VAW, she wishes to focus her line of work in understanding the gender intricacies and gender spewed violences. Coming from an orthodox patriarchal Indian family, she wishes effect changes starting from her family. In her free time, she loves to sleep, travel, read books and binge watch shows.

Lea Gabay (Project Lead: Building Peace Project)
Lea Gabay is a French-American English as a Second Language instructor who is based in San Francisco, California. She taught in various countries such as Senegal, Vietnam, Germany, and Spain. She is passionate about social justice, healthy literacy, peace building, and intercultural communication.

Sourya Banerjee (Project Lead: Advocacy)
Apart from being an Associate Counsel with a leading Law firm in Hyderabad, Sourya is a self professed Edupreneur, who runs two websites, namely Arguendo ( and Off Campus School (, both dedicated to helping current and future students, and a YouTube series which teaches legal concepts with the help of simple animations, called LearnLaw. A passionate writer, Sourya is a guest contributor for numerous online media houses including, The Indian Economist and LiveLaw besides being associated with REF as a Legal Researcher.

Sophia Paige Brink (Project Lead: Psychosocial Health) 
Sophia Brink is a UC Berkeley graduate, who wishes to advocate for peace, equality, and social justice in the global community. As a researcher in psychology and a survivor of domestic violence, Sophia desires to become a clinical psychologist to help women, children, and all survivors of violence heal in a positive light and better mental health intervention efforts around the world.  Sophia's passion lies in research - to discover the solutions to real world problems. 

Elisa Gabellieri (Project Lead: Curriculum Development)
Elisa holds a master in Economics and Management of Innovation and Technology and has experience with instructional design in both university and corporate contexts, in addition to the development of new teaching methodologies and learning technologies. Elisa believes education is the driver for real, sustainable change and equality. When not working, she can be found practicing yoga on her balcony or hiking up a mountain to read a book immersed in nature.

Vaishnavi Pallapothu (Project Lead: Policy)
When she’s not binge watching TV shows, making glorious puns, enjoying great company at quirky cafes or adding things to her shopping cart, Vaishnavi is studying international relations and trying to keep up with international and national politics. A passionate reader, writer, intersectional feminist and foodie, her goal in life is to travel as much and as far as possible. She loves learning new languages and about cultures from around the world. At REF, Vaishnavi has written several articles and interviewed trailblazing women for the Feminifesto podcast. In the future, she would like to work as a translator/interpreter and diplomat.