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Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn

Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn (she/her/ella) is a longtime human rights activist who centers her work around the maxim “that the people have the power to redeem the work of fools.” She has held a number of leadership roles at Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, Open Society Foundations (OSF), and MADRE, where in her various capacities, she has led global advocacycampaigns, mobilized resources for racial and ethnic justice movements and frontline defenders, and built and led strong bi-partisan issue-based coalitions on a range of human rights issues.

She has also served as a consultant, advising civil society groups both in the US and internationally, on how to advocate for free expression, association, and assembly, and for the protection of human rights defenders. While at Amnesty International USA, she spearheaded the campaign to Stop Child Executions!, which culminated in the US Supreme Court’s decision to bar the execution of juveniles, and also launched a campaign to ban the death penalty for persons with psychosocial disabilities.

During her time at OSF, recognizing Skylight’s unique role in building a human rights media ecosystem, she was one of its most enthusiastic funders of Skylight and is now thrilled to serve on the organization’s Board in service of this work.

Born in Sri Lanka and raised in London, Dubai, and Toronto, Sue is a proud Brown immigrant who began her activism as a student in the struggle for racial justice, gender justice, immigrant justice, and queer justice. She continues this activism in her beloved adopted Washington DC community where she is actively engaged in grassroots advocacy efforts to curb police and gun violence, secure voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, campaign for DC statehood, and advocate for the equitable allocation of the District’s resources for historically excluded communities including migrant newcomers. Sue holds a Ph.D. in Government from the University of Texas at Austin with a focus on ethno-religious nationalism/self-determination movements in Asia.

Matisse Bustos
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