Darakshan Raja is a community organizer, researcher, and an advocate. She currently works as a Program Manager and Hella Hergz Organizing Fellow at the Washington Peace Center where she works to support the local grassroots movement in the DC-metro area. Prior to joining WPC, Darakshan spent 4 years with the Urban Institute evaluating the effectiveness of criminal justice policies for federal and state government agencies. In this capacity, she served as the Project Director for a national evaluation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization and access to services for victims of sexual assault; an evaluation on the effectiveness of an intervention aimed at changing the correctional culture on sexual violence for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department; and, the intersection between forced marriage, domestic violence, and sexual assault in South Asian communities. Other projects she worked on included examining the feasibility of developing a national database on elder abuse, the role of social networks and gang desistance, gathering data on human trafficking cases from criminal justice agencies, and the current state of investigations and prosecutions for human trafficking cases. Darakshan has also conducted community-based research focused on Muslim and South Asian communities. She is the co-author of the largest community-based research that documents forced marriage titled Voices from the Frontline: Addressing Forced Marriage in the United States, and a report for Safe Nation Collaborative on the barriers Muslims who are victims of crime face in seeking services. Prior to joining the Urban Institute, Darakshan was a Vera Institute of Justice Fellow where she examined gaps in services for domestic violence victims with cases in the Integrated Domestic Violence courts, a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) advocate in the Bronx, and an online hotline responder with RAINN. During college, Darakshan was a key member of a student-led movement for the passage of a sexual assault campus policy for all 23 CUNY campuses. She has led groups in DC with women reentering the community from prison, and for her graduate practicum worked at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Facility in New York City as a co-facilitator on criminal justice groups with men found incompetent to stand trial. Darakshan is currently on the Advisory Board of a DOJ-funded study on forced marriage and VAW in South Asian communities, and is a working group member of the US Human Rights Network on the rights of women and LGBTQI individuals in the US. Darakshan holds a MA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Darakshan is currently a founding member of Falling Walls.
Maha Hilal recently earned her PhD in Justice, Law & Society at American University in Washington, D.C. Her dissertation was mixed methods, utilizing qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys , focusing on the impact of the War on Terror on Muslim Americans. The title of her dissertation is “Too damn Muslim to be trusted”: The War on Terror and the Muslim American response. Maha received her Master’s Degree in Counseling and her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Maha is currently the Director of Outreach and Member Engagement for the Peace and Collaborative Development Network and a Career Development Officer with the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International. Previously, Maha was a Consultant with the Government Accountability Project where she conducted research on the effectiveness of the internal justice system of the United Nations, with a specific focus on peacekeeping missions. Maha has also worked at a number of human rights organizations including the Center for Victims of Torture and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Maha has direct experience working with survivors of trauma from her work as a Case Manager with the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition, and as a Practicum Student with the Mental Health Center of Dane County. Maha is a recipient of a tuition scholarship from the Islamic Scholarship Fund and a recipient of the Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship for Arabic study in Morocco. She was also awarded the Christine Mirayan Science and Technology Fellowship to work at the National Academy of Sciences to conduct research and interviews for a report on scientific cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis as a means of promoting peace. Maha is a currently founding member of Falling Walls.
Mawish Raza is a documentary filmmaker, invested in using media as a participatory tool to encourage community engagement and ownership. She has partnered with organizations including Amnesty International USA and South Asian Americans Leading Together to produce video campaigns that promote awareness and accountability. Mawish is also a lead instructor with Wide Angle Youth Media, where she teaches Baltimore City high school students how to engage with media and produce their own films. Through her roles with Opportunity Nation and The Roosevelt Institute, she hopes to foster long-lasting localized partnerships under national campaigns. Mawish is currently founding member of Falling Walls.